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Tony Woodward’s vibrant sculptures aren’t just Tasmanian landmarks, they’re his laughing legacy

By on November 8, 2021 0

It put Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky in a car together in the suburbs and a smiling king on the side of one of Tasmania’s busiest highways.

Tony Woodward’s original mosaic and concrete sculptures can be seen across Hobart and the upstate, from Crawfish to Revolutionaries to Fog Personified.

The artist and educator died just days after opening his first solo exhibition in April this year.

But Woodward’s sense of humor lives on through the public artwork that inhabits the parks and streets of Moonah, Montrose, Goodwood, Bridgewater, Rosny, Deloraine and Burnie.

The sculpture, King, smiles at motorists on the Brooker Highway.(Provided: Rosie Hastie)

“These are funny, happy things that definitely put a smile on your face,” her sister Margaret Woodward said.

“These are uplifting pieces, and they’re very accessible.

A woman in hi-vis crouching next to a colorful sculpture of a car with figures in it
Margaret Woodward maintains Moonah Frida’s Carload play.(ABC Radio Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

Frida’s wagon

Woodward spent 40 years at the Department of Education, half of which was spent teaching art to hundreds of Tasmanian students.

Several of the public art sculptures were actually made with his students, including the King piece smiling at motorists on the Brooker Highway in Montrose.

Margaret, who is also an artist, became the guardian of certain sculptures.

“It’s a good thing for me to feel like I can take care of them,” she said.

“I have Tony’s voice in my head as I do it saying, ‘Don’t do it like that, scale a little further.’

A sculpture of four colorful figures, including a jockey and a butcher.
The Soviet-style Workers Monument is in Goodwood.(Provided)

She maintains Frida’s Carload, a sculpture on Albert Road in Moonah that depicts Sigmund Freud and revolutionary Leon Trotsky in a colorful car with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, as well as Waiting Room, who lives in Rosny and depicts seated people.

A mosaic green car with five figures sitting in it.
Frida’s Carload is outside the Moonah Arts Center and is popular with passers-by.(ABC Radio Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

From time to time, the tiles fall.

“It’s like a puzzle, I have to find the right colors to match in the spaces they put down,” Margaret said.

Made in 1999, Frida’s Carload was Woodward’s first public artwork – and remains Margaret’s favourite.

“It’s a very humorous piece, it’s Tony celebrating the life of Frida Kahlo and various other collaborators she’s worked with over the years,” she said.

A large purple head with red lips and figures on its head
Woodward’s play in Deloraine was not liked by everyone, and some members of the community started a campaign to have it moved.(Provided)

Exhibition a labor of love

The 59-year-old artist was unable to attend his first exhibition in person as he was too ill, but showed up to its launch via video link.

Woodward was diagnosed with cancer in October last year and died six months later.

The exhibition, Red Star Shining, was the culmination of seven years of work.

It tells the story of 16 years of Labor government in Tasmania through cartoon-like political mosaics, using Italian and Greek religious themes.

A colorful mosaic depicting three men and several buildings, a soccer ball and a car.
One of the pieces from Red Star Shining featuring former Prime Minister Paul Lennon and the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.(Provided: Peter Whyte)

Getting the exhibit off the ground was not easy, with many pieces unfinished and Woodward’s health deteriorating.

“We all came together with so much help from family and friends and the Moonah Arts Center and finished all of the artwork,” Margaret said.

a mosaic depicting a bare-breasted man being baptized by another man
‘The Baptism of St James’ with former Prime Minister Jim Bacon.(Provided: Peter Whyte)

The collection of 11 humorous mosaics is a snapshot of Tasmanian politics at the time and depicts the figures of former Prime Ministers Paul Lennon, Jim Bacon, David Bartlett and Lara Giddings, as well as pulp mills, the AFL in Tasmania, the Spirit of Tasmania ferries and other past and present politicians.

Woodward used mosaic craft techniques he learned during an Alcorso Foundation artist residency in Italy.

“The whole exhibit was like a way to end his whole life and work,” Margaret said.

A large shiny black mosaic sculpture of a freshwater crayfish
The Burnie Park sculpture of a crayfish weighs five tonnes and was transported on a lorry from Hobart.(Provided: Margaret Woodward)

Choose your departure time

While the pieces were being finished, Woodward was in and out of the hospital undergoing treatments.

Woodward’s wife, Jan Stary, said that after the exhibit opened, it was like he felt he could let go.

“After the exhibition opened, Tony was interviewed and an article about him and his work appeared in the Sunday paper, after which he received messages of congratulations and excitement,” he said. she declared.

He died at home surrounded by his family and his works.

A passionate educator

Two daisy-shaped sculptures on the bank of a river
Daisy Seat is on the River Derwent in Montrose.(Provided: Rosie Hastie)

Tony Woodward inherited his love of teaching and art from his parents, Margaret said.

“We grew up in a household where we didn’t have a television, but we were encouraged to make things, paint and draw,” she said.

He went to art school in Hobart and later taught art to hundreds of students in North East Tasmania and the Derwent Valley.

As he transitioned from teaching students to collaborating with teachers in curriculum development, Woodward’s work took him all over the world, and in 2019 he took a team of Indigenous teachers to United States, on what was to be his last trip abroad.

After her death, Margaret became aware of other accomplishments, such as her recognition by the LGBTQI community for pioneering a school program to combat discrimination.

Bridgewater Jerry needs rescuing

The Bridgewater Jerry sculpture, in Bridgewater, has become something of an orphan, originally funded by the owners of a new shopping complex which was later sold.

Jerry was vandalized and lost a lot of tiles.

“It would be a big project to restore it, but it’s not beyond that,” Margaret said.

A blue statue of a male figure lying on his stomach
Bridgewater Jerry depicts the iconic fog that meanders along the River Derwent, but the piece has been heavily vandalized since this photo was taken.(Provided: Margaret Woodward)

Brighton Councilor Phil Owen wants Jerry to be moved to a more prominent place and return to his former glory.

He requested that a report be prepared and presented to the board so that Jerry would be retained for the long term.

Not all of Tony Woodward’s plays were loved by everyone – Deloraine’s Mountain Man play caused local controversy, with some residents wanting it moved.

One thing is certain, Tony Woodward’s sculptures will continue to bring smiles to people’s faces for many decades to come.