Map 1/Story 1/Title 1 'Carcharcles Angustiden's'
In October 2007 the township of Lorne had its inaugural Sculpture exhibition. 30 artists including myself were asked to be involved in creating and installing works along a 1.2 kilometre ‘edge’ of premier Victorian coastline.
As the majority of my works are site specific I wanted to come up with a concept that related specifically to Lorne and the west coast of Victoria.
The large majority of my works relate to ‘ancient time frames’, like peeling back the layers of time to expose what came before us. In doing so visually creating stories in art forms that rarely get told in this format and giving people a little understanding and a greater appreciation of place of where they are.
Their fossilised teeth have been found from Jan Juc to just east of Lorne in the late Oligocene limestone cliffs. The installation depicts a large fossilised tooth still embedded in limestone. Etched into the limestone rock and over the tooth depicts the map of where the tooth was found near Jan Juc and follows the coastline to where the sculpture was originally located halfway up the point at Lorne on the west coast of Victoria.
One the concepts were thought through it was time to cross reference them with scientific fact so I spent some time with David Pickering and Eric Fitzgerald both Palaeontologists at Melbourne Museum. I wanted to know what made these now extinct animals unique (once again to try and make the stories as site specific to Lorne and the west coast of Victoria as possible).
With the Jan Jucetus apart from there only being one specimen (fossil) found anywhere in the world one of the unique aspects of this whale was its jaw and teeth, so that became the focus (in regards to form) I was going to use.
The two concepts I came up with both on ancient marine animals that have both been extinct for millions of years but unique to this part of the world. Inspired by the ‘Jan Jucetus Hunderi’ and extinct ancestor to the Boleen whales of today (Humback, Southern Right, Blue Whales). The newly discovered species was discovered in the cliffs east of Lorne in the late 1990’s. The installation was to be in the form of a pseudo palaeontologist dig (therefore underground) exposing the top jaw bone and unique teeth of the Jan Jucetus with the coast line scribed in it to show (in stylised form) where it was discovered and where the sculpture was located.
The second concept also inspired by an ancient sea creature. The carcharocles Angustidens was a shark (now extinct) and was the ancestor to the great white shark and mako shark that lived around 25 million years ago. These massive predators (15 metres in length) lived around the sough coast of Australia.
In regards to Ancient Sharks the only fossilized remnants are usually the teeth because the rest of the sharks skeleton is cartilage. With cartilage rarely fossilizing, the only true records we have of these massive predators is their teeth.
I was told what made these apex carnivores unique to the other massive sharks that were roaming the sea in Oligocene times were the spurs (smaller teeth on each side of the main tooth) so this would be the main focus with the concept/design in the creation of this installation.
Map showing Lorne & Sculpture Exhibition Invitation
Photo's taken at the Melbourne Museum of the Janjucetus
Once both concepts had been thought through it was time to draw them up into designs and from one of these designs one installation (hopefully the stronger concept) would be realised into a sculpture. After a great deal of debate with friends, family other art practitioners and curator Ken Scarlett it was decided that the Carcharocles Angustidens tooth would be the installation created.
The reason for and against differed but it was decided by myself that the sharks tooth especially being an ancestor to the Great White shark had a little more resonance with the locals and general (punters) as there is a large surfing and fishing industry on the surf coast with great admiration or fear for the great white shark.
I also wanted to make the point, drawing attention to the decline and extinction of the large apex seas predators and use the sculpture as a metaphor for these massive creatures ending up as a fossil record like the Carcharocles Angustidens.
The difference between the Megalodon and the Carcharocles Angustidens in regard to tooth structure
Final Concept Drawings
Once the concept and design had been decided on it was time to create. First was to gather the materials. Being a large scale installation and knowing it was going to be created as an outdoor public installation therefore the materials had to be large in scale (not to be lost in the site). Durable to with stand the forces of nature and human contact yet most importantly the mediums and materials fitting into and being contextually relevant for its form.
Finding the material used proved to be somewhat of a mission. I decided on timber to create the tooth and thought river red gum would be appropriate as the colour is of a similar nature to the minerals that colour the fossilized teeth found in the limestone cliffs of this area.
The river red gum needed to be extremely large in girth as to sculpt one single form out of it. I wasn’t interested in laminating pieces of timber together as I thought one single tooth needed to be created out of one single piece. I was also very interested in using and creating many different textures to the wood, as to show the different layers of fossilized enamel compare to where it would fit into its jaw and also show where the coast line was etched creating another contrast. Timber specifically river red gum would be the perfect medium and I was lucky to find a piece in a timber salvaging yard in Healsville.
Locating River Red Gum from Timber Salvager, Healesville
Carving & Shaping
After locating the timber it was just a matter of transporting it back to my studio and carving it out. Using chainsaws, grinders, sanders, dremil and chisels the tooth was close to completion and it was time to locate the stone.
The stone/rock was another very important part to the sculptures form. I thought it was essential that the rock had to be similar in nature if not the same as the rock that the fossilized teeth were found in. However taking a three ton Oligocene limestone rock with the perfect shape from the beach was obviously legally impossible. So I had to find other places to find the Oligocene limestone boulder. After months of searching I found the ideal rock down a limestone quarry in Batesford (20km from Geelong). After some wheeling and dealing I purchased the rock and had it transported by crane truck back to the studio to work on.
Once again after hours of work with grinders and chisels I’d cut out enough rock to fit the tooth into it. The whole idea was to make it look like the tooth was imbedded into the rock not just sitting on top of it. After the rock had been precisely carved so the negative shape of the rock fitted perfectly into the positive shape of the timber I pinned the two shapes together as they were to be seen as one.
The third important part of the installation was to create the map as to show where the tooth was found , what part of the coastline it came from and where in relation the sculpture the tooth installation was located. After creating a scaled map of the coastline between Torquay point and Lorne point on the installation in chalk I carved through the stone onto the timber (tooth) and back onto the stone the coastline using mini jack hammers, chisels and mini arbatek wheels.
Creating Texture in the River Red Gum
Transporting Stone from Batesford Quarry, Carving & Shaping Limestone
The last important part of the production phase was to find appropriate location markers for the map part of the installation. So to show where exactly where the fossilized tooth was found to where the sculptural installation was to be located, it became apparent very
quickly that finding the markers would become as difficult to locate or create as the other larger mediums of the installation.
I originally thought I would use fossilized Ammonites, an extinct marine shell. However after having discussions with my palaeontologist friends I found out that using Ammonites would be most inappropriate as they live in Jurassic times, hence the time span being approximately 150 million years from when the Carcharocles Angustidens (shark) were alive. After more discussion I was informed the best marine animal to use as a location marker for my sculpture would be a Clypeaster Gippslandicus. A type of sand dollar found at a similar age, in similar rock and similar location to what and where my tooth would have swam. The only problem is where would I find two.
Using fossils as inspiration and storylines for a number of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to build up friendships with people whom work in the industry of palaeontology and precious stone and wholesale fossils. Therefore after communicating with a number of people a friend said he had a number of Clypeaster (sand dollars) from the (Oligocen) age which I could have and hence became the perfect solution as location markers.
The installation was finally close to completion, the tooth was incorporated into the rock, the map was etched into the installation and the sand dollars could be viewed as location points. Lastly a quick sand, clean and a few coats of oil and the installation was ready to install.
River Red Gum inlayed in Lime Stone
The Bump in & Bump Out
Bumping in a work (installing) is the last but also one of most crucial parts of creating any outdoor public installation. Sight lines have to be perfect, as it has to sit and fit in well with the surrounding environment and it has to be orientated the right way so it can be read from all angles and directions. Other considerations are to ensure that the site is safe for the general public and many other factors depending on the individual works taking place.
Carcharocles Angustidens (shark tooth sculpture) being approximately 3000 kg in weight needed a cranetruck to transport it down to Lorne as well as a bobcat to help install the sculpture into its site. For the Lorne site wanted it to look like it was a rock that was part of the environment and had been sitting there for the last 26 million years so it was a matter of digging out some of the existing ground (earth), installing the sculpture then replacing the displaced soil and grass, as to depict the sculpture nestling within the environment and not simply placed on top.
Once that was achieved and making sure the sculpture was orientated the same way as the coast line so it read the way you would read a map. The site was cleaned up, the installation once again cleaned down and re oiled and the job as far as this bump in was completed.
The exhibition ‘The Littoral Edge’ Lornes inaugural sculpture show went from October 26 to November 112008 and overall perceived as a huge success, however the fact that the sculpture ‘Carcharocles Angustidens’ (mapping the bloodlines of the great white shark from a pseudo palaeontologists perspective) had not sold it became evident, like all unsold works, was what life it would now live.
A number of people and organizations were very keen on purchasing it, but from past experience my philosophy when it comes to people or groups wanting art is that the art piece is never sold until the money/agreement has exchanged hands. Yet suffice to say when the curator of Contempora 2008, Phil Hall enquired about having the sculpture exhibited at Docklands, I was more than happy to agree.
Carving & Shaping Limestone
Etching the Map between Jan Juc into Stone & Timber using 'Clypeaster' of markers
Bumping in at the site of Lorne and Docklands
Contempora 2008 went from 6 March through to 20 April and was once again perceived as a great success. As for my sculpture (Carcharocles Angustidens) I had mixed feelings with it being exhibited in a space that was not site specific. The mapping and installation created and depicted the coastline between Jan Juc and Lorne. However as a sculpture where the story was just as much about large apex sea predator conservation
I think for most parts the visual story still held true.
Once again the sculpture show came and went and
I was very happy to see that the surf company Quicksilver were keen to purchase the sculpture to be located outside their main offices. I viewed this as a win-win situation whereby the sculptures new location could be perceived as being site specific and portray a local story of the very coastline where Quicksilver established itself. As for myself I received a little bit of monitory reward for three and a half months of work.
The sculpture was bumped out and in, for the last time and is now located in the township of Torquay only about 1 km from where the sculpture was created and about 2km from where the Carcharocles Angustidens in its fossilized form was discovered.