Gallery's new sentinels on guard

THE first curious eyes fell on two shadowy bronze figures yesterday as a small team of workers installed the city’s latest artistic addition at the Civic Green.

The donated sculptures, known as The Guardians, by internationally-renowned artist Shona Nunan have been celebrated as a cultural coup for the Warrnambool Art Gallery. 

Standing over two metres high, the two figures valued at $100,000 dwarfed workers as they were bolted into place yesterday morning at the entrance to the gallery. 

Watching the very final stages of her work, Ms Nunan recounted the moment of inspiration that set the tone for her artistic career. 

It was on a rocky wall inside a cave in Arnhem Land where Ms Nunan, then a child, first saw Aboriginal paintings depicting guardians. 

“It was one of those really life-altering experiences,” Ms Nunan said. 

“They were these huge figures who had their arms outstretched and hands opened wide and big eyes and it was like entering a sacred place.” 

An official unveiling at the Civic Green this evening at 5.30pm will mark the end of a six-month journey for the works from Ms Nunan’s basement studio in Ponte a Serraglio, Italy, where she has been based for the past decade. 

The 100-kilogram figures have found their way to the gallery entrance with the help of benefactor and former Deakin University head of the school of visual, performing and media arts in Warrnambool, Professor Barbara van Ernst.

“She’s been collecting my work for the last 20 years and she just really believes in sculpture and she believes in me,” Ms Nunan said. 

“She really likes this gallery and she just felt like she needed to give something to Warrnambool because it was so good to her ... she’s been a great philanthropist.” 

Professor van Ernst, now based in Melbourne, said yesterday: “It just seemed to me that sculptures had been neglected in the artistic area. Shona is an outstanding artist and she needs to be represented in galleries.” 

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