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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1957

Head 1986 Materials & Technique: sculptures, carved red gum

Dimensions: 155.5 h x 90.5 w x 239.5 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1988
Accession No: NGA 88.2092

I remember very clearly the day that the log from which Head is made arrived in my studio; the tree had been felled in a suburban backyard earlier in the day, and came via crane truck. We had a good deal of trouble getting the log in, and l sat down exhausted when it was in far enough to be able to shut the door. I sat staring at it and the image of a kind of animal’s head appeared, and I decided that I would make that the subject. I didn’t ‘think it up’, it just happened. Looking back now at it, and the other works from around that time, I would say that my favourites are those which I didn’t contrive but rather just facilitated. I was trying then, and still do try, to work quickly and directly, letting my imagination go in any direction it will.

At the time this was the largest sculpture I had made, though perhaps not the tallest. I would guess that I removed about one fifth of the bulk of the log to reveal the image, trying to retain as much of the main shape as possible, a bit like peeling a piece of fruit or removing clothes. I would say that my ‘raison d’être’ in relation to sculpture at that time was that I craved a kind of immediacy which painting or music has, but which sculpture traditionally has lacked in the western tradition, due to an excessive concern with technical virtuosity. In the 15 or so years since the work was made, many people have rubbed and stroked it, which has ‘finished’ the work with a lustrous patina unachievable in my studio. I love the idea that a work can go on developing in the years after my involvement is finished.

Bruce Armstrong 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