The World Turns Sculpture at GOMA

The World Turns Sculpture at GOMA

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Posted 2024-04-08 by Gillian Chingfollow
While touring exhibitions come and go at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, one giant and permanent art piece continues to create interest and attract visitors all year round.

(Photo: Gillian Ching)

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is the home to contemporary art in Brisbane as well as housing the Children's Art Centre, which offers interactive artworks for kids and families, and a cinema that celebrates film from around the world. While there is a lot to see inside the Gallery, there is also an intriguing creative waiting to capture your imagination in the exterior as well.

"What is The World Turns Sculpture?"
Outside GOMA is a five-metre high sculptured Indian elephant which rests against a rock on the grassy riverfront esplanade along the Brisbanes' picturesque promenade in the heart of the cultural precinct. With the water and skyline behind it, this modern sculpture has secured one of the best views of the Brisbane Central Business District.

The 2011-12 sculpture called "The World Turns" is the creation of New Zealand contemporary artist, Michael Parekowhai. An artist's statement on the wall of the Gallery explains the story behind the piece. It has been created to remind us that history is often recorded to highlight specific moments, but, as the world turns, there are many other stories – and these are central to our understanding of history.

Michael Parehowhai graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland in 1990, followed by a Master of Fine Arts in 2000. Parekowhai was selected to represent New Zealand at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 where he exhibited On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer at the New Zealand pavilion. In 2015 he exhibited The Promised Land, a retrospective survey of his practice at the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

(Photo: Gillian Ching)

The sculpture was commissioned by the Queensland Government to mark GOMAs fifth birthday. While admired by many it has not been without controversy over its 1 million dollar price tag and having been produced by an international artist rather than an Australian.

Made from bronze, it stands at 4.88 x 4.56 x 2.93 metres. While it's hard to not be instantly captured by the overall size and stature of the elephant, there are some smaller features which are worth discovering that make the piece even more special.

The Angle of its Body
The elephant is resting in a contorted shape with its head on the ground and its body elevated to the sky while leaning against a rock. It is standing on its head and looks somewhat like a bookend, perhaps paying homage to the State Library of Queensland which is its neighbour.

The Look in its Eyes,
The elephant has a look of fear and distress in its eyes. What is causing this disturbance? Was it a sound, a sight, a circumstance?

(Photo: Gillian Ching)

The water rat
The answer to the question of what is causing the elephant's concern in part is that this monstrous beast is not the only animal in the art piece. If you look closely you will see a "Rakali" which is a water rat found along the banks of the Brisbane River. Rakali live near permanent water in a diverse range of habitats that varies from fresh slow-moving streams, brackish inland lakes and creeks to wetlands, rivers, estuaries and beaches on coastlines.

In the sculpture, the rat can be seen grooming itself with the elephant looking at it eye to eye.

In real life, these rats burrow alongside the Brisbane River and its water banks.

The Viewing Chair
The sculpture is best viewed from multiple angles. Walk around it and then perhaps sit in the viewing chair which adjourns it to take it in for a few moments. Visitors who sit in the viewing chair in fact become a part of the art piece.

The elephant sculpture even rates more than a mention in the pages of Award-winning author and journalist Trent Daltons' 2023 released novel Lola In The Mirror.

What Else
To see the sculpture for yourself, head to The Gallery of Modern Art which is located in Brisbanes' Cultural Precinct in Cordelia Street, South Brisbane. The sculpture is a permanent fixture and can be viewed at any time for free.

(Photo: Gillian Ching)

282504 - 2024-04-04 08:22:10


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