Far South Coast author John Blay is making a splash at one of the biggest sculpture exhibitions in the country.
Mr Blay’s installation, Tin Canoe, is a simple but striking multimedia installation at Sculpture by the Sea, an annual event held in Bondi.
The canoe was built by Mr Blay at Eden and Cobargo, with the assistance of sculptor Amanda Stuart and sound artist Jane Ulman among others.
Sculpture by the Sea is the largest free sculpture exhibition in the world, with up to 500,000 visitors each year taking in the sights along the spectacular Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk.
Mr Blay’s work is a tin canoe that acts as a sound shell for the voice of Les St Hill, a WW1 veteran born in 1892.
The canoe is made from two sheets of used corrugated iron, symbolic of the popular make-do craft from Mr St Hill’s time.
The two sheets allow for the installation of the sound system that will play the veteran’s voice.
The recording plays at a comfortable volume for a four-metre radius, and is run off an MP3 player.
The installation is charged by solar power, and is run off a timed switch to play between 8am and 6pm.
Mr Blay recorded Mr St Hill during a mammoth oral history recording project in 1975.
Mr St Hill, who lived in Bermagui, tells of the cultural changes between his childhood and the modern times of the 1970s.
Mr Blay recalls the patience and calmness of Mr St Hill.
“Perhaps it is that we have a lot to learn from our old people,” he said.
“I was rushing about trying to record as many people as possible but Les quietened me, he sat me down and made certain we had time to talk things through in a more reflective way.
“Somehow what he said has stayed with me over the years, for its wisdom, I guess.”
Mr St Hill grew up around the turn of the 20th Century, a time where children did not have the benefit of provided entertainment.
“He described how they made their own fun in the years before 1900,” Mr Blay said.
“They would construct canoes out of old corrugated iron and fill in any holes or gaps with tar prised off the roads during summer when it was soft.”
And Mr Blay goes into detail about the changes Mr St Hill saw in his adult years.
“During his time he witnessed massive changes in society, technology and so forth, from the first motor vehicles to aeroplanes and man walking on the moon, not to mention the massive destruction during the two World Wars,” he said.
“These must have been the greatest changes witnessed by any other generation. And yet he was a modest man, satisfied by his contributions.
“Before retiring to his vegetable garden in the 1960s he served as the postmaster in Bermagui.”
Mr Blay’s installation will be exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea until Sunday, November 5.
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