25. 10. 2016
‘Found object sculpture’ – the very notion of the medium conjures up ideas of rough approximations to the subject, especially when the objects found are rusted metal rods, car parts and road signs.
For the sculptures of Indiana James, nothing could be further from the truth. The finish of his works of native animals of Kangaroo Island might look worn and rusted, but the proportions, muscle layers and postures are meticulously calculated, mapped and rendered.
“Making it accurate adds a whole layer of fascination,” James said.
“I have an engineering degree. To me there’s the great challenge. My objective is to nail the dimensions in profile from every direction.”
James’s work for the Island to Inland exhibition, Rood Kill, is a large male Kangaroo Island kangaroo, one of the many native animals on the island frequently killed by road traffic. It is a problem exacerbated by the ever-increasing numbers of tourists to the island who are also not familiar with driving to conditions of abundant wildlife.
The site of James’s studio at ‘Boomerbank’ near the shores of Pelican Lagoon is heavily populated with kangaroos, his constant inspiration. But he is also alarmed by the results of encounters of vehicles with these magnificent creatures.
James’s philosophy of the preservation of indigenous species leads him to make sculptures of native animals only. “I can use the wreckages of human endeavour to create the animals I am interested in.”
His clear admiration for the kangaroo is reflected in this attention to detail but also in the how he can elicit softness and motion from such hard material.
Eyes can’t be made real from recycled materials but James has the good fortune to have glass artist Bernard Stonor as a neighbour. Bernard supplies glass eyes for the roo that are anatomically precise in dimension and colour.
Now that the roo ‘skeleton’ is made, James is contemplating the symbology the roo could wear. He has an enormous stack of discarded old road signs to choose from.
There are also practical considerations in making the skin from aluminium, an unforgiving material. He envisages a skin like a mosaic, each piece with straight edges and bent only in one direction – all that the material will allow. Aluminium cuts very quickly and easily but is also toxic to soil in any quantity, and could penetrate clothing and subsequently ruin the washing machine.
Ever the problem solver, James has found a way to cut up the road signs to form the outer skin of the kangaroo. He is using the enormous box the signs came in as a cutting room so that even the tiniest shard is contained. And he has the recycler lined up to take the scrap aluminium back.
James is still considering how to create the reality of actually hitting a kangaroo with a car. Should we be nervous about seeing how accurate that ‘rood’ wake-up call will be?
All photographs by Indiana James