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troublemag | July 7, 2022

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Trapping the Island Tide

Trapping the Island Tide Jon Eiseman, 'The-Coming-Storm' 2016 Jon Eiseman, 'Searching for my Soul' 2016

The Sculpture of Jon Eiseman
by Jennifer Choat

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin,” wrote Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. He was a gifted man. One who had an astute ability to express the complexities of human existence within a single passage. A skill seen all too rarely. This clever bundling of experiences is what comes to mind when in the presence of Jon Eiseman’s bronze sculptures. His whimsical compositions of boats, birds and lone figures immediately cast one’s imagination out to sea — towards the solitary shores of coastal Tasmania, where the artist often resides.

A harmony of playful qualities amongst the sombre, Eiseman’s art appears to balance on the tension between life and death, personified through dreamlike landscapes. “I’m attracted to, what some would say is magic realism, for others surrealism—things that are very unusual,” the artist explains. “To get those strange ideas through your mind and to see them unfolding from a lump of wax, coming into a finished work to me is a magical process.”

Eiseman’s sculptures grapple with the space between the conscious and unconscious—symbolically exploring the ways in which we engage with truly being alive and, conversely, how to contemplate death. “There’s a lot of reference to a spiritual journey. The spiritual journey happens while you’re alive, because of the unknown factor that there could be an afterlife,” says the artist. A raw, ephemeral quality is also at play on Eiseman’s bronze stage, the primordial notion of soul-searching, “I think we all find ourselves over time in one way or another, whether it’s through nature or the work that you do. It’s part of a self-discovery.”


Jon Eiseman, 'Shifting Landscape' 2016

Jon Eiseman, ‘Shifting Landscape’ 2016


Even with the desire to be an artist from a very young age, Eiseman began his art practice as an adult with substantial life experience behind him. “Art was always an undercurrent and then, life takes over. You have children, you get diverted,” the artist reflects. “It was when I went to New Zealand for a couple of years — we bought an old school bus and travelled around—and I saw the Maori art, which was so powerful. When I returned to Australia I started carving wood, and that brought back all of those creative ideas and I kept going from there.”

Echoed by his own life story, Eiseman’s delicately patinated bronzes capture the essence of a universally understood longing for meaning. While typically small in stature, these poetic sculptures suggest a landscape as vast as a starless sky, often centred around a sole contemplative figure making his connection with nature. This rich layering is featured in works such as Searching for my Soul (2015), presenting a man drifting towards an otherworldly structure, which houses an intriguing cast of a women’s face—a suggestive symbol, tantalisingly offering thoughts about mother nature, God and one’s soul-mate. The creative process itself seems to be a spiritual experience for the artists, saying, “When I’m in my workshop and I sit out there for hours moulding wax, my brain drifts into a meditative state.”


Jon Eiseman, 'Searching for my Soul' 2016

Jon Eiseman, ‘Searching for my Soul’ 2016


An art school veteran—having worked at Monash University in the sculpture department for ten years after completing his Master of Fine Arts—Eiseman knows the ins and outs of the art game and is no stranger to discipline, “When I was a student I was first in and last out,” he says. “I was very driven. At one stage I was even looking around to see if there was a place that I could sleep overnight in order to get in earlier to work. It was a very intense and passionate time for me.”

Represented by Flinders Lane Gallery, Eiseman now dedicates himself to his sculptural practice full time. “I think being an artist is one of the hardest things you could possibly do,” he says. “It’s tough on relationships, finances, lifestyle… but it’s damn rewarding at the same time on a deeper level. I don’t think, once you’re into it, that you can really leave. You’re there one way or another, in various degrees, for the rest of your life, which is exciting—There is no retirement plan for art.”

Jon Eiseman, 'The-Coming-Storm' 2016

Jon Eiseman, ‘The Coming Storm’ 2016


LINKS: Flinders Lane Gallery, Jon Eiseman Instagram