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Meet the artist behind Calderwood Valley’s newest public art sculpture

You may have seen Calderwood Valley’s new public art sculpture installation, named ‘Interconnection’, located at the Calderwood District Park. We recently spoke with the artist behind the sculpture, Jen Mallinson, discussing the inspiration behind the piece, the creative process and why public art is so important for communities


What is your background as an artist and how did you get to where you are today?

I first studied ceramics, then graphic design and I’ve been a graphic designer for over 35 years. With a love for sculpture and 3D form, about 15 years ago, I decided I wanted to make steel sculptures. When my children were old enough, I went to TAFE at night to learn welding. This led on to me doing engineering for heavy metal fabrication. I’ve always been a hands-on kind of person, so I really enjoy the physicality of working with steel.

I started exhibiting in various sculpture shows around the state, - Sculpture on the Edge - Bermagui, Lake Light - Jindabyne, Sculptures in The Gardens - Mudgee, Artisans in the Gardens - Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney, then SWELL on the Gold Coast Queensland and then Sculpture by the Sea - Bondi Sydney.

I wanted to make larger scale works which led me to applying for public sculpture commissions. I have public works in Bega, Dungog, and Jindabyne, and now Calderwood.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Usually, my inspiration is found in nature. I walk along the beach or in the bush almost every day. Insights comes from; the shape of leaves, seeds or plants, beetle marks on the bark of trees, patterns left on the sand from waves or the water running out at low tide. I’ve even found inspiration from the patterns on the surface of the ocean or in the clouds. My work is generally abstract in form with references to natural objects or patterns, sometimes I recreate minute details in macro scale.

How would you describe the style of your work?

Contemporary, fluid, elegant, uplifting, pleasing to the eye, in partnership with nature, curvaceous, visceral, tactile, often capturing a sense of movement or growth.

How has your creative style developed, and what is your working process like?

My style has developed along with my skills. Each sculpture presents a new challenge in some form or another, so I’m always learning and refining my fabricating skills. I like pushing the limits of what I can do, so I often try new forms and work out methods for creating them. Over the years my work has progressed from a flatter more graphic style to fully considered forms that work from all viewing angles.

Tell us about your sculpture created for Calderwood Valley. What materials have been used and how has it been made?

This piece is called Interconnection. I feel really honoured to have been chosen to create a unique sculpture for Calderwood. I hope people will enjoy its presence and that it sparks conversation and becomes a much-loved part of the Calderwood community.

As for the materials, I used Corten steel with inlaid stainless steel. All the sections were laser cut from my drawings including all the patterning detail with original indigenous animal drawings by Richard Campbell. The sections were then welded together to form 9-meter-long triangles. These pieces were then rolled and carefully formed incorporating the smaller sides and all welded together to form an arch. There are 3 arches that overlap and interlock with each other. Each arch is fixed to a heavy steel base which is then bolted into a steel frame which is set into the concrete foundations.

What is the story behind the sculpture?

The waterways that pass through this area informed the overall shape of the sculpture. The three ribbon-like arches that emerge from the ground, intertwine at the top in an embracing motion, forming an archway which represents an entrance, or portal and an act of coming together. Passing through an arch is the symbolic act of rebirth, a passage through both spatial and temporal landscapes.

The patterning references the ancient pathways made by both water and the Indigenous people that inhabited this area, and the plants and animals of the region both past and present. The sculpture endeavours to install a sense of belonging and a feeling of connection to place for all people that call Calderwood home.

Where can residents see the sculpture in Calderwood Valley?

The sculpture is located in Calderwood District Park, over the pathway, just in front of The Plough & Ale Inn, at the round-about on the corner of Escarpment Drive and Connection Ave.

A place rich in community and stories at Calderwood Valley

Located in the heart of the Illawarra and nestled between the escarpment and the ocean, Calderwood Valley is a place where you can experience the beauty of nature, a unique sense of belonging and community, and the convenience of urban living.

Find out more about life at Calderwood Valley here.