Perfect spring weather and a spectacular selection of farm art sculptures greeted visitors to Lockhart on the weekend for the Spirit of the Land festival.
Committee president Peter Veneris said organisers couldn’t have asked for more.
“Last year the weather leading into the festival wasn’t great and there was flooding and road closures, but this year was a totally different context,” he said.
“We were very happy with the turnout, we had a really good range and variety of stalls, and we had some really fascinating sculptures again, so all in all, we thought it was a very successful weekend.”
The farm art sculptures are always a drawcard and this year’s entries didn’t disappoint.
They ranged from the Kelly Gang to a vintage car and a menagerie of creatures including a crocodile, rabbits, a giant cod, dogs and the overall winner, a spectacular Friesian bull.
“You can tell people about it, but it’s a sort of art form that you really have to see for yourself to believe it,” said Peter.
“I’m not surprised that the bull won first prize because it really is typical of farm sculpture in terms of the materials that were used and all the recycled bits and pieces you’d expect to find in a farm shed.
“It just was iconic in that respect, with a lot of really intricate detailing.”
Andrew McGill’s sculpture George the Friesian Bull won the overall National Farm Art Sculpture Award, which includes a prize of $10,000.
Julie Lamont oversaw the sculpture exhibition and agreed that the standard of entries remained high.
“I would hate to be a judge,” she said with a laugh.
“They are so beautiful and there’s a real range. It would be very hard to pick!”
She said the winner was surprised to take home the chocolates.
“Andrew has been working on it for the last year, doing a bit on a Saturday, and he was totally blown away. He couldn’t believe it!” she said.
“So he won the $10,000 and then Bendigo Bank decided to buy the sculpture for $19,000, so he felt like he’d won the lotto.”
Despite his success and growing reputation, Andrew hesitates to call himself an artist.
A boilermaker by trade, he is based at Wahgunyah, across the Murray from Corowa, and said he was happy to stay on the tools and keep the sculpting as a weekend hobby.
“It’s not a job I could do full time,” Andrew said.
“I love where I work at a local winery and I come up with ideas during the week and then I look forward to doing it on weekends.”
Andrew explained that he fell into metal sculpting almost by accident and made his first sculpture during COVID when he couldn’t get out to play golf.
“I saw something on the internet that this guy had made and I thought, I could make that easy,” he explained.
“So I made a horse head and it came out so good that I thought I might as well keep going, and I made a complete horse.
“It went in at the supermarket and it lasted two weeks and a lady bought it off me for 10 grand. I couldn’t believe it!”
His award-winning bovine was inspired by a real-life bull at a local dairy where he had been working.
“George was actually a real bull at work and I used to copy him because he’d let me put the tape measure on him so I could measure in between his eyes and I could measure all these pinpoints. That’s how I got all the measurements for him,” he said, explaining that he starts with a life-sized 2D image on cardboard and builds from there.
“A lot of people comment on the bits and pieces I put in there, like the spark plugs and the tools and the gauges.”
”George” will now remain in Lockhart as part of the ever-growing Lockhart Sculpture and Heritage Trail.