Ready to reminisce

Jolting the old powers of recall, Hazelwood South sculptor John Abery has created a range of giant toys to explore the theme of childhood memory.

“My memory of my childhood and the things we used to have is trying to evoke in the viewer their childhoods,” Mr Abery said.

“Going back to when they were young, and what they had as toys, is what the exhibition is all about. Also what children have today, this computerised stuff, we didn’t have that.”

He said his giant toy sculptures provided a contrast to the toys of today.

“They’re made out of wood because back in our days, a lot of the toys were made out of wood,” he said.

“I’ve got a large bowl of marbles (in the exhibition). I remember at grandma’s, she had a bowl of marbles on the table, that as kids you’d go and play with.

“This bowl is six foot in diameter and full of marbles made out of wood.

“There is also a trinket box. As kids, mum used to have a box full of needles and thread and thimbles and crochet hooks, so I got a bowl, its about 1.4 metres in diameter and it’s got all the thimbles and crochet hooks and buttons and needles and pipes, all made in a large size.”

Mr Abery’s exhibition also features a six-foot-tall teddy, a giant Meccano set and a Lego man who stands more than a metre high.

He said he began sculpting “by mistake”.

“My my wife died about 20 years ago. I was a house dad and I was bored so I rang up TAFE to see if they had a space in the art department and they did in the sculpture department. I went from there to Monash and did my degree,” Mr Abery said.

“I’ve got many styles. Some of it is surreal, some of it is realistic.

“When I first started off with sculpting, I was working in large organic forms… all made out of little blocks glued together. The next one I did, I worked in surreal musical instruments (with) feet and hands. You couldn’t really play a tune on them.”

A carpenter by trade, Mr Abery said his art practice was mainly limited to sculpting.

“I’ve worked in steel and bronze and I’ve been mostly doing wood recently. I’ve just made myself a steel-work studio, so I’m now heading into steel.

“All my wooden (sculptures) are indoor stuff, but with the steel ones I can stick them out in the garden.”

He said he had experimented with his practice in a number of ways.

“I initially started off doing miniatures. I used to do woodturning and (small) wooden goblets, now I’m working with timbers six foot tall,” Mr Abery said.

“But when I went to TAFE and did the sculpture course, they told me I had to go and do a drawing course. And I said ‘I can’t draw’ and they said ‘of course you can, go and draw’ and that’s what lead me to painting. I don’t do a lot of painting anymore but at the time I did.”

“I’ve had some exhibitions before. Particularly I’ve had some over at arcYinnar and I have exhibited at the (Latrobe) Regional Gallery. I have done in Melbourne and I have actually got a painting (exhibited) in America.”

Mr Abery’s exhibition on childhood memory will be held from 6 August to 25 September at the Cowwarr Art Space. For more information, visit