Press Room Details

Caught Between A Rock And First Place
May Barrie

30 October 2009
Adam Fulton

Sydney Morning Herald


IT MIGHT look like a meteorite but 'Time and Tide Granite Monolith II', the naturalistic sculpture that yesterday won Sculpture By the Sea' $60, 000 top prize, has received a wave of earthly praise for it's "incredible simplicity".
The artwork's 91-year-old creator May Barrie, said the giant piece was "bloody hard work...but still, because you want to do it, it doesn't matter".
She thought it was a "good work" and was glad others agreed.
David Handley, the founder of the annual art exhibition that opened yesterday, admitted that to some eyes the piece may appear to be, well, a big rock. Others might query its $150,000 price tag. "But I think it's an exquisite piece," he said. "The subtlety and the sophistication of it is absolutely superb."
Handley sent a representative to Barrie's property near Wollongong this year with a view to getting a small piece form "one of the grand dames of Australian art". They discovered her property was surrounded by massive sculptures.
"She's really been hidden under a rock...It's almost like Lazarus," Handley sid.
Barrie has a long list of public commissions going back decades and including the Transfield Sculpture Prize in 1966. She first saw the rock for 'Time and Tide Granite Monolith II' in a quarry and "I liked it and I wanted to work on it, so eventually I got it home".
The rock weighed almost five tonnes so transporting it was costly. She worked on it"over a few months", finishing it in 1996.
Barrie continues to sculpt because "I don't think I can get it out of my system now - it's been there for too long". But "I'm working on a few smaller bits now".
The Herald's art critic, John McDonald, described Barrie as a distinguished but undervalued sculptor. As she has aged, he said, her work has become less figurative and has allowed the stones she uses to speak more for themselves.
Andrew Frost, the presenter of ABC's 'The Art Life', sees Celtic or druid overtones in the work. "The public would be forgiven for thinking 'Hey it's a giant rock.' And it is" he said. "It's obvious the idea of the rock eroding over time is very poignantly connected to the fact of her age."
The Balnaves Foundation, which sponsors the prize, doubled the first prize to $60,000 this year. Barrie's work and the next nine winners will eventually find a permanent home but Hamish Balnaves, the foundation's general manager, said: "Were actually having a bit of trouble finding a location."

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