The other day I was clipping the hedge that runs down each side of our driveway. On one side the job consists of cutting back the new overhanging shoots of the dogwood trees that grow prolifically up here in the Dandenongs. On the other side of the driveway, apart from the odd bit of holly and an occasional bramble, (please don’t report me to the noxious weed police), the hedge is a high dense tangle of Japonica.
Clip went the shears and my mind began to wander. One nightmare would be the job of maintaining a hedge maze; miles of uniform clipping, straight up and down, no curves, only right angles. An apprentice maze clipper would need a girlfriend by the name of Ariadne to help out but after a while I suppose he would soon learn his way through it. Like life really; having to make choices, go back and do it again if you get it wrong. I’d be clapped out, or clipped out, at the first turn. But that’s sculpture.
For various reasons, practical or ornamental, people have always pruned or trimmed plants. Topiary, the sculpting of bushes and shrubs into parrots, pagodas and peacocks, has been common for centuries. These objects are all man-made, nature providing only the raw material, human consciousness the rest. They are artificial, an artifice or, in short, art.
Taken to an extreme is the art of bonsai; that ultimate domination of man over nature, perfected over the centuries in Japan. Not to everyone’s taste - I know someone who regards this tampering with nature as an obscenity like the stretch limo – it is popular all over the world. These tiny trees are living sculptures.
The nation that perfected the art of small living sculpture is also home to the world’s largest sculpture park; the Hakone Open Air Museum. Set on seven hectares of gentle slopes in a national park it also houses a large collection of paintings, ceramics and other indoor works of art. That an oriental nation like Japan can be host to one of the most significant Western art collections is astonishing and is one of the great benefits of globalisation. In particular the large sculpture collection includes Miro, Brancusi, Giacometti - the list goes on – and also the largest collection of Henry Moore anywhere in the world. Also represented at Hakone is Peter Blizzard, the only Australian to have had a one-man show there. You will remember he was our judge this year at the Flower and Garden Show where, incidentally, I saw quite a few bonsai and a number of hedges.
So you see, everything is connected, and better still it’s all connected to sculpture. If you don’t believe me just go out and clip your hedge.
John Wooller President