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History

09 Sep 2020

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Forward Surge

By Robin Grow - President, Australian Art Deco & Modernism Society

One of the pleasant aspects of living in Southbank is the range of sculptures in the streets and gardens.

Walking south from Flinders St towards the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) takes pedestrians past a remarkable group of sculptures called Forward Surge. There are four in the group and kids enjoy clambering over them – unfortunately they attract skateboarders as well!

Constructed of black metal, the dramatic series of four wave-like structures are five metres high and set into a concrete plinth covered with earth and bluestone. The works give out a lot of energy and provide a powerful sense of motion. They were the work of sculptor Inge King and were installed on the lawn between Arts Centre Melbourne and Hamer Hall. Collectively they link the buildings together against a backdrop of tall city structures.

King (nee Neufeld) had a remarkable career. Born in Berlin in 1915 to a well-off Jewish family, she studied at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts until 1937 and then at the Royal Academy in a very conservative London from 1940. Following WWII, she married Australian artist Graeme King and they settled in Melbourne in 1951. What a shock the Australian sculptural scene must have been to her! But she grew to love the local landscape and began producing works inspired by the Australian bush.

In 1959 she learnt to use an arc welder and began welding her work in steel, becoming one of the first sculptors in Australia to work in that medium (and probably the only woman!). Over the years she produced a number of highly regarded works and was one of Victoria’s most celebrated and critically respected sculptors. Forward Surge is regarded as her major work. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 100.

The architect primarily responsible for the NGV, Roy Grounds, was a keen supporter of including sculpture within his designs and wanted a modern sculpture to catch the eye of those approaching the NGV from the city. He and King also wanted the sculpture to be visible from cars and trams on St Kilda Rd, which was later hampered by the construction of an overhead footpath structure. He may not have envisaged that the sculpture would become used as a skate ramp and a site for wedding photographs and jazz concerts. Let’s hope he approved. Forward Surge, conceived in 1973, was installed in 1981, the year that Grounds passed away.

The sculpture is now included on the Victorian Heritage Register •

 

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