Part 1: Important Fine Art
26 November 2014


(1959 - 2006)


245.0 cm length

$140,000 - 180,000
Sold for $156,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 37 - 26 November 2014, Melbourne

Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 2000

Catalogue text

Bronwyn Oliver's sculptures are wondrous to behold. Inexplicable in their beauty, they are symbols of life and an energy that responds deeply to the soul. Delicately balancing the interplay between light, shadows, depth and air, Oliver's sculptures are fragile yet resilient compositions that are woven together forming a flawless whole. Inscription is an elegant and sinuous example that acts as a ripple of energy, alive and taut with an organic beauty that is distinctive of Oliver's celebrated sculptures.

The winding copper form of Inscription possesses a life of its own, alluding to a serpent slithering across a ground or a gnarled twisted branch. There is a fluid movement and a mesmerising cadence that flows through the sculpture like musical notes on a sheet of paper. Belonging to a group of horizontal works which mimic the movement of a pen as it scrawls text across a page, the title Inscription brings to mind old love letters written in cursive, full of emotion and poignancy or perhaps a hastily written note on parchment, expressing an urgent message. Trace, 2001 in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra is another example of Oliver's lyrical rhythmic forms that explore the formal language of sculpture. 'In forming letters to make words the pen rises and falls against the paper in a rhythm relating to the meaning of the words and the mind of the writer. Each letter has its own geometry - more narrow in places and more rounded in others - which varies according to its context within a word and its relationship to other letters. The "hand" of the writer can lend a particular poetry of associations to each word - perhaps haste, affection or anger, disappointment and so on.'1 The wall replaces the page as the sculpture moves quietly across the surface as if flowing effortlessly across the page from an invisible hand.

Manipulating the copper through her meticulous craftsmanship, Oliver is regarded as one of Australia's most significant contemporary sculptors - 'the delicate friction between surface and depth breathes life into her objects: dense surfaces with translucent and vital interiors of air and light. Her objects are often sphere-like with hollow spaces or openings- openings which lead to somewhere else, devolving from where they started. In the exchange between these aspects, Oliver's sculpture suggests a passage from one place to another, a journey from a material dimension into an imaginative, other world.'2 As demonstrated in Inscription, Oliver leaves behind a legacy of pure beauty, wonder, strength and life.

1. Bronwyn Oliver, quoted on the National Sculpture Prize + Exhibition website 
2. Bullock, N., in Bond, T., and Tunnicliffe, T., (eds), Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2006, p. 326