Entrance of the Virtual Gallery Wing dedicated to the Solo Boatman in a work titled " the Boatman's Unscheduled Crossing" exhibited at a number of venues in one form or another;
the Big RiverShow: the Riverine at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery 2002;
the sculpture exhibition at the National Galllery of Australia 2003;
in the window at the New Acton comoplex Canberra 2008 - 2011;
in Perth in the Perth TAFE Central space 2003;
in Townsville at the Perc Tucker Gallery & the Stand Ephemera exhibition;
at the Gold Coast Art Gallery.

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boatman's unscheduled crossing
image details general commentary artist's running commentary






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Sketch on paper


Private collection


Early sketch together with the text that inspired it.
Element of Samuel Beckett's existential dilemma is definitely present and immediately recognised by Brian Kennedy (then the director of the NGA), hwo rushed up to me in 2003 to shake my hand and thank me. He's an Irishman.

The text is a reference to the Styx ferryman's passengers dilemma. Do you pay him before the trip or after the return trip has ended? The destination? Definitely a Beckett game play here.




Sketch on paper




Another sketch at that time.
Noah's flood has subsided leaving one solo boat, together with trapped Boatman.

Could take the form of a small aluminium construction complemented by a soap carved boat and Boatman. Or maybe a skeletal wooden boat and carved aromatic soap Boatman. Something for the future. Whatever.





This is the text to accompany the work.
The curators from the NGA who visited the Big River Show at the WWAG were eager to make a major play of the text with the Boatman and its shadow play at the NGA in 2003.
Images of the work at the NGA are below.




a slide show of 11 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace



A slide show (11 images) to show the construction process.
this relates to the construction of the NewActon Boatman (below) but the process is the same.














Mr Macleay and I enjoyed a most beautiful view. Beneath us to the S.E. [is] the rich and lightly timbered valley through which the Morumbidgee flows …

- Charles Sturt, 1 December 1829.

Looking at landscape is seldom a straightforward matter.  When explorers Charles Sturt and George Macleay gazed across the Murrumbidgee River they did so with a certain duality of vision. They were delighted to see a landscape that conformed to their ideal of the picturesque, but their contemplation also incorporated a favourable valuation of the place in terms of its pastoral potential. The fact that the region was already a cultural and economic resource for its indigenous inhabitants – and had been for thousands of years – was a fact that did not form part of this reverie. ............

The need to impose order fitted in with their ideology of progress, and the opportunity to transform the wilderness into a ‘productive’ landscape justified their presence. Time would tell a different tale. ...........

While the presence of the river itself may not always be obvious, the works assembled for display are a consideration of the shifting landscape and cultural values perceived over time. The exhibition reflects not only upon the region’s beauty, but also upon aspects of loss, displacement and isolation that mark the Aboriginal, migrant and settler stories – narratives that remain at the core of the Australian experience. ...............

In many ways, the works assembled for The Big River Show reflects the evolving shift to the present perception of the Murrumbidgee as a threatened entity.

For Gavin Wilson's full text, click here
To read background correspondence 2001 - 2003, click HERE

This animated interactive sculpture was constructed over a period of several months. The electronic element was developed by Ken Meyer, an electronics engineer. Initially the driving motor was a small hobby version that was not geared nor powerful enough for the task. As a result it burned out very quickly.
It was replaced by a windscreen wiper motor. Though it appears to be over engineered (gearing and amperage) the wiper motor performed perfectly and have been used in all the motorised boat sculptures to this date.



video of the Boatman in the Big River Show



Dimensions: 200 x 450 x 20cm
Materials: laminated Radiata Pine, Huon & Kingbilly Pine, electric motor, bearings, pulleys, metal axles, aluminium rod, Programmable Logical Controller (PLC), electric cable & relays.



a slide show of 9 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace






The second workby Arthur Wicks included in the Big River Show was the Survival Boat for the 21st Century, It was loaned by the Art Gallery of NSW.




a slide show of 5 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace


Photos and sketches that accompanied the Boatman proposal to  the NGA.
The text with the proposal is in the far right column. It provides atomic detail of the proposed installation.






General Description

The work consists of a small boat (dimensions 67cm length, 30cm width & 16cm depth) with wheels attached. This boat moves along an aluminium track which projects out from the wall at a height of 2.5 to 3 metres ie. above the heads of the viewers to a length of about 4.5metres.  A small cutout figure in the boat appears to be rowing the boat as its arms & body move backwards & forwards with the boat’s movement. ......

The tension created by the boat’s overall movement is a basic ingredient of the work.  It relates directly to experiences gathered from my earlier transient performance work from the 1980’s.

To read full text of the Boatman installation description click HERE.




Two senior curators from the National Gallery of Australia visited the Big River exhibition in Wagga in October 2002. I had already submitted a proposal for the Boatman to be installed at the forthcoming NGA Sculpture Prize and Exhibition in 2003.

Their visit was specifically to view the Boatman installation; identify any particular requirements that would be needed in the NGA installation. Two elements of the Wagga installation caught their attention:
- the text accompanying the work, and
- the potential shadow play that could be generated.

We agreed that the text could be handwritten onto the adjacent wall of the Boatman, and that low lighting of the work could throw a shadow of the track and moving boat onto the same text.
In 2003 all this was achieved when the Boatman was installed in the NGA exhibition.


Vidoe clip of the Boatman in the NGA





a slide show of 10 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace









the BOATMAN installed at the
2008 - 2011





a slide show of 10 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace




single image
time lapse of the Boatman's journey



the Boatman installed at
TAFE Central Perth 2003



a slide show of 12 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace



the Boatman installed in Townsville, Queensland
Strand Ephemera, September 2005 and
Perc Tucker Gallery September 2006


short video with the Boatman installed into the
Esplanade Restaurant in Townsville





The Boatman was included in the Strand Ephemera exhibition of September 2005. In addition the artist performed as part of the Strand Ephemera event titled Lunch on the Grass which took place on Sunday, 4 September 2005.

Specific details of this event.can be found by clicking HERE



The Boatman in Townsville Queensland was a compound event.. Initially it was involved in the Strand ephemera exhibition; the Strand being a pedestrian dedicated strip along the oceanfront. This resulted in the Boatman being installed in a restaurant at the northern point of the Strand; windows on the eastern side of the building giving a panoramic view of the ocean and Magnetic Island in the distance. This took place in September 2005.

The Boatman system was then placed in storage and a year later was exhibited for several months in the local regional art gallery – the Townsville Perc Tucker Gallery.
While the boat than was installed and exhibited for the Strand Ephemera event I was also involved in a performance work in the grassy areas in the northern area of the Strand walkway.

This particular event for the Strand Ephemera was called l Unch on the Grass; a direct reference to Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe painting. For this event I was dressed in my suit and latex mask with pre-recorded tape issuing trivial conversation through a microphone on the lapel. At the same time I was distributing business cards announcing myself as his local agent. The event lasted an hour.


a slide show of 12 images
click to start

NB: click right half large image for next image,
click left half large image for previous image;
proceed at your own pace


Boatman was installed in the Poimt Restaurant located at the extreme end of the Strand Esplanade in Townsville.


Business card distributed as part of the
performance for the Strand Ephemera 2005


For more details check the email correspondence in the right hand column.





the Boatman installed into the
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery


The specific exhibition was curated for children and focussed on the home; titled Exquisite House. The Boatman's tendency to gravitate back to the boathouse was a fitting metaphor.


at this stage of the Boatman's life, ie between 2003 and 2008 it had travelled several kilometres; difficult to calculate exactly how many, but maintenance was occasionally needed. This is understandable for any thing mechanical.

In this case a cog attached to the rear axle needed attention and the Perc Tucker Gallery staff arranged for its replacement.
In the early months of its installation at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery, the main track disconnected buckling some of the attachment. This was easily repaired on-site at the Gold Coast.




Boatman at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery



Boatman installed into the
Gold Coast Art Gallery,
experiencing some difficulties


installed for an extended period between 2007 and 2008 high in the ceiling of the gallery space.

When the Perc Tucker exhibition finished, the Boatman was stored at Townsville while discussions took place with John Walsh, Gallery Manager of the the Gold Coast City Art Gallery. The Boatman was installed there basically between February 2007 and March 2008.
The Boatman material had been in Queensland for 3 years. It was initially freighted to Townsville with Australia Post, but in the intervening three years it was no longer possible to use Australia Post for the return freight and that this created an issue.
Details of its adventure at the Gold Coast can be read by clicking HERE.


John Walsh, the Gallery Manager at that time was enthusiastic to install the work high in the cavernous space. I had earlier visited the space and spoken to him about the possibility of the Boatman being installed there.
Once installed, he excitedly told me on the phone how its motion triggered by the interior infrared sensors would startle some of the visitors.

  At this point in time the Boatman has no permanent final resting place, so with some organisation and patients it will reappear in various spots from time to time until someone installs it in a permanent space. In actual fact it already exists as a limited edition, the first being shown at the Big River Show at the WWCAG and the second constructed for the site specific window in New Acton complex, Canberra 2008


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