Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Wall, Tasmania

The highlight of the trip across to Strahan (other than an echidna tally of three) had to be a visit to The Wall. This incredible place must be one of the best kept secrets in Tasmania. Frank had heard of it from one of his brothers who stopped in on a visit to Tasmania. The feedback must have been good as one minute we were driving along the road and the next we had veered off and were finding a place to park. This place is almost indescribable. A labour of love, self funded by a local wood sculptor named Greg Duncan The Wall is both a personal testament to an artists' skill yet also depicts a personal view of the history and environment of this unique island. Made up of a series of carved wooden panels 3 metres high by 1 metre wide, the panels joined make up a scene almost 100 metres in length. The panels run back to back down a long enclosed hallway. The space itself is awe inspiring and a lot of thought has been put into this purpose built space. The carved timber panels take pride of place running up the centre of the building. The walls themselves will, over time, hold customised display panels. Some of these have been installed, others are yet to be erected. The interesting thing for me was to see that the art on display here is very much a work in progress. While many of the panels are completed with detailed carving and textured images, many of the panels are part carved and some are yet to be begun. As a learning tool this makes for great viewing as at different points you are able to see the artists' rough sketches, more detailed drawings, rough carved sections and detailed carving int he middle of unstated panels. It is incredibly interesting to see this work in progress. For me, perhaps even more interesting than seeing what this will be an another 10 years time. I'm only guessing at time frames, but the level of detail in the carving suggests it is far from finished. Panels depict early settlers, people working clearing forests, farmers, draught horses, dogs, children, native flora and fauna. Stories depicted range from settlement to environmental impact. From now extinct animals such as the Tasmanian Tiger, to those under threat like the orange bellied parrot. The bounty for Tasmanian Tiger pelts as documented is heart breaking yet the artistic talent required to carve the record is inspiring. A long list of names and dates shows the human impact on the native population of this animal. The rest of the centre is set out around a reception area, massive fire place and lounge area and a mezzanine displaying work by the artists' son, also a wood carver, and the artists' sister, who paints. There are also numerous examples of carved items that until closer inspection look like a pair of leather gloves draped on a shovel, or a coat and hat hanging on a rack. The timber screams out to be touched, but it is clear that this is not an option. The smell of the space however almost makes up for it with timber scents everywhere. It is easy to get a feel for Greg Duncan. His views on unruly children as visitors and vehement demands for no photography suggest an artistic temperament. That said, I can understand his concern for copyright - that was before I read an appeal from him, stuck to the door, that detailed a list of injuries he has received from disgruntled visitors - fractured eye socket included. It truly is an amazing place to visit and I hope long term plans include capacity for coffee and cake added to the alcohol currently on offer. Our morning visit was not the right time to take up the offer of local spirits, the honey tasted however was enough to encourage us to buy a block to take with us. Almost like creamed honey, but solid, this tasted sweeter than chocolate but with a similar texture. Heavenly! Coffee would go a long way to making The Walls commercially viable, but I wonder whether this is what the artist wants. It really is a labour of love. My thought at present is that some people would think the $10 adult admission price a little steep. As for me, I loved this place and could happily have stayed on. 16.12.13

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