Byron Council’s Public Art Panel (PAP) that approved the recent sculpture on the Ewingsdale roundabout will update guidelines to ensure a more rigorous procedure in the future, according to panelist and councillor Jan Hackett.
The large sculpture has attracted international attention after it was erected a few weeks ago.
Cr Hackett told The Echo that, ‘It was mission impossible from the start – too little time, too little money – for most professionals to even bother responding to the expression of interest (EOI).’
‘Given that, there were maybe six to nine respondents, and three shortlisted, including Corey Thomas from Melbourne.’
‘The selection panel settled on Corey’s conceptual piece because it was the only one of the three that was not a cliche or banal.
‘From the start, there were concerns from engineers on the panel as to how he could structurally resolve his concept.
‘We were assured he could not only meet the structural requirements, but the ever-so-short timeline as well. In other words, the artist convinced the panel he could deliver the project on time and within budget.
‘Given his strong portfolio and reputation, he was granted the job on blind faith.
Absence of documentation
‘There were no follow-up documentation or drawings, no design documentation which should be done before construction, no engineering specifications or certification.
‘All we received after granting the job, were some photographs of the cutout birds and the metal hoops. The panel were dismayed and not at all happy, especially when the materials were changed from stainless steel to aluminium. However, by the time the panel were told of these changes and the absence of documentation, it was too late in the day for further interaction between panel and artist. From then on everyone had their fingers crossed he could deliver as promised.
Art panel unhappy
‘I am not happy with the result and neither are the rest of the PAP. Like Mandy Nolan, I’m an artist, and I’ve tried to look for something worthwhile in the final structure.
‘Without taking photo details of some sections, there’s nothing, in my opinion, to recommend the end result. 50 per cent of the birds remain flightless and are still attached to the substructure. While we asked for a less obvious (literal) lighthouse image, we got more to the point of having a beam of light aimed at the real object on the Cape – made of a solid block of bird cutouts! From the Bayshore Drive entrance it still looks like a Xmas tree wrapped in tinsel. From Ewingsdale Road you can see a lighthouse and birds in flight, but you can also see the substructure, when the concept was to see birds only, birds swooping out, not twisting around a central core.
‘There are rivets still lying on the ground below and lighting to be added. It is not complete, not by a long shot. But it can never be what was sold to the Panel and will remain a disaster. It was rushed beyond anyone’s abilities to complete something of interest or value. It deserves all the criticism though not the language in some cases. It is a failed work and I cannot see how it can be rescued or resurrected.
‘I keep thinking of “committees always producing donkeys” and without significant changes to the Public Art Guidelines and Criteria, it could well happen again.
‘However, I can tell you that the Panel are already working up changes to the guidelines to ensure a more rigorous procedure in the future.’
Corey Thomas was contacted for comment – he referred to Council for comment.