The Lyell Highway in Tasmania snakes its way over the Central Highlands, from the copper mining town of Queenstown to Hobart. The road from Strahan, where we took a seaplane flight into the Gordon River wilderness, joins it near Queenstown, from whence it zigzags up into the mountains.
The country round and above Queenstown is a mountainous desert of old mine workings, a complete contrast to the approaches which are forested, green and lush. The road out of the town is more like a shelf built into the mountain side with vertiginous drops on one side and steep slopes on the other.
Fifty three miles from Queenstown is the small town of Derwent Bridge with an establishment known simply as, The Wall.
We were driving the 170 miles or so from Strahan to Hobart passing over the Central Highlands, the highest point of which reaches 2,800 feet, and were advised to stop at the Wall as it was well worth seeing.
The Wall, when completed at the end of this year, will be 100 metres long, 50 metres on each side and at about 2 metres high represents a total of 300 square metres. Carved in relief mainly from rare Huon Pine, each metre of the panels including horses, thylacines (Tasmanian Tigers) and foresters represent a month’s work. Hydro electric schemes are carved in detail together with carvings of forestry workers. The sculpture shows the history of the hardship and perseverance of the people of the Central Highlands.
The detail in the various scenes is truly remarkable: showing, for instance, each wrinkle and knuckle of working men’s hands with distended veins or details of horses’ harnesses, reins and the loads they are pulling. There are also scenes concerning the environmental plight of the wedge tailed eagle, a bird of prey that is on the endangered species list in Australia; all of this carved in intimate detail by the artist, Greg Duncan.
Open to the public in order to fund the project, the artist has also separately sculpted, for sale, such things as a pair of working gloves, which are so lifelike it seems as if you could slip them on your hands with ease. A sculpture of a Tasmanian tiger, now considered extinct in Tasmania, stands proudly with eyes, ears and ribcage expertly carved, besides an exquisite carving of a frog. In another part of the workshop stands a sheaf of wheat with each intricate detail lovingly carved. The artist told me that his sons now assist by carving these single items. Obviously his talent has been passed down.
It is said that The Wall is the most ambitious art project undertaken in Australia in recent years and we could fully understand why as we spent quite some time in this unique workshop before proceeding on our way to Hobart.
On the lowlands we passed through farm lands with vineyards and went ‘off track’ to see the mighty Russell Falls but The Wall was surely the highlight of our long drive.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.