Artist wins $30,000 sculpture price for looking beyond city's industrial past

Steel city in the gardens: Berry artist Michael Purdy has been awarded Wollongong council's $30,000 biennial sculpture prize for his steel and sandstone pillars which reference the region's natural surrounds. Picture: Adam McLean.
Steel city in the gardens: Berry artist Michael Purdy has been awarded Wollongong council's $30,000 biennial sculpture prize for his steel and sandstone pillars which reference the region's natural surrounds. Picture: Adam McLean.

When people pass by Michael Purdy’s steel, sandstone and metal sculpture at the entrance to Wollongong Botanic Garden, he hopes they will peer through the cut outs in the tallest pillar and see the trees beyond.

“It’s made entirely of steel, and yet you can see the trees through it, so that’s representing a lighter footprint,” he said of his work, Steel City.

“With technology it will be possible to achieve more with less resources. This will make heavy industry not so heavy, but it has still got to be here.”

The South Coast artist was on Wednesday announced as the winner of Wollongong’s second biennial acquisitive sculpture award, which asked artists to respond to the theme of “place”.

The judges awarded Mr Purdy the $30,000 prize, saying his work reflected the city’s industrial past and used elements of the escarpment and botanical references such as tree fern-inspired trunks.

His work is one of eleven sculptures now on display as part of Sculpture in the Garden, which runs until May 20.

Exhibition visitors can nominate their favourite piece for the People’s Choice Award, to be presented on May 17. The winning artist of the People’s Choice Award will receive $3,000.