In Miniature

Small sculptures have lived with us for millennia as tokens of devotion, of attachment, of faith, and of quite everyday, domestic activity. Now in its twenty-first iteration, the Defiance Gallery '6x6x6 inch Miniature Sculpture Show' incorporates over 150 works of sculpture at the modest scale its title suggests, spanning subjects and purposes both timeless and uniquely contemporary.

From Paleolithic Venus figurines, whose creation dates from 26,000 to 21,000 years ago, to the Marian relics of contemporary Catholicism, childhood toys, and the kitsch of the souvenir shop, sculpture at a small scale is embedded in the material and psychic fabric of our lives. Sometimes, as in the totemic object or the religious relic, these small objects are – or become – soaked through with a sort of agentic power, acting upon us in ways variously psychological, social, or more broadly (to the believer, at least) causative. In other cases, it is we who act upon the objects, as in the scene of the child playing out scenarios with their toy figurines, dressing up their dolls, or building small, benign, but imaginatively potent replica scenes. The small looms large, that is, in our individual lives, and our life as a species, right from the very start. 

The twenty-first Miniature Sculpture Show at Defiance Gallery hosts over 150 such small but powerful works, a number of which are lauded in the awards which accompany the show. Kate Stehr, for instance, has won an Artist Residency at the Barnhouse by John Normyle, Anita Larkin the Caldwell Family Sculpture Prize and a Seal Rocks Residency, Julia Martin the acquisitive Cat Palace Emerging Artist Prize and Clara Hali the Lady Nock Sculpture Prize. 

Available to view online during Sydney’s lockdown, the small works are framed – somewhat eerily, and somewhat entirely fittingly – in image tiles which reflect their scale. In the space however, their scale surprises and delights, and the installation shots are certainly worth attending to. There’s a great deal of variation in form, in medium, and in tone across the works, which populate the expansive space – white and modernist as it is – with a celebratory density. Works, across the show, encompass figuration and the functional, abstraction and an array of materialities, the natural and the technological, and a set of conceptual concerns ranging from faith and scientific knowledge to the body, the animal world, and the possibilities of pure form. There is so much about smallness here: to see, to consider, and to live alongside.

During Sydney’s lockdown, many of the realms in which the small sculptural object operates – the domestic, the emotional, the spiritual – have loomed large in both public and many private consciousnesses. Perhaps, indeed, this is a perfect time to consider the role of the small stuff in our imaginative, and our quotidian, lives.

6x6x6 inch Miniature Sculpture Show
21 July – 9 September 2021
Defiance Gallery, Sydney

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