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Truth, respect, love and peace: UC unveils latest sculpture

Katarina Slavich

8 November 2019: The University of Canberra has officially unveiled its latest sculpture, ONE, made possible by  a generous gift.

Situated on the Western Concourse between Buildings 5 and 8, ONE is a self-supporting triangulated structure that splits into three twisting arms of stainless steel that join at apex and base. The exterior is mirror polished, with the internal surface painted red to represent the ochre of the land.

In 2015, the University was approached by Dr Naren Chellappah OAM about gifting a commissioned public sculpture. Dr Chellappah was born in Sri Lanka and spent his early years travelling and experiencing different cultures across Asia and Europe. His experiences led him to draw upon his spiritual beliefs, which provided him strength and sustainability, and a set of values for living in a diverse community.

Known for his services to the international community as a volunteer dental surgeon, Dr Chellappah says he feels blessed at what life has offered him and seeks to give back to the community through art, and by sharing the  personal values that have provided him with strength through his life’s journey.

“This country has provided my family with a sense of security, belonging and hope,” said Dr Chellappah.

“University students have inquiring minds, and it is hoped that with periodic exposure to this sculpture, they may think about identifying and attaining goals with principles.

“We hope this project will create an object or area of contemplation, so that one can think about transcending the egotistic concept of ‘I’ towards a vision of ‘we’.”

Over a two-years period, eight artists known for their contemporary installations competed to create the sculpture.

A panel of academic and professional staff chose the winning design by artist Geoffrey Drake-Brockman, whose creation best encompassed the values held by Dr Chellappah – truth, non-violence, love and peace.

Mr Drake-Brockman is a cybernetics artist specialising in large-scale public installations. His work has taken him all over the world, exhibiting in Singapore, Denmark, New York and London, as well as on home soil in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

“It took around a year to create the sculpture,” said Mr Drake-Brockman. “It began with some highly technological processes of laser cutting and computer-controlled milling of sheets of steel, but then we went through a series of manual processes which took several months.”

“The mirrored exterior reflects back on people. This process of its interaction with people is a direct link to one of Dr Chellappah’s key concepts, right conduct.

“The idea of being part of a work, of being implicated in the work and part of the composition leads to a notion of accountability and  responsibility. We’re here as active participants of the system, we can’t just slip by without being involved.”

Vice-Chancellor and President of the University Professor Deep Saini says the generosity of Dr Chellappah will ensure those in the University community, and the wider Canberra community will enjoy and reflect on the values the sculpture represents.

ONE is intended to speak to  values for living: truth, right conduct, love, peace and non-violence. This is a direct association with the University’s vision of building a safe and respectful campus community,” said Professor Saini.