Tin Canoe wins first prize at Lake Light

Les St Hill and the Tin Canoe displayed on the shores of Lake Jindabyne for the 2018 Jindabyne Lake Light Sculpture exhibition.
Les St Hill and the Tin Canoe displayed on the shores of Lake Jindabyne for the 2018 Jindabyne Lake Light Sculpture exhibition.

An installation designed by an Eden artist and author has won first prize at the Jindabyne Lake Light Sculpture during Easter 2018.

Les St Hill and the Tin Canoe was designed and constructed by John Blay with the assistance of sculptor Amanda Stuart, and sound artist Jane Ulman.

Lake Light Sculpture is an annual outdoor sculpture exhibition and competition held along the foreshore of Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. This year the event ran from March 30 to Monday, April 2.

The Tin Canoe installation was previously exhibited at Bondi’s Sculpture by the Sea 2017 and then at Sculpture Bermagui 2018.  

The sculpture is a handmade tin canoe outfitted with solar and a sound system to reproduce the voice of Bermagui resident Les St Hill via speakers in a sound shell.

With the assistance of Ms Ulman, Mr Blay’s vocal recordings of Mr St Hill’s stories were polished to suggest the place and times. For example, the recordings feature the now regionally extinct curlew cries. 

“The tin canoe was made in Eden from old corrugated iron with much assistance from friends and neighbours following models Mr St Hill used during his childhood,” Mr Blay said.

“Tin canoes were a traditional pastime for youth before fibreglass and plastics came on the market. Each canoe was a personal design.

“You simply found old sheets of corrugated iron, strapped them together with wire or boards and nails, and filled any holes with tar that had been gouged out of the roads during hot weather,” he said.

 Mr Blay started recording Mr St Hill’s life stories in the mid-1970s as part of an extensive oral history project.

“When I first started chatting with Les in the mid-70s he would talk about the canoes he used to make as a boy, and we’d swap stories about design and adventures,” Mr Blay said.

“It was a delight to see a photo of the tin canoe he’d made for his son and then adapted for his grandchildren to use on Baragoot Lake.”

Mr Blay hoped the installation would find a permanent home on the south coast where it can continue to tell Mr St Hill’s stories and the stories of our region.

Sound and Light

Sound and Light

“My dream is that the work might go on permanent exhibition somewhere like the Potoroo Palace, where it would tell the young about the very different distribution of animals like potoroos and koalas in the years before 1900. I’m especially excited that the prize money will defray costs and make it possible to go somewhere as special as the Potoroo Palace, with its caring, educational capacities,” Mr Blay said.