stephen king sculptor








Sculpture by the Sea Sculpture Workshop 1998

Sea Monster and Emmanuel Watt

Steve and Emmanuel working on
Earth Mother's Boat Children

Walcha councillors and sculptors

Tom Deko and Warrior


At 2am on Sunday night of the 11th of October, Stephen King arrived back at Blackfellows Gully, our sheep and cattle property in Walcha, in the Northern Tablelands of NSW, with a truckload of sculpture and two visiting sculptors. They had come from a four day event called Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi Beach. The two sculptors, Tom Deko from Goroka in Papua New Guinea and Emmanuel Watt from Vanuatu, had been invited by Sculpture by the Sea to Australia to be two of the first international sculptors to participate in this enormously popular event. Despite some very brisk and windy weather, this year's event attracted 120,000 visitors, who came to see over 90 sculptures on the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach. Not even the organisers would have dared to hope for that many people to take an interest in sculpture.

Stephen King, also a sculptor, had invited Tom and Emmanuel to come to Walcha to see the Australian bush and to take part in a sculpture workshop to be held over three days in the environs of Stephen's workshed. During Sculpture by the Sea he also showed them some of Sydney. After some big nights with all the other sculptors, talking about stuff that only sculptors talk about, they were taken to Bondi cafes for traditional greasy breakfasts and then onto the art galleries around Paddington and Surry Hills including Coventry gallery, where an exhibition of Tom's work was arranged for the near future. Good humour overcame the language problem and by the time the sculptors had dismantled and loaded up all their sculptures again on Sunday afternoon, they knew each other well enough to insult each other's person and country.

The trip was long and not very comfortable. Only one vehicle was passed on the way up the mountains between Gloucester and Walcha and Tom and Emmanuel took it upon themselves to take turns to stand sentry over Steve's driving, who had demonstrated some tiredness, even on the dirt. In hurried Pidgin English they urged each other to keep up the chat to him. Safely back in Walcha, the weary travellers settled into our studio where a small fire was attempting to take some of the chill out of the night, not enough for poor Tom who had to warm his blankets by the fire before he could sleep. Tom had been cold enough in Sydney but he had been reluctant to wear any proffered jumpers. The next morning he was to been seen wearing jumpers down to his knees and a day later, some trackpants were finally donned for the first time in his life. Tom diligantly kept the fire going and we suspect that one of the reasons that Tom worked day and night on his welded steel sculpture was that it kept him warm.

On that same first morning, Emmanuel spotted a large stringybark root lying around near Steve's sculpture shed. The first day was supposed to be a rest day with perhaps a visit to a shearing shed, but being the sculptor that he is, Emmanuel set to work immediately carving the root and transforming it into a sea monster full of references to traditional story and legend from Vanuatu. Not to be outdone, Tom decided to make a huge warrior, over four metres in height and width, using some sheet metal that had once lined an in-ground swimming pool. It was so ambitious a project that on departure day Tom reluctantly had to leave Steve instructions for its completion. At present it stands in a half- kneeling position holding a shield in one hand and a spear in the other, on a horizon line overlooking the gully. It has an extremely commanding presence.

On Tuesday, Steve took them to the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale where Tom gave a slide talk to local artists and art enthusiasts. Emmanuel also talked to individuals and showed photos and books and magazines where his work has been featured. On their way home, a detour to Apsley Falls gave the sculptors an appreciation of the mighty gorge in the Wild Rivers National Park just east of Walcha. Emmanuel remarked "no second chance" as he looked down the precipice. That evening another slide talk was held at the Old School Gallery in Walcha to a small and interested audience. Everybody was emphatic in their admiration for both Tom and Emmanuel's work. Steve's father, Ted King also couldn't help but share a few memories of his time in Goroka during WW2 and of his affection for the people of Goroka and how lucky we were to be visited by these two special artists.

On Wednesday, the workshop which had been organised by the Walcha Arts Council, officially started but by then Emmanuel was finishing his monster and Tom's warrior was well under way. Nigel White arrived from Mudgee as did Reuben Lockwood, a young Koori artist from Armidale and Thursday haled to the noise of every hand-tool, power tool and chain-saw we own making a cacophony of sound which did not stop until after dark. Steve started on a huge stringybark carving of an "earth mother" which became a joint project for them all. Emmanuel conceived the idea that it represent the union of the artists' different cultures under the nurturing guide of the creative mother in nature. Each of the sculptors present carved a face onto the head of the pregnant figure, each face representing each artist's means of expression and own culture.


From left to right: Tom Deko, Nigel White,
Emmanuel Watt, Stephen King

By Friday lunch, Emmanuel had almost finished another sculpture of a person behind the mask that we all hide behind when we present ourselves to others - beautiful in its simplicity of form and subject. There were new sculptures everywhere. That afternoon Walcha Councillors, a representative from State Forest and other interested people visited the "open day" and saw an exhibition of the sculptures from the workshop and Sculpture by the Sea. It is hoped that some of these sculptures will be purchased to reside in public places where they will continue, in their artists' absence, to communicate with the people.

The coming together of these sculptors produced a phenomenal body of work and the kindred spirit in which they worked won't be forgotten by those who allowed themselves to be taken by it.

Julia Griffin (King)


last updated June 24, 2016

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