It’s hard to imagine a more fitting winner of Wollongong’s bicentennial sculpture prize than the dark, shrugging figure entitled King Coal.
Formed using scan data and a 3D printer then crafted from resin, fibreglass, steel and coal, its materials reference heavy industries which have thrived over 200 years, while the method hints at the Illawarra’s future in digital technology. And, Sydney creator Louis Pratt says, it has a telling message for this region in flux.
“We enjoy the world we live in today because of the great economic benefits that come from coal, but we are now facing environmental problems, and this character here is sort of nonchalantly dismissing those possibilities,” Mr Pratt said.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery awarded Mr Pratt Wollongong’s $30,000 acquisitive prize at the Botanic Garden on Wednesday, saying the artist had “hit the mark”.
“Coal has been part of our history and success, but fossil fuels now have a challenging future,” Cr Bradbery said. “The sculpture uses of 3D printing – which references the context of what is going on over at the university and has an interface between the inorganic and organic themes – you know, coal is formally a plant, now dead.
“And here it’s shaped into something that reflects the attitude of humanity towards the environment.”
King Coal was selected from 14 entries which are on display around the Wollongong Botanic Garden, with the judging panel saying it “speaks to the history and contemporary identity of the Illawarra”.
It will now become part of the city’s public art works and will remain on display in the garden.
Artist and councillor Leigh Colacino, who proposed the idea of a city sculpture prize three years ago, said he hoped the success of the first acquisitive award would gain a sponsor to allow it to be run every one or two years.
“I was hoping theprize would be awarded to a piece with this dynamic,” he said.
“When you look at the texture of the piece, this feels and looks like coal. What a great winner – it’s highlighting the history of what made Wollongong what it is, and it’s got a plinth of the whole Botanic Garden to sit on.”
Visitors to the garden can still take part in the People’s Choice Award, by voting for their favourite artwork for a chance to win a $200 gift voucher.
There are voting boxes at the garden’s Murphys and Northfields Avenue entrances, with voting also available online.
Voting closes on Tuesday 22 March and the winning artist of the People’s Choice Award will receive $3,000.