The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) Sculpture Garden is located just behind the gallery, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The garden has 26 sculptures to wander around and enjoy, whilst marvelling at the variety of works against the scenic natural backdrop. The garden and sculptures were created 22 years ago and it has grown and evolved over the years, to the intriguing and surprising array of art it is today. The leafy gardens are also a restful place for people to sit under a tree and relax, as well as a quiet spot for nearby workers to spend their lunchbreak in solitude.
Situated at the back of the Sculpture Garden is an interactive artwork titled "Fog sculpture" (1976) by Fujiko Nakaya, which can be viewed between 12:30pm - 2pm daily. This talented female Japanese artist has created a unique artwork that shifts and changes with wind and time. As you walk towards the area, an eerie mist settles over the pathways and marsh pond behind, creating a scene straight out of a movie.
Walk through the eerie Fog sculpture, by Fujiko Nakaya
There are at least a dozen yellow water jet bases creating the "fog", which in turn have tiny little water sprays coming out of each one. As you walk through the fog, it is more of a wet mist, as the water sticks to your clothing, glasses and skin leaving it cool to touch. Kids in particular enjoy walking through the mist, with school groups seen enjoying the area on their art gallery school excursions.
As you walk through the mist and down the path to the marsh pond, it is here that "eerie" takes on another level. Positioned in the water is a series of sculptures by Dadang Christanto, titled "Heads from the North". When looking down to the water, there are heads positioned around the pond, all facing different directions. This series of sculptures is a memorial to those affected by the events after an unsuccessful military coup in Indonesia in 1965. The brutal suppression that followed led to mass killings and the artist, who was only 8 years old at the time, never saw his father again after this time. The 66 heads that just have their heads above water signify the lives lost during this time. The total effect is a moving and haunting tribute.
It is also interesting to discover that the artist of "Fog sculpture", Fujiko Nakaya, has always had a fascination with fog and has other similar installations at other galleries around the world. Her journey began in 1970 when, with the help of atmospheric physicist Thomas Mee, she released her mist artwork over the Pepsi Cola Stadium in Tokyo. It is this same technology that has been used for her subsequent works, most notably her fog installation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, below.
Fog Sculpture #08025 (F.O.G.) by Fujiko Nakaya. Source: Wikapedia. Photo taken by Phillip Maiwald.
The National Gallery of Australia is one of the most visited museums or galleries in Canberra, yet many people are unaware of the artworks they have outside the walls. It is clear that the NGA honour all styles of art, with fog being an artwork that you cannot easily describe. It is an artwork that you need to feel on your skin and then stand back and see the effect it creates. It may not be what everyone would describe as art, however on our visit we watched dozens of people walk through it - all completely mesmerised by the whole effect around them. Ensure you visit between 12:30pm and 2pm to experience the fog before exploring the rest of the sculptures. With such striking artworks also to be discovered, the NGA Sculpture Garden is worth tracking down after your visit to the gallery, or whilst enjoying a walk around Lake Burley Griffin.
With birds in the trees and a serene silence over the gardens, you can take in the full emotion of each talented piece.
The haunting combination of Fog sculpture (Fujiko Nakaya) and Heads of the North (Dadang Christanto)