Ken UNSWORTH, Suspended stone wallpiece Enlarge 1 /1


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1931

  • USA 1971
  • Europe 1978-80

Suspended stone wallpiece 1976 Place made: New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, river stones, annealed steel wire

Primary Insc: Exh. Cat.44
Dimensions: 215.0 h x 140.0 w x 104.5 d cm ; weight 366 kg
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.23

The series of variously suspended, propped or heaped-up river stone works, all conceived and set down as drawings and maquettes during the period 1974–77, reflects a personal response to the potential of natural materials (in previous work: earth, water, light, fire and timber) and forces, to adapt their inner qualities and energies – their inner music – with as little interference as possible, as discreet serial elements in an object; it is a structured system of rigorous clarity which seems and is, in fact, visually self-evident yet perceptually ambiguous and puzzling. The eye is not altogether convinced, so there is a sense of mystery and uncertainty.

Suspended stone piece continued the idea in which the stones were introduced to the wall, either propped with eucalypt sticks or hung with wires, as distinct from those exploiting a free-standing in the round format.

In the case of Suspended stone wallpiece 1976 (its exhibition date), a semi-circle of modest size river stones was held horizontally above the floor by a cone of soft-annealed black wires, individually attached to a central point, at a proportionally appropriate distance on the wall above the stones. The visual effect is at once and convincingly one of aesthetic formal connections – of a structural clarity of line, form, texture and colour, and a palpable equilibrium between weight/mass, weightlessness and gravity, implied movement and rest – a tensioned yet gentle response.

The unfettered imagination could complete the full circle of stone merging with its other half through the wall, to see or be reminded perhaps of ancient associations, of some taken-up stony landscape or raised-up altars for ritual enactments. Circles, wells, platforms commemorating forgotten cruelties, triggers for spiritual regeneration or mirrors of darkest introspection?

Ken Unsworth 2002

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002