When I first saw the Public Purse statue outside the old city post office building in the Bourke St Mall, I thought it was a crab with no claws. Then I thought it was a snail making its way across the road. But when I stood on the steps of the PO, I realised it was a replica of a small ladies purse. A pink one.
It’s one of Simon Perry’s many large-scale pieces of public art. They are nearly always context-specific and contain an element of humour. The Public Purse is also a very practical addition to the mall – it doubles as a seat. It is also a comment on the busy retail sector that surrounds it. A symbol of what drives and feeds the city. Once when I was admiring the skill of the piece, a homeless guy and his dog were leaning against the statue. A bit of irony there I thought.
On another occasion, while I was ‘encountering’ the artwork the space around me was filled with other forms of art: a band of Bolivian pan-pipers playing traditional songs, a 12-string guitarist playing S & G’s Sound of Silence, and a woman dressed as Snow White standing on a box and moving ever so, ever so slowly. Slower than drying paint. Slower than the creation of a Federal ICAC.
Public Art is fascinating and the more you see it the more aware of it you become. Melbourne is full of it – Art that is!
Three of my favourite pieces ( below) are The Pathfinder in the Queen Vic Gardens, The Architectural Fragment near the State Library, and The Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch by Alison Weaver – those 3 figures at the corner of Swanson and Bourke. I’m sure you’ve ‘met’ them. ( You can read about the history of each sculpture by searching on the internet). They all tell a story.
Regarding the Architectural Fragment, I’m never quite sure if the ‘fragment’ is emerging or sinking. As a piece of art it poses the question. It’s also a bit of a trip hazard. It’s also a piece that takes me back to a scene out of Planet of the Apes. The Pathfinder, on the other hand, poses no question other than how the heck did John Robinson produce it. It’s a stunning portrait of balance and beauty. Then there’s the Three Businessmen – I love the story behind them, but I just love the art of them and how they interact with us. They just wouldn’t be the same inside a gallery. They need to be on a busy street.
The point I am trying to make is that Art is literally all around us; we can bump into it anywhere and everywhere. And when it’s ‘outside’ it introduces another dynamic to our living spaces. But just as importantly, art is within each of us – once we discover which medium to use to express it. Some times you have to search quite deeply for it but it is there. It’s there to be appreciated for it’s own sake. It doesn’t have to serve a purpose even though it often does. Art has been with us since the beginning of human community.
Do you have a piece of public art in mind that has held your attention or caught your imagination? If so, let us hear about it. Send Desleigh a short story about it and it can be included in a future addition of the bulletin.