If you are visiting Federation Square, do not miss its latest attraction besides Flinders Street – a colossal, startling art masterpiece by the American sculptor Patrick Dougherty. He bends, weaves, snags and flexes a humble pile of tree saplings and sticks to create works of art inseparable from nature and landscape. As the sculptures are made of organic matter, they disintegrate and fall apart, becoming part of the landscape once again. Most people see habitats and shelters in his work – which is what many of them are meant to be.
Over the last 25 years, he made over 200 art pieces throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia – woolly lairs and wild follies, gigantic snares, nests and cocoons, some woven into groves of trees, others lashed around buildings. Every piece mesmerizes in its ability to fly through trees, overtake buildings and virtually defy gravity. Thirty eight of his works are collected in “Stickwork” – a monograph-memoir published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. Since then, he has referred to his art pieces as “Stickwork“. You can view his featured works here.
As part of Federation Square’s 10th Birthday Celebrations, Federation Square and Creative Production Services have commissioned this new work which Patrick Doughert affectionately named as “Ballroom“. Over the course of three weeks, Dougherty and 70 volunteers weaved and bended more than ten tonnes of willow into an incredible sculpture using just gloves and secateurs.
The initial inspiration for this piece came from Dougherty’s visit to the Indigenous collection at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in November last year, but the shape of the final work was inspired by the architecture of Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral.
This work is sponsored by Melbourne Water which also supplied raw materials (willows) cleared from key water catchment areas. These are weeds, their dense canopies and invasive roots which can smother creeks, affect water quality and reduce habitats for fish and platypus in waterways throughout Victoria. An estimated $2 million is spent annually on managing willows, which are often replaced with native species that benefit the health of waterways. Raw materials were also supplied by Cricket Willow – a fifth generation family business in Shepherds Flat that has been making cricket bats for more than 100 years.
Stickwork is the latest addition to Federation Square’s Creative Program, with recent works including Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest in February and the magical web installation of Tape Melbourne by Numen/For Use.