11 January 2022

Dandelions sculpture blows away Taralga village

| Sally Hopman
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Man under giant dandelions.

Yass sculptor Al Phemister with his Dandelions art installation at the northern end of Taralga. Photo: Supplied.

Sculptor Al Phemister had a vision for a small garden wall at the northern entrance to the village of Taralga. Giant dandelions. Five of them. Some created to look still, others to look as if they were swaying in the breeze.

The idea was not just to create a stunning art installation that would draw people to the small community near Crookwell, but to also help save lives.

Working with Southern Tablelands Arts, the Upper Lachlan Shire Council created Share R Streets, an innovative arts project designed to rejuvenate streets within the shire and encourage visitors and locals to slow down as they drive through the towns and villages.

“I went to Taralga to have a look at possible sites,” Al, who lives and works in Yass, said.

“I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for the area. When I saw the wall with a garden at the end of town, with the avenue of trees, I knew it was the perfect spot. It was just appropriate for the site – the dandelions look like they’re made to go there.”

READ ALSO A stone’s throw from Sydney, Taralga village is in demand

The installation is about four metres tall and Al usually sources recycled material for his work. However, he could not access enough during the COVID lockdown for the giant dandelions, so he used new steel material. It took him about a month to build working on the project full-time.

He delivered it to the council yard at Crookwell so council staff could install it, discussing with various engineers and other experts to determine the best way to erect it safely in a public place.

Al said it was important for the dandelion installation to be larger than life.

“When I went to look at the space, I thought anything smaller than the size I built it would be dwarfed.”

The sculptor always prefers using the old ways of doing things for his art.

“I prefer to use the tried and true methods when I’m building something,” he said. “I love the traditional ways of doing things.”

He is inspired by his wife Sara, also an artist, his children Jack and Annie, and where he lives, the Yass Valley – a vibrant arts community in itself.

So why dandelions?

“I’ve always loved them. It goes back to my connection with the environment and family. I remember as kids doing it, and then my kids blowing dandelions in the wind. I love that they still do it today.

“With the piece I made for Taralga, I liked the idea of having more than one. Some are still, while others look like they’re blowing in the wind. The idea is for them to tell a story.”

Dandelions sculpture.

Sculptor Al Phemister’s Dandelions sculpture at Taralga, from the ground up. The work is almost four metres high. Photo: Supplied.

It’s not the first time Al has been asked to create giant dandelions. He was approached by a businesswoman in Singapore, who had seen his work and commissioned him to create some for her in Singapore and for a relative in Scotland.

He is also known for his giant pear sculptures made out of horseshoes.

“Sometimes people find out about the work via word of mouth, other times they might come up to you at an exhibition.

“The pear sculpture I did for a client in Kuala Lumpur – they came to Yass to see it. It ended up being one of the biggest ones I’d made – it had 624 horseshoes and was about four metres tall.

“I made it in Yass, put it on a semi-trailer to take it to Sydney and then it was shipped overseas.”

Al’s next exhibition of work will be early in the new year at the Botanical Gardens in Sydney.

More information will be available on his website.

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