The ANU Art Collection, established in 1949, comprises over 2900 paintings, sculptures, drawings, limited edition prints, and ceramic and glass objects. In this series of posts, produced in collaboration with Drill Hall staff, interns and student volunteers, we introduce a rich selection of works from the collection, providing insight into the individual artworks and the artists that have created them.
Michael Buzacott’s sculpture is constructed from welded steel, much of it being recycled scrap. Actaeon & Artemis appears to be a fluent, fantastically energized drawing conceived on a monumental scale. Despite its graphic character, it projects an ample, spacey, multi-layered, richly sculptural experience. “My admiration for the sculptor/draughtsman type has been lifelong,” Buzacott has said, citing Michelangelo, Daumier, Degas and Matisse as his examples. Obviously, he is an artist of the same company: a sculptor/draftsman type.
The motif of Actaeon & Artemis harks back to classical mythology. It refers to the legend of how Actaeon, when on a hunting expedition with his dogs, accidentally came upon the goddess Artemis (also known to the Romans by the name of Diana) while she was bathing with her nymphs. Reacting furiously to this intrusion on their privacy, Artemis used her magical powers to change Actaeon into a stag. Since his dogs were no longer able to recognise their master with deer horns sprouting from his head, they savagely turned on him and tore him to shreds.
The viewer of Buzacott’s work is prompted, first of all, to recognize that there is a bow and arrow in the centre of the image (these are attributes of Diana the huntress). Subsequently one discovers the signs that Buzacott uses to designate “heads” (the heads of Diana, of Actaeon, of the dogs) – with the result that this whirling, post-Jackson Pollock abstraction gradually yields up a figurative intention.
Buzacott’s Actaeon & Artemis refers to a famous painting by Titian, The Death of Actaeon 1569-75, in the National Gallery in London. Titian represented Diana/Artemis with a small head and tremendously elongated limbs, and these odd proportions are exaggerated and further stylised in the figure of the archer in Buzacott’s work. Titian’s black hunting dog creates an extraordinarily dynamic link between Artemis’s flexed bow and her left leg – the hound seems to shoot out of her body like the projection of malevolent will. We find an analogous rush of jangling, turbulent energy swirling around Buzacott’s stick figure representing the huntress.
There are other sculptures by Michael Buzacott which relate to stories from classical mythology – Europa and the Bull; Jupiter and Ganymede; and the Fall of Icarus.
Actaeon & Artemis was acquired by the ANU College of Business and Economics, 2015. It can be viewed in the foyer of the ANU CBE Building, 26C Kingsley Street, Acton, ACT.