31 May 2024

Sculptor carves success out of tragedy to win $100,000 Sculpture for Clyde prize

| Sally Hopman
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Woman and man hugging in front of sculpture

Sculptor Ingrid Morley is congratulated by her partner Brian Sinclair in front of her award-winning Sculpture for Clyde work, The Past is Just Behind, at Batemans Bay. Photo: Supplied.

When artist Ingrid Morley lost her home and studio to bushfire in 2019, followed too closely by the death of her closest friend and muse, life could not have looked bleaker.

Today, she reckons it’s like coming from the dark back into the brightest of lights after being named winner of the 5th annual Sculpture for Clyde Acquisitive Award – and winning a $100,000 prize purse.

The Clyde’s Major Award went to Murrumbateman artist Michael Le Grand for his work Ebb and Flow, the Emerging Artist award to Anthony Nelipa for The Bull and for Emerging Artist, Tika Robinson for Personal Growth.

Ms Morley said creating her award-winning work, The Past is Just Behind, was a restorative process.

“For me, this work is an expression of joy after a time of great sorrow,” she said.

“It came out of a body of work that was lost in the bushfire, a lifetime’s worth of notes, books, records, artwork. Yes, you recover from these sort of things but you lose a part of your history.

“A year later I lost a very close friend in a car accident, so not only was my history lost but I lost her too. She was my muse as I was hers. We had such a dynamic relationship; it was like losing a cog in the wheel of a gearbox.

“I was thrown around with grief.”

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But sometimes, the artist, who lives with her partner in a cottage at the Jenolan Caves, said, being an artist in times of grief can be “an incredible advantage. For me it let me channel my grief into my work and that became completely cathartic for me.”

Her prize-winning work is a vast piece of industrial sculpture. “It is a work with tension in it, with one arm that looks like it is rooted to the spot. Going through the arch in the work is like going through a passageway of feeling numb with the passageway represented in the form of an extra arm, like part of machine.

“It’s like living through the grief of a loss of a life that’s also, in a strange way, imbued with new life.

“This work became the new life.

“I wanted to achieve three elements in the form and shape of this work: the machine parts that are strewn all around my property, the phenomenal beauty of the landscape where we live and the human figure.”

As for the $100,000 prize, one of the largest in the Australian art world, Ms Morley said she was only just “coming back to earth”.

“Winning this is life-changing because it means I can be completely dedicated and focused on my work and not be so worried about making ends meet. It’s like being given your imagination to play with again.”

In the past when she has “run out of money”, she works on earthmoving equipment with her partner Brian Sinclair.

People looking at sculptures outside

Visitors look at entries in the 2024 Sculpture For Clyde on the Batemans Bay foreshore. Photo: Kim Treasure.

“But I much prefer to be in the studio,” she said, although admitting she is often inspired by the large machinery.

“When I see rusted machinery lying around it makes me sad because it looks lost and neglected. It relates to everything we don’t want to know about. But all these things lying around looking unused formed a part of the body of my work, and that’s been translated into an uplfiting, engaging change.”

Ms Morley said she was particularly grateful to her gallery in Sydney, Defiance, for supporting her over the past 25 years.

Founder of Sculpture for Clyde, David Maclachlan, congratulated the sculptors, describing Ms Morley’s piece as “a serious piece of work”.

He said the quality of entries this year had been high, with artists from as far afield as Greece, as well as from across Australia, entering their works.

Ms Morley’s work will be installed permanently on the Sculpture Walk on the Batemans Bay foreshore.

All the entries for the 2024 competition will be on display until Sunday 2 June.

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