57.0 x 97.0 x 46.0 cm
signed, dated and numbered at base: Meadmore 1987 1/6
stamped with Tallix foundry mark at base
Judith Meadmore, the artist’s wife, United States of America
Doyle, New York, 1 November 2016, lot 177
Private collection, Sydney
There’s always a hidden power in Clement Meadmore’s sculptures.
An explanation is in order: if one drops a length of rope on the ground it always looks elegant – it’s in its nature that its curves are smooth and its lines supple. It is only when the human hand intervenes with knots, ties and stretching that internal complexity and underlying tension become involved – this the core of its power. A rope becomes more interesting when its nature is inverted – its natural pliancy is turned into a type of resistance.
The converse applies with steel when its inherent rigidity is made to bend. Clement Meadmore always knew this. He utilized the pointed significance of this odd analogy. In other words, in Meadmore’s sculptures the natural rigidity of steel is overturned to add internal complexity and underlying tension to an otherwise inert material – this is the core of its hidden power. Steel becomes more interesting when its nature is inverted – in Meadmore’s hands steel’s natural rigidity is turned into a type of pliancy.
The present work, Meadmore’s Wallflower bronze of 1987 is a fine example of these highly individualistic hallmark attributes. The sculpture is the first of an edition of six and was originally in the collection of his former wife Judith Meadmore. The sculpture seems ‘sliced’ to mid-point as though the steel might be cheese – its elongated squared-off sections bend like fingers and the whole sculptural mass is counterpointed by a right-angled section that adds a ‘jaunty’ accent to the overall carefully balanced form of the entire work.
Meadmore’s Wallflower also has that typical sense of arrested ‘movement’ that may be discerned in all of the artist’s best works. They always carry visual hints of animation as though steel – that most inert of materials – is somehow made to seem to curl, wiggle, flow and knot like wood shavings fallen from an imagined hand plane. Of course, the present work is not steel but its bronze forms have a direct link to the monumental weathered Corten steel sculptures that made Meadmore internationally famous. It was a fame that was set on its path by the flowing elegance of his Awakening, 1968 in Melbourne’s Collins Street for the Australian Mutual Provident Society and is typified by his large majestically sited Virginia, 1970 (dedicated to the Australian artist Virginia Cuppaidge) in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and his Curl, 1968 at Columbia University in New York. These large sculptures all sit happily in their spaces with a type of arms-folded insistence – not only that, they also seem to ‘make’ the space, like a good brooch ‘makes’ an outfit. Meadmore’s Wallflower possesses the same type of spatial poise.
Meadmore once said a beautiful thing: ‘A building is part of the environment, but a sculpture is a presence inhabiting the environment’.