I chanced upon an artist talk on a cold wet saturday in Melbourne, by sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann at Charles Nodrum Gallery in Richmond.
This unassuming, diminutive man produced the infamous large sculpture “The Vault ” or as it was famously labelled ” The Yellow Peril”.
The piece was a winner of a competition staged by the Melbourne City Council who were looking for a distinctive signature piece for City Square. It won and was installed in May 1980 , just prior to the then State Government sacking the Melbourne City Council.
The work , initially called ” The Thing ” by Roberston-Swann and “Steelhenge ” by the workers who made it , was critically labelled ” The Yellow Peril ” by newspapers of the day . In September 1980 Robertson-Swann called the work ” The Vault ” but to many the work has remained known as ” The Yellow Peril ”
In 1981, the Vault was re-erected at Batman Park, a less prominent part of the city. At the time Robertson-Swann was interviewed about its relocation which he described as it being placed in a wasteground of a holding yard for the railways. It remained there until 2002 when it was moved to a position outside the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Southbank.
In 2017, the sculpture was recommended for heritage protection, through inclusion in the City of Melbourne Planning Scheme Heritage Overlay, following a heritage study of the Southbank Area.
“The Vault” has been inspirational for some built and propositional architectural projects designed in Melbourne. Several of Denton Corker Marshall‘s works have “adopted peril’s yellow almost as a point of pride and solidarity” while its form has been manipulated in some works by ARM Architecture (Ashton Raggatt McDougall).
I took much away from the artists talk. It gave me an opportunity to view the works of his expansive practice and realise that no one piece defines or contains a creative practice. Also that once a piece is sold the creator loses control of the piece and its new placement which can challenge the artists integrity . Also it may be preferable to give work a title to avoid the labelling of the work by an uncomplimentary tag.