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Born to Concrete @ UQ Art Museum

Home > Brisbane > Art | Exhibitions | Free | Museums | Poetry
by Damsel Martin (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer, blogger and animal wrangler living in Brisbane's western suburbs. Many of my stories offer great giveaways to readers - subscribe to hear about them first.
Published September 8th 2013
Building bridges between art and literature
born concrete art museum brisbane lucia
Waxing lyrical at Brisbane's Born to Concrete exhibition: Image courtesy UQ Art Museum.

Most Brisbane residents, or at least those with children, will be familiar with Richard Tipping's powder-coated plate steel sculpture called Watermark.

Stretching 15 metres long, 1.8 metres high and 1.5 metres wide, Watermark comprises the ascending portions of the letters which spell out 'flood'.

Commissioned in 2000, it sits on the banks of the Brisbane River at New Farm and was meant to serve as a reminder of the city's devastating floods of 1893 and 1974.

Of course, no-one realised it until January 2011, but Watermark would go under again. Photographs of the muddy waters swilling around the sculpture are among the most evocative, and ironic, of those taken during the city's latest inundation.

Today, Watermark is back to being a popular climbing challenge for the sipper-cup set who spill out of holiday programs at the adjacent Brisbane Powerhouse.

richard tipping watermark flood sculpture concrete poetry
On the sunniest of days, Watermark functions as a playground as well as a piece of public art. Image: Artist website located at:

But what I didn't realise, until I attended a public education event hosted by The University of Queensland's Art Museum to celebrate its Born to Concrete exhibition, is that Watermark is also an example of a 'concrete poem'.

Concrete poetry, sometimes called shape or visual poetry, focuses not just on what the words or letters mean, but on how they look.

"A concrete poem insists on visual and textural dimensions," says UQ's Dr Bronwyn Lea.

"Visual poems are designed to be viewed like a painting, while sound poems are designed to be listened to like music."

Born to Concrete reveals visual poetry from the collections of Heide Museum of Modern Art and The University of Queensland.

It borrows its title from the 1970s journal of the same name, which was the first Australian publication dedicated solely to concrete poetry.

rose concrete poetry university queensland
Sweeney Reed (19451979) Rose I 1977 embossed etching, edition 7/10 16.5 x 15.5 cm (image) Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Gift of Pamela, Mishka and Danila McIntosh 1990 Estate of Sweeney Reed. Image courtesy of UQ Art Museum

The exhibition highlights works by Sweeney Reed, Alan Riddell and Alex Selenitsch who are all central figures in the development of concrete poetry in Australia.

Also from the Heide collection are works by Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ruth Cowen, Aleks Danko, Jas H. Duke, Peter Murphy, TT.O, Mike Parr and Richard Tipping.

Included from The University of Queensland Art Collection are works by Vernon Ah Kee, Eugene Carchesio, Gordon Hookey, Robert MacPherson, Madonna Staunton and Grant Stevens.

concrete poetry uq art museum
Vernon Ah Kee (1967) austracism 2003 ink on polypropylene board, satin laminated, edition 1/3 120 x 180 cm Collection of the University of Queensland, purchased 2010 Photo: Carl Warner Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Image courtesy UQ Art Museum

The exhibition will continue at the UQ Art Museum until 6 October, after which time it will travel to Sydney's State Library of New South Wales (23 November 2013 to 16 February 2014).
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Why? Wax lyrical at an exhibition of poetic art
When: Until 6 October, 10am to 4pm daily
Phone: 07 3365 3046
Where: UQ Art Museum
Cost: Free
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