I first stumbled upon the street sculptures of Will Coles in Sydney, in the May Lane area of St Peters. The first work I noticed was the balaclava clad face. It looked familiar and I was somewhat sure I had seen it in Melbourne, though I didn’t feel certain. Then on the opposite side of May lane I noticed the baby doll, ‘context’.
‘Context’, May Lane St Peters, Sydney.
‘Context’ was new to me, making me pause and stop for quite some time. I looked at this doll and wondered why it was there and what it meant. It was lying on the ground with mangled body looking as if it had been left by a child who no longer wanted to play with the doll. Maybe it had fallen out of a pram whilst in motion, and parent and child didn’t notice. There it was near the gutter in a laneway, looking unloved, out of context and even disturbing. Of course, I had to move closer and discover the word ‘context’ written on it as well as some paint marks over its face. The paint marks on its face were additions and yet they reminded me of how my children would draw on their dolls faces. I knelt closer and had to touch it. I had become curious. What was it made of?… It was cold hard concrete and the coldness seemed to emanate another dimension to the meaning it seemed to evoke within me. This work seemed to elicit a few responses from me yet, what resonated was the memory I had of my childhood when I accidentally left my doll that could sing (as it had a little record player in its back) out in the backyard. That night a heavy storm started with thunderclaps and rained heavy drops all night. The next day my doll could no longer sing. She was broken and I was sad. After crying for some time she was then discarded by my mother, who has never been a hoarder. I somehow loved my doll less once she was broken. As if voiceless she was no longer alive. That became one ‘context’ of the meaning for me. How easily the doll was discarded when she seemingly had no use, was broken and then lifeless. This mangled doll on the ground before me looked lifeless.
Leaving this work behind me I suddenly started to notice other Will Coles works. I stumbled on what appeared to be a crushed can that had the word ‘work’ inscribed on it and then some more…
At this stage I did not know who Will Coles was or the body of work on the streets and in the galleries. However, it did not take long to find out. With the help of the virtual sphere and the benefits of the hashtag I could seek out more information. Posting photographs of the sculptures to instagram, it wasn’t long before someone popped into my feed and informed me that this is the work of Will Coles… and so the discovery began.
Looking at the #willcoles on Instagram I was able to see photos that others had posted in Melbourne and Sydney. Since then, finding a Will Coles work has always been exciting. Researching and reading about the works of Will Coles has added further insight. Seemingly, there is no end to the layers and meaning and I discover more and more all the time.
Back in Melbourne, I started to look out for the works of Will Coles on the street and in laneways. What I discovered about his work is the placement often appears hidden. Sometimes, I have spent hours just trying to locate a work so I can take a photograph, as I did in Canberra. I knew Will Coles had some works left around the gallery and other places in Canberra. However, they were not easy to spot and I walked for two hours trying to find them. Luckily, just as I was about to give up the work appeared before me…
The works seemingly become part of the environment. With so much detritus strewn around the streets and in lanes, a sculpture of a crushed can with a word on it becomes hidden or seemingly part of the detritus. As a concrete sculpture it often melds with the concrete surrounds and yet taking on the form of our discarded lives it seems to be part of the rubbish just lying around. However, I learnt to look in gaps in walls, on little ledges, on the ground near poles, up high, over and under places and with time the works start to materialise. Once you start seeing a Will Coles sculpture, they just start to appear everywhere you look.
Following are some links that provide more information about Will Coles and his work.
Will Coles | Sculptor and Freelance European the artist’s website.
Interview with Will Coles by Invurt
Will Coles at Brenda May Gallery
Mr Will Coles’ photostream on Flickr
Artist spotlight: Interview with Will Coles by The Flying Room
Will Coles as documented by Dean Sunshine on Land of Sunshine
If in Melbourne, you can see the works of Will Coles in his first solo exhibition in Melbourne that is currently on. This was the first time I saw the works of Will Coles in a gallery context and I have been four times already. The last time I had the pleasure of perusuing through a document with statements on the works by Will Coles. This added further insight into the works, the thinking behind the works and the intentions.
Details of the exhibition are in the poster that follows:
Finally, here are some photos I have snapped of Will Coles works on the streets of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.