movement references

'Dido's Lament'

Julie Swan 2014
ceramic/gold/copper/iron oxide patina
h.50cm x w.62cm x d.26cm


Aldous Huxley reminded us that 'after silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music'.

For this work I have chosen to reference the beautiful musical performance by Jeff Buckley when he interpreted H.Purcell's composition of 'When I am laid in earth' or 'Dido's Lament'

The text and the Purcell opera are alluding to the Roman legend of the Aeneid, the story of a Trojan warrior Aeneas, seeking Italy in order to settle there and secure his son's lineage. Aeneas is blown off course from Sicily and lands on the shores of Northern Africa, in Carthage, a recently settled city of former Tyrians. Their queen is Dido, with whom Aeneas has a love affair, before departing for Italy and leaving Dido alone. She becomes so distraught that she orders a large pyre and plans to impale herself and be set ablaze so that Aeneas will see from his ship. This is perhaps the most poignant aspect of this legend and ends at the culmination of Book IV



Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me

More I would, but Death invades me;

Death is now a welcome guest.

On thy bosom let me rest



When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.


The countertenor voice is not defined by male or female but seems to fly beyond stereotypes. The descending scale repeats itself and draws the listener irrevocably down. The figure spirals up and out towards her lover... then releases and falls back down to return home and become part of the whole again. My challenge has been to lift the inert nature of clay towards a sense of light and energy and to suggest the ethereal nature of this performance.


'it was a good day'

Julie Swan 2013


1.70cm x w.39cm x d.39cm


I hope this sculpture suggests balance

It symbolizes the Adelaide Park Lands and the city centre.

The arms remind me of the spirals of growth found in nature.

The four arms reach up, they encircle, gain strength and protect the centre spiral: just as nature is crucial to a healthy community. Each arm displays a different characteristic. One is elegant and restrained. Two is practical and strong. Three is searching, experimental and young. The fourth echoes the lines of the spiral in the centre .. it reaches forward in an effort to establish inter-connectedness and a respectful relationship. All twist and move, searching for and allowing for the other in a rhythm of balance.


 'movement 1'

Julie Swan 2013


h.44cm x w.42cm SOLD


'movement 2'

Julie Swan 2013
h.50cm x w.39cm


'movement 1' and 'movement 2' explore the sensation of breeze across water, the sand dunes, the grasses and the body. 

It is as if the elements conspire to create a musical composition that we can respond to.

'river dies at sea' 1

Julie Swan 2010


h.50cm x w.45cm SOLD


'river dies at sea' 2

Julie Swan 2010


h.40cm x w.32cm SOLD


'sea to river - river to sea' explores aspects of living and release.

The letting go of the physical body, the letting go of ego, the cycles of life, the returning home to become one with the whole.

Dying, giving birth, infinite emotional ecstasy, pushing past physical limitations .. and then the pathos and beauty of cycles of regeneration. The human soul is being caught up in repetitive behaviours that create a sense of hopelessness, but that with 'faith', embrace a knowledge that 'all is well' and it's just a very small part of an infinite plan.

The form of the sea shell is used as a metaphor for living and release. the sea shell is both held by and tossed about within the huge energy of the ocean of life. The surface is bleached and left with a satin like patina. Experience has a softening effect on the surface of the ego.

Rivers return to sea and the sea returns its energy to the land.

Additional Notes

'In physics, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system cannot change .. it is said to be conserved over time. Energy cannot be neither created or destroyed, but can change form, for instance chemical energy can be converted to kinetic energy in the explosion of a stick of dynamite' . Wikipedia


The most important aspect of my work is to capture a gesture that reflects an energy that is connected to what it is to be a living being. The quality of that energy that I expend is critical to my practice. as I work, I mentally step back to allow the material to move in a manner that is natural .. and I hope harmonious. Energy cannot be destroyed .. so if I create a work, I want it to be created with an energy that is not difficult or consuming. I aim to create something foe 'a more'. It does not matter if that work deteriorates over time or is destroyed, the energy that has been expended in that process has occurred and it cannot be taken away.