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Tom Arthur
Drako Vulen's cheese pizza


With a studio practice that has produced works of symbolic complexity and a vital role as an art educator, Sydney-based sculptor Tom Arthur is an extremely significant figure in Sydney’s cultural landscape. An exhibition will feature the key early work which launched the artist’s career in Australia - the intriguingly titled The fertilization of Drako Vülen’s cheese pizza. This extraordinary installation pinpoints a period in the 1970s of Dadaist tendencies in Australian sculptural practice. The exhibition presents an opportunity for a new generation of viewers to experience this seminal seventies work in the artist’s oeuvre.

Drako Vülen’s centres on a skeletal plane-like structure reminiscent of a Da Vinci flying machine, which hangs suspended from the ceiling on an uncertain incline. Fuelled by the glow of tangled neon lights which cascade from it, it seems simultaneously weighed down by its sand-filled body and worm-like tail. The work’s curious title is derived from Draco Volans, the Latin name for a lizard which, as part of its evolutionary process, developed a matador-like cape to defend itself against its tree-snake predator. Constructed through a densely layered symbolism which Arthur derived from the quasi erotic chase of snake and lizard, and interwoven with an off-beat humour, The fertilization of Drako Vülen’s cheese pizza extends from ideas surrounding the transformations inherent in evolution and archaeology - where the skeletal remains of some strange intuited past metamorphose into new sculptural forms and venture into a new symbolic order.

Born in Massachusetts, USA and a graduate of the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Tom Arthur arrived in Australia in 1973.  Here, his work developed during a critical period in Australian sculpture during the 1970s, when object-based practises were extended along broader conceptual and installation platforms. Arthur began teaching at Sydney College of the Arts at the school’s inception in 1976 and has only recently retired to focus full-time on his art making. During this time he maintained an ongoing engagement with his studio practice producing work that received wide critical and popular acclaim.

It was once said that the best way to approach Tom Arthur’s work was to surrender to it.  While a layered structure of symbols pervades Arthur’s sculptural practice, his works are best encountered rather than analysed. The theatricality of The fertilisation of Drako Vülen’s cheese pizza, encourages the viewer to enter this sculpturally symbolic world. When initially shown at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1975 (the year it was purchased for the collection), the exhibition of Drako Vülen’s marked the genesis of Arthur’s installation practice of alluring symbolic object forms. The exhibition will provide an opportunity for post-modern audiences to encounter one of the collection’s most engaging late modernist installations.

Collection Focus Room sponsored by



On view:6 September - 23 November 2008
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744
(02) 9225 7400 Recorded information
1800 679 278 National toll-free
Hours:10am to 5pm, 7 days a week
Art After Hours Wednesday nights until 9pm
Media Information and Interviews:Susanne Briggs
(02) 9225 1791 or 0412 268 320

IMAGE CREDIT: Tom Arthur The fertilization of Drako V�len�s cheese pizza (detail) 1975 Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 1975