Twelve years ago, a striking piece of art rose from the new Pool Lawn to complement the newly landscaped area. This was an initiative of then Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, the Board of Trustees, and, importantly, the Old Girls Association. The aim was to create an artwork to adorn the precinct and contribute a major piece to the School’s art collection. The 2.5-metre-high work was a contemporary design of fluid lines and spaces, a stylised water-screen reminiscent of waves. It was crafted in stainless steel and was unveiled on Saturday 9 October 2010 by Christine Purvis (1965), then President of the Old Girls Association.
The sculpture was a gift from the Old Girls Association marking the 135th anniversary of the School. Robert Clerc, the well-known Sydney sculptor and jeweller, was the artist chosen to submit a design for the work. Robert worked in a variety of metals and contemporary designs and already had numerous celebrated commissions for his sculptures, including his first public commission for Kambala School, an independent girls’ school in Sydney. The Old Girls Association appreciated the stylish design and the project proceeded to realise a beautiful and significant work of art that added to the School aesthetics.
The opening was a fine affair—an invitation to ‘Women of Grammar—Champagne on the Lawn’. The artist, Robert Clerc, was in attendance, and spoke of the design process and his creation of the sculpture. As the weather was rather inclement, the opening celebrations were held in the Barbara Fielding Room on Level 4 of the Cherrell Hirst Creative Learning Centre.
Robert’s wife, Michele, commented at the time: ‘The aesthetic of the swimming pool area is powerful and a wonderful complement to Robert’s sculpture’ (Autumn Gazette, 2011, pp 23).
In an archived blog from the School’s website, the author wrote of the sculpture as ‘elegant, timeless, and stunning’, and ‘the latest jewel in the glittering crown of the Girls Grammar campus’. Dr Bell believed that ‘the sculpture was well-received as an aesthetic addition to the lawn area … Hopefully, it has become a happy part of the School campus like a number of other artworks’ (Bell email 1.3.2022).
In 2013, the sculpture was blown over in a storm and Robert came up from Sydney to repair the sculpture and to install stronger underpinning to give it more substantial stability and resistance to any weather threats. It has stood firmly ever since.
Such a striking sculptural design led Robert, an award-winning jeweller as well as sculptor, to offer to design jewellery pieces based on the concept underpinning the sculpture. The OGA considered that this could be a potential fundraising opportunity and Robert proceeded to design a brooch. The choice of material included gold and sterling silver with the potential to add semi-precious stones such as opal. Unfortunately, this beautiful brooch proved to be cost-prohibitive for the Association and, therefore, the concept was not pursued.
The brooch design was triangular, taking the form of the waves from the sculpture in miniature with a different perspective emphasised. According to Michele Clerc, only three prototypes of the brooch were produced, all in sterling silver, and two of these were presented at the Principal’s farewell dinner in December 2012. As a sign of her gratitude, the Principal gifted the brooches to the former Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr Cherrell Hirst, and the then current Chair of the Board, Ms Elizabeth Jameson. ‘I felt deeply honoured at the time as it was such a beautiful brooch … I really love that brooch and see it as a significant connection to the School’ (Hirst email 24.5.2022).
The third brooch is a valued possession of former Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, whose interest and intent in furthering the aesthetics of the School campus had imagined and initiated the sculpture project.
The timeless style and graceful lines of the original sculpture, shared in miniature in its brooch form, attest to the importance of the Fine Arts Collection of the School and its role in creating an environment of beauty, wonder, and inspiration. These pieces confirm the importance of history and the links forged by students and staff who maintain both actual and emotional links with the School where they spent such an important time.
Ms Lorraine Thornquist (nee Williams 1967)
Grammar Gazette, Autumn, 2011.