Pinnacle of Jack Stobart’s sculpting career

3 minutes read
Posted 6 March, 2024
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Stroll down the Buckingham Street courtyard in Arrowtown and you’ll stumble across its latest art installation, Crescendo, a three-and-a-half metre white granite sculpture by Jack Stobart, founder and director of Birdwoods Gallery. It took him six months to make and weighs just over two tonnes – it’s now on display for all to see.

Stobart originally trained as a sculptor seven years ago through an apprenticeship in Zimbabwe. He grew up there and initially learnt how to make stonework before opening Birdwoods Gallery in Arrowtown. The gallery features his works as well as works of other artists he worked with and that trained him in Zimbabwe.

“I’d always wanted to make something monumental – something really big. I’d been in a couple of exhibitions and I’d be selling my work through other galleries as well as my own, so in 2020 I decided that I wanted to make this piece specifically for the courtyard in town,” Stobart says.

He went on to approach his landlord, who was happy for him to install a piece in the middle of the courtyard. He first created a clay and plaster model before sourcing the stone from a quarry in Zimbabwe. Next, he headed over to start working on the project.

“I went over there and spent about six months working on it. I did 70-80% of the work in Zimbabwe and then I finished the rest here. It’s a granite, white granite, and it’s mined there for benchtops and things, so it was a really good place for me to get the stone of that scale. I spent the whole time there working on that piece, freighted it back here and then I finished out here at my Arrowtown studio and we installed it here at the end of last year. It’s 3.5 metres high and weighs about two-and-a-half tonnes. It’s a pretty monstrous bit of rock, but it’s pretty interesting.”

Installing the piece was another big undertaking, hiring a hiab loader crane to get it in place. A concrete pad also had to be installed in the centre, with a rod fixed through the pad, through a granite base and then into the sculpture itself. The inside of the piece is held together and kept stable with joining rods and it hadn’t been lifted vertically until its installation – it was a nerve-wracking moment for Stobart.

“Thankfully we got there really early in the morning and we managed to lift it vertically and it didn’t break. So we just lifted it up and dropped it into place. We were going to make the base separate, but on that piece it’s all one piece of stone moving through the base of the sculpture.”

Stobart called the piece Crescendo as a nod to what he describes as the pinnacle of his sculpting career. He knew his size restrictions and that he wanted it to have a twist. He wanted a solid formation at the bottom, which rose up splitting into different paths before forming together again once it reached its peak, saying that it’s quite symbolic to his life – his mum was an artist and when he was younger, he worked on a lot of art before he “went out into the big wide world and never really thought it was an industry I could make a living out of”. He ended up going down different paths and taking different directions before coming back to his roots.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve only made small pieces and I want something quite monumental. When I was doing the design, I was slightly limited because I knew what sort of scale I wanted, but I knew what block size I could cut as well. So I was limited in terms of my dimensions with what I could work with.”

He was also heavily influenced by the art culture in Zimbabwe, where they believe the stone will tell you what to do. This was true for Crescendo too, where there was a particular infusion of quarts within one section of the stone that had to be removed, thus dictating in some ways the shape of the sculpture.

“It was quite a personal project for me and now people can go and see it. It’s nice that it’s in the middle of the public courtyard there, and the stones are really millions of years old, so it will hopefully outlive us all, which is quite cool,” Stobart says.

Crescendo can now be found just out the back of Arrowtown Bakery on the Buckingham Street Courtyard in front of Birdwoods Gallery.


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