Hepburn artist exhibits basalt skull at Ballarat exhibition

A black basalt sculpture of a large skull stands out from other pieces on show at the Art Gallery of Ballarat major exhibition Romancing the Skull.  

SKULL: Hepburn Springs artist Josh Bowes exhibits his black basalt skull at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. It is part of the Romancing the Skull major exhibition which explores the depiction of the skull in art. Picture: Kate Healy

SKULL: Hepburn Springs artist Josh Bowes exhibits his black basalt skull at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. It is part of the Romancing the Skull major exhibition which explores the depiction of the skull in art. Picture: Kate Healy

The prominent sculpture is the work of Hepburn Springs artist Josh Bowes. He specialises in working with locally sourced stone. 

Bowes sources most of the stone for his art projects from a farming property near Ballarat.

He says finding the right stone for a project is when the artistic process begins. 

“He (farmer) had this big boulder in a paddock and it had been there for five generations,” Bowes said. 

“This rock has been in the way. They had talked about blowing it up and getting it out of the way as it has always been a burden to the farm.”

When showed the boulder in the back paddock of the farm, Bowes said the hard basalt made it perfect for his skull project. 

Bowes spent months chiseling and grinding the 1.5 tonne boulder to create the skull now on display in Ballarat. 

“It is a dirty old boulder on the outside, all covered in moss, but when you start to cut it up you find crystals and other sorts of mineral inclusions within the stone,” Bowes said.

“When it’s polished you can see all those things. It is fascinating - you are opening something that hasn’t seen daylight for a few thousand years since it was last kicked out of a volcano.”

Josh Bowes polishes his basalt skull on exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Picture: Kate Healy

Josh Bowes polishes his basalt skull on exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Picture: Kate Healy

The Art Gallery of Ballarat exhibition Romancing the Skullexplores the depiction of the skull. 

Bowes said the skull had been a theme of his work in the past. 

“I think skulls are a prominent symbolic image at the moment – they seem to be everywhere, maybe in my own psyche,” he said. 

“I started off with a rock that the only thing it was suitable for was to make a skull out of it … that is how I made the first one and from there I tried to perfect it. I think I was going through a rough patch in my life at that time. A bit of your own reflection on one's own existence drew me in a little bit. It (the skull) seemed to have a relevance at that point in time.”

Bowes is now in the process of sourcing the materials for his next piece, a stone life-size great white shark. 

Romancing the Skull runs at the Art Gallery of Ballarat until January 28.