Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver, Structure & Order at Tarrawarra


Sonia Payes, Bronwyn Oliver 2006

The first comprehensive survey of the works of Australian born and much admired sculptor Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) will be on show November 19, 2016 to February 5, 2017 at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art.

Situated in the beautiful surroundings of the Yarra Valley in Victoria, some fifty works, drawn from both public and private collections, will be on display. Oliver was renowned for attending to detail.

She channelled structure and order in a passionate pursuit of logic, producing extraordinary forms from a variety of materials including resin, tissue, paper, fibreglass, bronze, copper and aluminium.


Brownyn Oliver: Unicorn, 1984, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

She stripped her ideas to their bare physical and metaphorical bones, producing lithe like natural forms that exposed what she imagined remained – not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance’.

This fact is revealed in the first major study of her work Bronwyn Oliver: Strange Things written by Hannah Fink, which is all about the career of one of Australia’s brilliant and very private artist-sculptors.


Sonia Payes, Bronwyn Oliver, 2006 courtesy TarraWarra Museum of Art

It was cut short when she died alone and at her own hands in her Haberfield studio in Sydney at the age of 47 years – a terrible tragedy.

Magnolia and Palm, whose aesthetic is much admired, both sit in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and are among her most well known works.


Brownyn Oliver: Two Rings, 2006, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Also in Sydney, The Hilton Hotel commissioned Vine, a 380-kilogram aluminium creation of 16.5 metres one of the longest sculptures in the country and the biggest single piece that she ever created.

Raised in country NSW, Oliver headed off to London after gaining the NSW Travelling Art Scholarship. She attended the Chelsea School of arts 1982-3, gaining her Master’s degree.

Artist-in-Residence at Brest, a coastal city of Brittany in northwestern France, where inevitably the city with over a thousand years of history inspired her studies of Celtic metalworking.


Brownyn Oliver: Umbra, 2003, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Her first solo show of 19 in 1986 was presented at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, where she gained many clients that she worked closely with during her career of commissions. She taught infants at Cranbrook School in Bellevue Hill for 19 years.

When she died Roslyn Oxley reflecting on the artist’s personality said “she’ll certainly go down as a very significant artist. She had her own language: beautiful, refined forms with intricate, sometimes aggressive, sometimes soft structures within the forms,” she said.


Brownyn Oliver: Ammonite 2005, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Oliver herself said, ‘When the ideas, the formal elements and the medium all work together a sculpture will “sing” with a kind of rightness. It takes on a life, a presence, which is removed from this world. It belongs to a mythical other life, without a place in time’.

Her exhibition history included; Mildura Triennial (1985), Australian Perspects 1985 at the Art Gallery of NSW and a Review: works by women from the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales where she was greatly admired by curators.


Brownyn Oliver: Grandiflora (Bloom( 2005, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Victoria Lynn, TarraWarra’s director said that it was ‘… a testament to the short but poignant contribution…’ the artist made in her lifetime.

Metal was Oliver’s signature material, her woven forms allow light to filter through their form to cast shadows to provide an image that would endure.


Brownyn Oliver: Apostrophe 1987, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Many of her works were placed in the public domain, revealing her vision that ‘remains exceptional in the history of Australian contemporary art’… said Lynn.


Brownyn Oliver: Hatchery 1991, courtesy Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Curator, writer and broadcaster Julie Ewington said Oliver was… ‘one of the most exciting and rewarding sculptors to work with in Australia during the last decades of the twentieth century’.

Supple curves and an impression of being extremely delicate or refined, many of Bronwyn Oliver’s works are light, airy and tenuous; inhabiting an ethereal world created through the poetic imagination.

Should be a very special show.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver
19 November 2016 – 5 February 2017

Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Curated by Julie Ewington

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