12 Aug 2022
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Artist Natasha Johns-Messenger has been awarded the 2023 Southern Way McClelland Commission for her dynamic sculpture project, Compass 23, to be installed along the Peninsula Link freeway in Melbourne’s southeast.
The $300,000 commission is part of a unique and award-winning 25-year public art program that sees Southern Way, the entity contracted to manage the freeway, partnering with Australia’s largest sculpture park McClelland.
Southern Way funds and commissions new pieces of art every two years at alternating sites along the freeway, resulting in 14 commissions over the 25-year life of the public-private partnership contract.
After four years, the commissions are relocated to McClelland as part of its permanent outdoor sculpture collection.
Compass 23 will replace the 2019 commission, Lover Flower by John Meade and Emily Karanikolopoulos and follows the installation of Peninsula Pearls by Manon van Kouswijk and Monash Art Projects earlier this year.
Compass 23 involves a line-drawing sculptural proposition comprising 12-metre high simple powder coated and stainless steel geometric structures that evoke volume and dis-orientation.
The forms are based on the navigation pillars of north, south, east and west, and will be placed with these orientations in mind.
The structures with semi-circular forms have also been developed to echo circular freeway off-ramps.
The cylindrical work with the slice-like shape will point due north.
Ms Johns-Messenger says the fundamental implication of the sculpture is that we all play a role in authoring our world.
“My practice responds to site. Its scale, topography, light and spatial orientation, materiality and context, within an exploration of the concepts of phenomenology and perception, engaging perceptual shifts inside simple geometric framing, my artworks aim to question our expectations of space and three-dimensional form, utilising spatial and material conundrums to create a chasm between what we think we know and what we perceive, and to heighten awareness.”
McClelland director Lisa Byrne said Compass 23 will be a wonderful visual surprise for commuters to experience.
“Natasha Johns-Messenger’s Compass 2023 is the seventh work as part of this unique sculpture commissioning program with our partner Southern Way,” Ms Byrne said.
“With each new commission our local community and the many visitors to our region have the opportunity to experience some of Australia’s leading large-scale sculpture.
“The program leads the regional focus of sculpture at the Gateway to the Mornington Peninsula.
“It promotes a local dialogue and reanimation of familiar, well-known locations in our neighbourhood.
“This work will continue to fulfil the program’s aim to thoughtfully engage with our community through experiences out of the ordinary, those that inspire debate and develop awareness of sculpture.
“Each day we know over 74,000 people travel past these sculptures by car.
“Compass 23 will once again make a significant contribution to public sculpture given its complex spatial arrangement, and I look forward to its realisation in late 2023.”
The Southern Way McClelland Commission received more than 90 entries from local, interstate and international artists, of which six were shortlisted.
The selection panel was McClelland director Lisa Byrne, McClelland trustees Rory Hyde and John Young, and Heide Museum of Modern Art senior curator Melissa Keyes.
Compass 23 will be installed in late-2023.
About the artist
Natasha Johns-Messenger is an Australian installation artist and filmmaker based between Melbourne and New York. Johns-Messenger’s practice investigates her interest in perception and site through installations that employ body-scaled architectural interventions, optical works and site-determined film and photography.
Johns-Messenger holds an MFA in Film from Columbia University, New York, and a Masters by Research in Fine Art from RMIT, Melbourne. Recent exhibitions include: Lightmatter 2021 at STATION Sydney, a collaboration with Leslie Eastman; Envelop 2022 in A Thousand Different Angles at McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery; Water-Orb in 2018 at Ian Potter Sculpture Court, MUMA, Monash Melbourne; Somewhere Other in 2018, a collaboration with John Wardle Architects for La Biennale di Venezia, 16th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice; AirLightForm in 2018 at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne; and Sitelines in 2016 a solo exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.
Notable public works include Alterview (2013) for Hunters Point HS/IS 404, New York, commissioned by Percent For Art and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and ThisSideIn (2010), commissioned by the New York Public Art Fund.
Johns-Messenger has received several distinguished awards and prizes, including: the Ian Potter Cultural Trust Arts Award and Grant (2011); the Den Haag Sculpture prize in the Netherlands (2007); the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture with Open Spatial Workshop (2005); the Jaguar/Belle Designers of the Future Awards (Public Art/Installation) (2000) and her collaboration with John Wardle Architects, Somewhere Other, was awarded the 2019 National Architecture Awards: The Jørn Utzon Award for International Architecture.
About Peninsula Link
Peninsula Link is a 27-kilometre toll-free road between Carrum Downs and Mount Martha in Melbourne’s southeast. Opening to traffic in January 2013, the $849 million project significantly reduced congestion on key traffic routes through Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula, particularly during peak periods. In 2010, the Victorian Government contracted the Southern Way consortium under an availability-based public-private partnership to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the freeway for 25 years. Plenary has managed the asset on behalf of Southern Way since 2016.
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