Michael Snape – HarbourSculpture Award

In News October 12, 2020

The judge for this year’s HarbourSculpture Award is acclaimed Australian artist and Balmain local, Michael Snape.

HarbourSculpture first began in 2014, showcasing the work of Australian sculptors on the shores of Woolwich, Sydney. After a three year hiatus, HarbourSculpture returns in 2020 to a new location at the Balmain Rowing Club.This exhibition will focus on smaller sculptural works suitable for the internal venue.With a beautiful Sydney Harbour backdrop, this boutique exhibition will include works that reflect a sense of history and place in Australia.

HarbourSculpture recently spoke to Michael Snape for a Q&A. His raw and characterful responses offer a totally surprising and encouraging perspective that we hope will ignite those creative utterances!

What are you looking for? What makes a submission stand out?

Like everyone, I am looking to be moved, inspired, taken away. I am looking for signs of life. Art takes us ‘out of it’.
That sounds kind of obvious, but it is rarer than you’d think.
I would prefer not to be shocked into taking my attention, and political intent is probably mostly better applied elsewhere.
One-liners are out. Two sentences ok, but three-dimensional paragraphs are preferred.
I would be moved by the depth of feeling expressed in a work. I would be absorbed by that which required being absorbed to make it. Anything too ‘licked’ is out.
The sculptor speaks on behalf of the capacity of the culture to be conscious and alive. The more that culture is reflected, the better the show will be. A good sculpture reflects a cultured community.
Sculpture is not new. It’s ancient. A work which reflects hard-won values will be noticed!
How can our life reflect on that history? Not much, but it should try, and not chuck the baby…! (terrible expression)
A sculpture should show the virtuosity of a musician. It should be able to play the material. There should be coherent language visible. The work needs to be visually audible.
Sentiment, didacticism, and vanity will be noticed and resisted!
Evidence of surrender will be sought. Surrender to material, to idea, to process. How much can you give of yourself before you give in?
A sculpture only exists in the tradition it represents. No work free-stands independently. If it attempts to, it will fall over. Or be noticed for five minutes, or a year or ten, but not twenty!
In summary: Signs of life. A voice. An urgency. Anything which catches, holds, from which I cannot turn away. Anything which employs the principles of unity, harmony, and clarity. That has genuinely asked itself, ‘What does it mean to be alive?’.


Can sculpture yield to the pressures imposed by the present?

This is the challenge. This is what I will be hungry to see.

We have talked about the happenings shaping our world for many artists, how do you perceive it?
Has the current environment projected/changed your creativity  has it inspired you?

Has the world changed recently? Does the changing shape of the world inform the artist? Is trauma useful?
I would suggest the more we have to turn away, the more we need to be mesmerised by what we do. The extent that we are transfixed by that distraction is useful.
Often though, we are disabled by troubles, and worries dry us out and exhaust us. The artist, we all, must muster strength as circumstance saps us. COVID though, has woken us from our immobility, our stupefied comfort, our sense of entitlement. I believe it is timely, terrible, and sad for many, but important to make us ask again, ‘what are our values’?
We are more awake, which must be a good thing.

What does HOPE look like to you?

By HOPE, in caps? HOPE is a rock we cling to, that stops us going down the creek. Better down the creek, so much stuff to see. HOPE serves to keep the dishes done and the bills paid.

As a local of 40+ years, what is Balmain today?

Balmain is what it has always been. A peninsula somewhat removed even with all the transport and road opportunities provided to join with a broader community. We are consequently peninsular in our thinking and responses. Thankfully, we speak the same language as the mainlanders. Balmain has been spared the general abandonment of the village and the community.
The middle class has invaded Balmain but not changed it. Balmain changes all those who come to it. Balmainers generally do not care for their appearance as others might, people from Chatswood, or Punchbowl or Woollahra. In the seventies we used to go up the shops in our pyjamas. It’s less relaxed now, but still generally anything goes.
Balmainers ultimately intuit left while advocating Howard, Abbott and Morrison.
Strangely, while advocating locality and community, Balmain people tend to be solitary, philosophical, and melancholy. They have cerebral inclinations, literary rather than artistic and have not noticed, with some exceptions, the removal of my ‘Balmain Traffic Song’!

34bc300c-e092-43ea-9001-f695a221c73eImage above: Michael Snape  Balmain traffic song  1990

This year the exhibition will take place indoors from Friday 20 November to Sunday 29 November 2020. For more information, click here.

Images and text courtesy of HarbourSculpture