Brigitta Olubas reviews 'Bronwyn Oliver: Strange things' by Hannah Fink

Brigitta Olubas reviews 'Bronwyn Oliver: Strange things' by Hannah Fink

Bronwyn Oliver: Strange things

by Hannah Fink

Piper Press, $59.95 hb, 240 pp, 9780975190159

Almost twelve years after her death, Bronwyn Oliver (1959–2006) remains one of Australia’s best-known sculptors; her artistic legacy supported by the prolific outputs of an intense and high-profile studio practice across three decades, by public, private, and corporate commissions, and by a string of prizes, awards, and fellowships. She is admired now, as she was throughout her career, as an artist of signal intellectual depth and aesthetic complexity, her work carrying appeal across a broad public.

Bronwyn Oliver’s name conjures the wildly intricate metalwork, the spiked or furled and swirling forms of her sculptures; it also brings to mind the still shocking news of her suicide in July 2006, news which pushed questions of mental health, the individual and private costs of art, of talent and achievement to the forefront of a larger public understanding. The ‘strange things’ to which Hannah Fink directs us in the title of her very beautiful book on Bronwyn Oliver, refer us not just to the otherworldly lyricism of Oliver’s sculptures, but also to the troubled matter of her life; the mix of her talent, her industry, her intense fragility, and her at times inexplicably pitiless treatment of those around her.

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Brigitta Olubas

Brigitta Olubas

Brigitta Olubas is Associate Professor of English at the University of New South Wales. She is President of ASAL, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, and edits the Association’s scholarly journal, JASAL.

Published in May 2018, no. 401