Rod Dudley – Sculptor/Painter
Queenscliff resident Rod Dudley grew up in suburban Melbourne. After leaving school in the 1950s he worked in a variety of jobs in the city and country, as well as doing National Service.
He then trained to be a Secondary Art and Craft Teacher and taught at Bairnsdale and Camberwell High and at Wesley College. He immediately found he loved art, especially making sculpture. In the early 60s, when the art world was going through a rather confusing period with the arrival of total abstraction, he realised he wished to explore figurative art in Italy. He received a scholarship to attend Milan’s Brera Academy to study under the great modern sculptor, Marino Marini.
“I arrived in Milan in 1965 and got on very well with the people there and enjoyed the work. I realized that in Northern Italy it’s possible to find artisans to help with the process – bronze casting is much cheaper than in Australia, and workers with wood copying machines are available when you need them,” explained Rod. “I started to show my work in Holland and Germany and had regular exhibitions in cities like Rome and Milan.
There were good times and lean times, but with my wife Christina’s help with teaching English we managed to cover our family’s living expenses.”
Rod and Christina lived almost full time in Italy until the late 90s (coming back to Australia for a month or two at Christmas) and then in 1998 they bought a cottage in Queenscliff. Rod had always been in love with the town and Christina had con-nections from way back. They now spend alternate six months in Italy and Australia experiencing a year of permanent summers.”Figurative sculpture is a difficult ‘line’ to be in (unless it’s ‘classic’ realism) and it’s even harder when the works are so unique, but in Europe they are recognised as such and I have many enthusiastic collectors there and in the Borough.”
Rod has his work in a number of Australian Collections, including his ‘Tall Ladies’ at the Adelaide Festival Theatre, and his ‘Anzac Soldiers’ in the collection of the National War Memorial Gallery in Canberra. Rod’s works have been acquired by Elton John and Milan’s fashion designers like Missoni and Krizia. His London Gallery showed his sculptures in the 70s at all the European Art Fairs, and he is possibly the only Australian artist to have had a one-man show at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
Rod’s wood medium is Lebanon Cedar which is plentiful in the sub-alpine region where he lives. He combines wood with bronze, and models clay and fibreglass. He sells his paintings to collectors all over Italy and enjoys doing portraits of friends.
Rod and Christina live 60 kilometres from Milan and Rod’s studio is a big factory space near the town of Gavirate on Lake Varese where the AIS has built a massive sports facility for Australian rowers and other athletes.
They enjoy a busy lifestyle on the Italian Lakes in Lombardy – a region not especially famed for its cuisine, except for its famed ‘risotto’ but just across Lake Maggiore is Piedmont where the food and wine is fabulous. There is also a large English speaking ex-patriot community around Varese, with an International women’s club, an English Theatre company, book groups and Art groups.
A sprightly 84, Rod’s passion for his art continues. “I’m semi-retired. I still have my studio space in Italy and we live in the house we have rented there for 40 years. I have found I can do modelling here in Australia, make a fibreglass copy and fly it back to be cast and finished in Italy.”
Rod described how a return to full time pursuit of his art in Australia would be difficult. “In Italy I have a large network of contacts in the world of the many artisans who work in and around Varese and Milan. Whole families work in dozens of towns, with workshops in and around their homes. They might be casting in bronze, working in wood or manufacturing in plastic. Their businesses are small and one can have immediate contact with the ever-present owner who has an instinctive understanding and hands on knowledge of what needs to be done and willing to work long hours to finish a job.”
At present Rod’s sculptures are on display locally at Seaview Gallery and at the Papermill Gallery, Fyansford.