Eco-Art in the Adelaide Hills: The Heysen Sculpture Biennial

Leading up to the first sculpture exhibition held in the grounds of Hans Heysen’s 132-acre property, The Cedars, in March 2000, the area around the shady pool, the site of one of Heysen’s iconic paintings, had slowly been cleared of the head-high broom that covered much of the estate. The back-breaking working of cutting and swabbing the weeds was undertaken by a group of volunteers headed by environmentalists Trevor Curnow and his partner Helen Lyons as the group Trees Please! (an offshoot of Trees for Life), established in 1998 to support the preservation and regeneration of the remnant bush at The Cedars. The late Helen Lyons was a local Hahndorf artist, and her connection with The Cedars landscape inspired her idea of holding an exhibition of installation-based artworks in the vicinity of the shady pool. She had previously founded The Artist’s Voice collective in 1997 and had artists ready and willing to be involved in the venture. The Artist’s Voice members exhibited regularly at the Hahndorf Academy’s upstairs gallery, but some members were open to Lyons’ vision for a non-commercial, experimental exhibition at The Cedars focused on environmental principles. The Cedars’ long-term curator, Allan Campbell was also supportive, and Lyons invited the twelve participating artists to make works in direct response to the landscape, making use of materials found on the property. This inaugural exhibition, A Homage to Nature was the first of many, now known collectively as the Heysen Sculpture Biennial, a series which can be considered a visceral response to the environmental art movement that emerged globally in the 1960s.


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