Robert Hitchcock

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Robert Hitchcock
Hitchcock in SAS Garden of Reflection WA.jpeg
Hitchock standing next to one of his (Super Life Size) Figures at the SAS 'Garden of Reflection', Perth, Western Australia
Born Robert Charles Hitchcock
(1944-08-18) 18 August 1944 (age 72)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Nationality Australian
Education Perth Tech College
Known for sculpture, drawing
Notable work Figurative Work, Portrait Busts, Life-size Sculptures, Horses, Abstract
Movement Bronze Sculpture, Modernism

Robert Charles Hitchcock (born 18 August 1944) is an Australian sculptor. He commenced his career in 1970 and works in a wide variety of subjects and materials. Hitchcock is one of the leading portrait sculptors currently working in Australia today. He is known for his life size (and super life size) bronze sculptures which are located in private collections as well as public works of art in Australia and overseas.

Early life[edit]

Hitchcock was born in Perth, Western Australia. He is of Irish and indigenous Australian descent. In his youth he worked as a carpenter and entered formal study in his early twenties at the Art Department of the Perth Tech College. Whilst he initially wanting to study fine painting in fine art, due to impaired vision (from an accident as a child) he had difficulty in seeing and mixing colours and realised that he had more of an affinity with three-dimensional art. The early sculptures of Hitchcock were exploratory in nature and diverse in technique and style. Subject matter tends towards realism and expressionism of the "continuity of movement in space"[1] and the subjects themselves include natural forms, and realistic modelling of animals and figures in movement. Hitchcock later moved away from this early realism (which he sought to create in his sculptures) to a "more stylized and abstract search of forms and planes".[2] After graduating in 1969 he worked in plaster factories (learning plaster piece moulding techniques), fibreglass factories and various bronze foundries.

Professional career[edit]

His first commission came in 1970 of the champion race horse 'Aquanita' which competed in the Melbourne Cup in the early 1960s, and was a quarter life size. As Hitchcock's reputation grew he received a number of similar commissions from the equestrian industries including racing, pacing, polo and quarter horse racing. These early works led in later life to Hitchcock receiving commissions for over life size equestrian commissions in Norseman, Merredin and Moora, Western Australia as public works of art.

In the 1970s, Hitchcock began to receive increasingly significant recognition for his work. These include a series of sculptures of the Russian Ballet Dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Throughout his career he has created sculptures of prominent and (in his own words) 'interesting people'. These include Leonard Cohen, Rod McKuen, Professor Ian Constable, Beethoven, Robbie Burns (for the Robbie Burns Society) and many prominent Australian public and sporting figures.

Towards the end of the 1970s Hitchcock bronzes took on a larger scale, which was particularly suited for public art commissions - the most significant of which is, almost certainly, his sculpture of Yagan. From the mid-1970s, members of the Noongar community lobbied for the erection of a statue of Yagan as part of the WAY 1979 sesquicentennial celebrations. Their requests were refused, however, after then Premier of Western Australia Sir Charles Court was advised by one prominent historian that Yagan was not important enough to warrant a statue [3] Colbung claims "Court was more interested in spending tax payers' money on refurbishing the badly neglected burial place of Captain James Stirling, WA's first governor."[4] Despite this setback, the Noongar community persisted, establishing a Yagan Committee and running a number of fund-raising drives. Eventually, sufficient funds were collected to commission Hitchcock to create a statue. The result was a life-size statue in bronze, depicting Yagan standing naked with a spear held across his shoulders. Hitchcock's statue of Yagan was officially opened by Yagan Committee chairperson Elizabeth Hanson on 11 September 1984. It stands on Heirisson Island in the Swan River near Perth.

Yagan statue, Heirisson Island

In 1997, within a week of the return of Yagan's head to Perth, vandals beheaded the statue and stole the head. After restoration, it was beheaded again. Credit for the act was anonymously claimed by a "British loyalist" as an act of retaliation for Colbung's comments about Princess Diana. The Western Australia Police did not succeed in identifying the vandals, nor in recovering the heads, and deemed it infeasible to have the statue fenced off or placed under guard.[5]

Commentary on the beheadings varied widely. One column in The West Australia found humour in them, referring to the head as a "bonce" and a "noggin", and finished with a pun on "skullduggery". Stephen Muecke calls this the "satirical trivialising of Aboriginal concerns";[6] and Adam Shoemaker writes "This is the stuff of light humour and comic relief. There is no sense of the decapitation as being an act of vandalism, even less that it could have been motivated by malevolence.... [T]he piece has a definite authorising function...."[7] On the other hand, academic analysis has treated the act with much more gravity. In 2007, for example, David Martin described the decapitation as "an act which speaks not only to the continuance of white settler racism, but also to the power of mimesis to invigorate our modern memorials and monuments with a life of their own."[8]

In 2002 Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly Janet Woollard called for the statue's private parts to be covered up, but nothing was done. In November 2005 Richard Wilkes again called for the statue's private parts to be covered, on the grounds that such a depiction would be more historically accurate as Yagan would have worn a covering for most of the year. Also under consideration is the creation of a new statue with a head shape that accords better with the forensic reconstruction of Yagan's head.[9]

Hitchcock moved into his larger studio (which he currently works from) in 2000 and continues to be highly sought after and collectable. A recent high profile commission was for the' SAS Garden of Reflection' in Perth. This consists of three over life size SAS figures in various uniforms from 1957 (the inception of the SAS in Australia) with the remaining two in modern combat uniform and weapons. These commissions are highly accurate in detail and give a true representation of the Australia SAS soldier.

One of the three SAS sculptures by Hitchcock at the 'Garden of Reflection', Perth WA

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gasser, Mark. "Interview with Robert Hitchcock 2010">
  2. ^ Gasser, Mark. "Interview with Robert Hitchcock 2010">
  3. ^ Inglis, K. S. (1998). Sacred Places. Melbourne University Press. p. 448. ISBN 0-522-84976-8. [Hasluck] advised the states anti-Labor government not to agree. University historians pleaded Yagan's cause in vain. 
  4. ^ Colbung, Ken (1996). Yagan: The Swan River "Settlement". Australia Council for the Arts. 
  5. ^ Phillips, Harry; Black, David (1998). "Western Australia: July to December 1977". Australian Journal of Politics & History. 44 (2): 270–285. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00018. 
  6. ^ Muecke, Stephen (2004). Ancient and Modern: Time, Culture and Indigenous Philosophy. UNSW Press. ISBN 0-86840-786-0. 
  7. ^ Shoemaker, Adam (2000). "The Headless State". Griffith Law Review. 9 (2): 358–370. 
  8. ^ Martin, David (2007). "Of monuments and masks: historiography in the time of curiosity's ruin". Postcolonial studies. 10 (3): 311–320. doi:10.1080/13688790701488197. 
  9. ^ Kent, Melissa (2005). Yagan centre of cover-up bid. The West Australian, 24 November 2005.