Renowned Australian sculptor Inge King, whose monumental sculpture Forward Surge on the lawn at the Arts Centre Melbourne is much-loved by locals and tourists, died peacefully on April 23, at the age of nearly 101.
While studying in London, the German-born artist met Australian printmaker and painter Grahame King and they returned to his hometown Melbourne in 1951, where they both spent much time teaching at RMIT. Inge taught sculpture at RMIT from 1976 to 1987, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from RMIT in 1993. Grahame taught lithography at RMIT from 1966-88.
Two of Inge’s works are held in the RMIT Art Collection, which provides a considerable overview of Australian art history and includes some of the most highly regarded and successful artists that both the country and the University have produced. Its purpose is to tell the history of the University through the creative output of its staff and alumni, and to reflect RMIT’s core values of innovation, creativity, sustainability and social engagement.
King’s sculpture Daruma, purchased by RMIT in 1980, is featured in A Skilled Hand and a Cultivated Mind: A Guide to Architecture and Art of RMIT University. The authors note it “reveals King’s sophisticated approach to materials and understanding of abstract form.”
Along with Vincas Jomantas, Teisutis Zikaras and Lenton Parr, Inge King helped move Australian sculpture into the contemporary modernist milieu.She was part of the Centre 5 group whose mission it was to help foster greater public awareness in contemporary sculpture.
King’s work was seen recently in the 2014 RMIT Gallery exhibition Revelations: Sculpture from the RMIT Collection, curated by RMIT Collections Coordinator Jon Buckingham.Given that the majority of RMIT’s collection of sculpture comprises work spanning from the height of modernism in Australia to the present day, Revelations revealed a microcosm of practice and generational change during the last half-century.
In his catalogue essay, Buckingham writes “the Centre 5 group – of whom Vincas Jomantas, Inge King, and Lenton Parr are represented in this exhibition – formed with the goal of establishing an entente between abstract sculpture and architecture. In doing so, they worked to popularise abstraction in a deeply conservative climate.
“While by no means the only abstract sculptors working in Australia at the time, the impact and originality of Centre 5 is impossible to deny…As teachers at RMIT their influence played an acute role in shaping the following generation.”
RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said that Inge King was a very lively contributor to a round table discussion during the curation of the 2003 exhibition Sculpture at RMIT During the Jomantas Years 1961-1987 (RMIT Gallery, 21 July – 13 September 2003).
“Inge was the voice of the highly respected senior artist at the gallery, and her insights were so important to the shape of the exhibition,” Ms Davies said.
In her obituary of King, The Age Deputy Arts Editor Dewi Cooke noted that the sculptor “mastered the formalist language without becoming a formulaic formalist”.
“With her death, Australia has lost one of its most significant sculptors who created some of her finest pieces in the final few decades of her long and fruitful life,” Cooke wrote.