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Stainless Steel Launches its Artistic Merit

Stainless Steel Launches its Artistic Merit

Internationally renowned, Yackandandah based sculptor Benjamin Gilbert was commissioned to create a series of sculptures for Melbourne’s Commonwealth Games.  Extending six metres in the air, the exhibits laid testament to three different stages of a pole–volter whilst displaying the versatility and artistic merit of stainless steel.

Benjamin used grade 304 stainless steel, supplied by ASSDA major sponsor Atlas Specialty Metals in Wadanga.  He has worked with stainless steel for 10 years and believes it is cost effective and cheaper to use than other materials. Also, the added ability of using off cuts in his work suited Benjamin’s ‘green’ focus.

“As a practising environmentalist, there are some good arguments for using stainless steel,” Benjamin says.

Indeed, stainless steel is one of the most recycled metals in the world and, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum, any given stainless steel object has an average recycled content of about 60%.  Benjamin also says the fact that stainless steel doesn’t need to be finished (ie painted) makes it an attractive material.

“For what you pay extra in materials, you don’t need to spend on additives.”

Using a sculpting technique taught to him during his time in Estonia, Benjamin has successfully adapted it for use with stainless steel.

The sculptures used up to 100kg of stainless steel – 1mm sheet, 5mm rod and a 25mm square tube substructure underwater.  With the ability to flex in the wind, the 35mm poles are re-enforced with inner tube to build up spring, similar to a leaf spring on a trailer suspension.

Benjamin enjoys ‘non-trade’ related thinking with his designs and, although he admits to having difficulty sourcing tools in Australia, he says the lighter, thinner materials are easy to use when spot welding and give greater flexibility when using metal shears.

During his work, Benjamin used a thin disk on a 5” grinder and a stainless steel wire wheel to ‘texturise’ the surface.  He believes there is “a lot more that can be done with finishes”, particularly by hand.

Other projects Benjamin has worked on, incorporating the use of stainless steel,  include a life size work of the Ned Kelly Gang (at Beechworth) and a bigger public artwork for the Camden Museum and Library redevelopment in South Sydney.  Once completed, in late January, a 16 metre grapevine in stainless steel will be exhibited, in recognition of the first grapevine in Australia.

Photograph by Rob Lacey Photography, Wodanga.

This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 38, Summer 2006.

Lissel Pilcher