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John Dowie part one

In their own words

Recorded 1960

John Dowie part one
Audio: 2 minutes

The series of performances that I seem to go through each time I do anything dates first of all from the idea. This isn’t always an idea in a vacuum; quite often it’s something that’s been asked for, a portrait for instance. Having started with the idea and its purpose, which is just as important – you don’t treat something which is to go inside somebody’s private house the same way as you would if it were to be a monumental piece of public sculpture, it has a different function – these preliminary requirements are somehow there at the back of your mind. I don’t know that you, sort of, wear them as visible labels but there they are, forming the initial conditions out of which your ultimate conception grows.

Having had your little dream about it, as it were (which is the part where the magic does come in; I think there’s far too much talk about the magic of art but there’s no doubt that that side of it is all-important, in the beginning at any rate, and as a sort of a leaven which passes through what you do afterwards) but at a certain stage you’ve got to come to grips with the actual problem itself, and if this was modelling a portrait, then having conceived of how you will treat this thing, having emotionally come into some rapport with your model, you then look for those elements in the model’s head which lend themselves to treatment in solid form. Sculpture is an art of solid forms and the sculptor is not interested in making eyes and nose and mouth, he’s not taking over from the Creator and creating organs; what he is doing is making his clay or his stone take up forms which will reveal the appearance and mood of the subject.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of John Dowie is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

Related people

John Dowie AM

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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