Bring Dadswell’s Wildflowers home

Lyndon Dadswell and  The Wildflower State.

AN important piece of WA’s sculptural history is coming up for auction in Sydney later this month, and one of the state’s most respected art academics says he’d love to see it come home.

The Wildflower State was created by renowned Australian sculptor Lyndon Dadswell and hung on the facade of the Commonwealth Bank on the corner of Hay and William streets from its opening in 1960 until the building was demolished to make way for the Central Park development about three decades later.

The large abstract sculpture, measuring about three metres tall by two metres wide, is the only public artwork of Dadswell to survive, having itself been rescued from a scrap heap by Perth recycler Paul Nield after the demolition.

It has been leased to Macquarie University for about 25 years and hangs in its sculpture park, but goes under the gavel for internet and absentee bidders only at Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers on August 31.

Dadswell became the first sculptor to be appointed an official Australian war artist on September 2, 1941 – just three months after being seriously wounded fighting the Vichy French in Syria.

He resigned his commission in 1942 and returned to the East Sydney Technical College, where he’d just started teaching before war broke out.

The Wildflower State as it hung from the side of the Commonwealth Bank building.

As head of its fine arts department, he grew the school into a nationally-respected breeding ground for sculptors and was showered with awards throughout his career.

When commissioned by the Commonwealth Bank to produce The Wildflower State in 1958, Dadwell was entering the abstract phase that was to define his remaining years.

It was certainly an eye-opener for Perth folk, as the Daily News reported while it was still being installed.

Under the big headline; “What is it?” the Daily reported: 

“To its creator, Sydney sculptor Lyndon Dadswell, it represents the West Australian bushland.

“It may have represented bushland to Mr Dadswell but to most interested and perplexed pavement supervisors it was a puzzle.

“The only person who had any idea what it was was a woman. To her it looked like wildflowers.”

Dadswell had already produced sculptures for Commonwealth branches in Hobart and Sydney and said he’d kept to using three forms to make them, essentially, a series.

“It is meant to remind the observer of nature, while never letting him forget the splendid quality of metal, both hammered and welded,” Dadswell wrote shortly after the building opened.

“It does not pretend to imitate nature, but does seek to provoke thought – to hold attention. And, as an unfamiliar object it must create comment and, while it certainly does.

by ARIANA ROSENBERG STEVE GRANT and DAVID BELL

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