Dan Wollmering

Dan Wollmering BA; MFA: PhD. is a Contemporary Sculptor based in West Brunswick, Melbourne, currently represented by Flinders Lane Gallery & BMG Art, Adelaide. For over 40 years Dan has been making art in Wood, Steel, Bronze and Aluminium. He describes his works as Abstract Architectural. He lectures in the Faculty of Art and Design at Monash.University Victoria. Dan has made pilgrimages to Italy France and New York several times over the years. You can read more on Dan via Flinders Lane gallery’s website.


Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?

Some works do (outdoor public sculptures more linked to political & social issues and ideas) Gallery works are concerned more with formal notions of structure, form and beauty invested in nature or a purely from the imagination.

What are you currently working on?

A series of works that were executed in foam & cardboard whilst on a recent art residency at Rimbun Dahan outside of KL, Malaysia – to be cast in bronze and aluminium. The works are loosely related to architectural forms derived from Islamic structures and contemporary buildings in KL.

What fascinates you?

Travel, cities, theoretical physics (what little I understand) discovering a new piece of music, (classical, rock or jazz) Albums that still fascinate me i.e.‘ Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis, ‘Blood on the Tracks’ by Bob Dylan and ‘Rook’ by Shearwater to name a few . . .

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Tactile and curious.


Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

A series of 14 aluminium & bronze sculptures that reference small personal architectural statements – based on my living experiences in Malaysia for six weeks.

How did you get into art?

Elementary school on Friday afternoons – a time devoted to art activities that interested me immensely and the teachers who taught it.

How important is art for you?

I need it to make sense of world and to make it – to provide a type of concentration that brings about satisfaction and achievement.


What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

Sometimes, but more rarely as I grow older, it can bring goose bumps to my arms that conveys of a type excitement or challenge that is quite outside the world that we live in.

The craziest thing you did at art school was…

Designing a sculpture rocket (dry fuel rockets were all the rage back in the 1970s); it ignited and accelerated to about 100 metres when it nose-dived back to the earth. Luckily no one was injured.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

Worked in a variety of jobs – mostly saving money to return to University Art School. (Factory worker Hudson Sprayers, Combine Driver and Mechanic for the Green Giant Canning company, Labourer for a construction company).


Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

There have been many. One in particular, being selected for the 3rd Australian Sculpture Triennial in 1987 at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?

Hummmm . . . a positive experience seeing a major work by Louise Nevelson at the Walker Arts centre in Minneapolis.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

Such a difficult term ‘success’ perhaps when the work hums – most artist know when this condition occurs – as rare as it is. Another measurement, when attached to a commercial gallery, of course, arriving at your opening and seeing those uplifting ‘red dots’ – certainly makes the effort worthwhile although I would not necessarily state categorically this is the only measurement of success.


What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

I Try not to waste time in the studio. The days of ‘fooling around’ are over – but would like to have more time to engage in this important and necessary activity.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

Not really, am more interested in the ‘flow’ – when one is working a piece – so focused and engaged that hours pass quickly. A good head space.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

Yes – a loaded term that Postmodernism has, for the most part, tried to kill off but continues to bounce back when artists aim high.


Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…

Yes, a piece titled Dwelling, that I am proud of that was commissioned by Moreland City Council (with some funds from Monash University) sited in front of the Leisure Centre in Fawkner Victoria.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

I have read this and understand the difficulties associated with making a reasonable living off one’s own practice. Yet, there are many examples whereby artists ‘return to the field’ after years in other occupations, or free from domestic responsibilities, or have sufficient time and funds to commit to the practice. In my experience, most committed artists have to make work and will exhibit in whatever manner they wish over a long period of time; Art is a marathon not a sprint.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

I have never really turned – just going steadily forward. A ‘focused point’ was when I was doing the ‘rounds’ trying to ‘land’ a commercial gallery when finally after approaching many without success – a colleague friend tipped me off regarding a new gallery opening, I was accepted and became part of the stable of Artists at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne. I have been showing with them since 1989.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Rebecca Horn, Louise Nevelson, David Smith, Buster Kendall, Anthony Caro (late) add another 100 artists here.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

Yes – being selected for an International Sculpture Symposium in Southern China – commissioned work that was eventually installed in Shanghai.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had?

Generally after a solo exhibition – work removed, feeling ‘flat’ taking stock and then questioning why am I spending all this time devoted to this activity when I could be doing many other interesting things as well?? It only lasts for a few days – as other art related projects have to be completed. We just keep going.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?

Not one thing in particular, rather embracing more of the overall arching activities occurring at the University art school at the time – including happenings, performances . . . I was somewhat sceptical of such undertakings as being rather indulgent – but only now recognise the value and significance of these experimental and innovative art forms.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?

Oh dear, another excellent question. Depends on which piece and the brief attached i.e.a public artwork/sculpture – being site referential. My inside gallery work is more geared towards to condition of abstraction and such notions of transformation and imbedded spirit Sometimes, this may manifest itself in ideas of beauty or alternatively, uneasy and precarious possibilities of chance and accident i.e. cause and effect.

About significant moments in your life, the sort of things that changed things for you forever… perhaps altered your Art… Who how why what and where…?

Becoming an activist in the Union movements. The death of both my parents.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?

Process vs product – the age old question. Sometimes only certain sculptors can appreciate this often overlooked creative condition. Enjoying materials and appreciating techniques are often important vehicles of conversation shared between sculptors. Looking at from another angle, perhaps this is why cooking shows are so popular on TV – the mystery of the making.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…

You are known by your first name, not only with your peers, but by a wide audience.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

Just do it – it has to be done – never ever assume that anyone but yourself will promote your work. Sometimes, a good dealer will make important connections – particularly when it comes to clients.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

A man came to our first commercial exhibition held in South Yarra – all dressed in the medium that we were using primarily throughout our exhibition – which was bread.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?

Most artwork is decorative – some with meaning, some without – don’t worry too much about it. There is a lot of decorative artwork going back to early civilizations, enriched with symbols and significance. Know yourself, the intended audience and then consider the site/gallery in which it is to be exhibited.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?

Again, who knows, if it was not for Art – then there very well may be another passion to embrace – could even be sport – i.e. golf, bushwalking or chess – although at one stage with a fellow artist I played a lot of backgammon.

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc?

I think they think it is all very normal – after all have studied art or made sculptures most of my life. Attending openings, galleries, and museums – all very much of what we do.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?

I need both – but do appreciate private studio time – no distractions.

When you get the urge to create art because something has “pushed your button/s” how compelling is it for you?

It is more a regular work process that I undertake on a weekly basis.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?

No artist needs to starve and another myth that raises its profile, generally when the media has nothing of substance to write about.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

Both have their place – depends on what’s required.

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?

Much more considered with my public artworks. And always aware of the historical tradition in Australian sculpture: its practitioners, influences, ambitions, trajectories and possibilities.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?

Art really cannot make claim to this – however, I think art can make extraordinary perceptual change with the individual – but not society as a whole. There are now too many competing media and other influences that can undertake major perceptual shifts in society.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?

Yes, to support such occasions and see if I can make the shortlist (for major ones). It is perhaps our equivalent of competition – although highly subjective with luck – if we compare with sports.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?

Promotion is all part of the industry – one has to if you are serious about being a successful artist. I do – but hopefully not in a grandiose manner that is self delusionary and destructive. I see such occasions all necessary in the process of networking and making opportunities – but not at the expense of wasting time not actually making the work.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Just do and just keep going. Go to art school, make friends (some may become very helpful later on in your career). When you are ready – do an MFA (research which art school will suit you best). Apply for grants, enter into group shows and awards and when you have a body of quality works – keep an ear to the ground for new gallery soon to open.

How long did it take to develop your own style?

‘Style’ is another one of those difficult terms in the Visual Arts – perhaps best to suggest that it may be idiosyncratic – all depends on the event, exhibition of site specific nature of a work requires flexibility and a more lateral approach.

Does the gallery make the artist famous or does the artist make the gallery famous?

I think it probably has to do more with curators, editors, feature writers, reviewers and critics. Galleries are important, but generally facilitate sales – some have clout to influence the above – but again, the work has to be good, challenging, difficult or stunning beautiful or a ‘wow’ factor that can not be described – or put into words.

Can you respond to this quote “Anyone who is half assed about art should get out.” (Janet Fish).

Hummmm . . I guess one could suggest that we need a lot of the clutter to really appreciate the good stuff.

Cultural connections you may have which may be of value to the viewer? Go overseas and make art connections, residencies, symposiums. It is important to get out of Australia.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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2 Responses to “Dan Wollmering”

  1. Mary Sheley on January 25th, 2010 12:23 am

    This is great work, very different than what I do but I can see we harness the same energy. I like it how one measure of seeing if an artwork is successful is if it “hums”. I’ve experienced the same thing. When I’m painting something then then lean back to look at it through partly closed eyelids, it appears to “vibrate”, and then I know that it is done! Mary Shelley

  2. Contemporary Visual Artist Interviews : Art Re-Source on June 12th, 2010 9:02 am

    […] Dan Wollmering […]