‘Woman’ welcomes readers to the Library

Published 23 May 2008

sculpture.jpgA “Woman Reading” has appeared on the lawn in front of the University  of New England’s Dixson Library.

She took up her position there last Thursday, after arriving at UNE from Sydney accompanied by her creator – the sculptor Patricia Lawrence – and foundry craftsman Matthew Crawford.

Assisted by a crane, she settled on a granite pedestal where she continues to read – fostering an atmosphere of reflective tranquillity in the Library precinct.

Her elegant proportions and smooth surfaces belie her weight (165 kg) and the fact that her bronze form was cast in several sections at the Sydney art foundry Crawford’s Casting.

“Sitting outside reading is a pastime I enjoy,” the sculptor said. And all those who welcomed the “Woman Reading” onto her pedestal outside the Library agreed that she embodied that sense of quiet enjoyment.

Over the past two decades Patricia Lawrence, working mainly in bronze, has exhibited her sculptures regularly in Sydney and Canberra. Most of her work is in private collections, but some is in public places – including a sculpture in front of the Chancellery Building at the University of NSW and another at Westmead Children’s Hospital. “Woman Reading” is the second of her outdoor sculptures to adorn educational settings in Armidale: a pool at The Armidale School is home to “The Trout”.

It was the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, and his wife Ann, who had the initial vision of bringing “Woman Reading” to UNE. After seeing a small version of her at the Uralla Sculpture Prize Exhibition last November, they bought one of that edition for themselves and initiated a process that resulted in the purchase of the “Woman” – on a much larger scale – through the Dixson Library’s General Endowment Fund. “When we saw it we thought it was perfect not only for a university, but for this particular site at UNE,” Professor Pettigrew said.

Crawford’s Casting is the foundry that made the statue of an Australian soldier that was mounted on Sydney’s Anzac Bridge in 2000, and that of his New   Zealand counterpart mounted on the bridge earlier this year.

In casting the “Woman” from Ms Lawrence’s plaster original, the foundry used two different methods: “lost wax”, which allows for fine details, and “sand moulding”, which, Mr Crawford said, “provides an excellent result for larger, flat surfaces”. The cool, green figure that sits in front of the Dixson Library was formed from molten bronze poured at temperatures of 1,200 degrees (lost wax method) and 1,100 degrees (sand moulding).

Mr Crawford said the success of the complex casting process had “exceeded our expectations”. “When you get a result like this – one that makes people think you must have poured it in one shot – it brings a smile to your face,” he said.

A PHOTOGRAPH of Patricia Lawrence (left) with Professor and Mrs Pettigrew at the installation of “Woman Reading” can be seen by clicking on the image of the “Woman” displayed here.