High Jinks and Sam Jinks

A while ago two of my sons and I drove 2 hours to get to the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) to catch the exhibition by sculptor Sam Jinks.

 It was quite an excursion for a 4-year-old, a 4-month-old and 400-year- old Mummy (I hadn’t had much sleep).

It was a beautiful day.  A smooth grey sky was high overhead. And the temperature was mild.

As we drove, playing shape eye spy

 Max and I marvelled at the perfectly still reflection of the world on Lake Nillahcootie’

“Mum it looks like a mirror you can step through and then be in another world”

“It does. Beautiful isn’t it.”

We marveled at the smooth peach trunks of a boulevard of gums outside Benalla.

“Mum they look like skin, like real human skin”

“They do Max. Beautiful aren’t they”

“And the foldy bits look like when you bend your arm…”

“Don’t they! They look like they’d feel all soft and squidgy…. but…”

“… really they are  hard trunks of trees!”

“Yup, Max. These things are called illusions. When something tricks your eye….

It was an appropriate conversation to be having before we went to the exhibition.

Because Sam’s work is all about tricks of the eye.

It is so detailed and so realistic that one can feel a little heady as the brain and the eye grapple with making sense of  what they are experiencing.

His work is touching and serene.

I found it difficult to avoid comparing Sam’s work with fellow Australian Hyperrealist sculptor Ron Mueck.

Ron’s work uses scale to emphasise the foreign and alien in the familiar. But Sam’s work, generally a little smaller and diminutive then in ‘real life’, puts the emphasis on the private and the vulnerable.

Compare how the two artists sculpted a newborn: Ron’s is giant and mildly grotesque (on the right).  Sam’s is small, slight and tender. Both are beautiful.

When I walked around Ron’s exhibition I was enamoured with how small I felt and how my sense of sight was being twisted by the shifting proportions of these very life like models.

As I walked around Sam’s I felt I was intruding in some very private moments. Like I shouldn’t talk or I’d wake the baby and that I was a voyeur on these reserved people.

Sam’s work is laced with symbol, tattoo’s and poses that mimic Christian stories. The gestures of his characters, though understated, seem slightly exaggerated to enhance the emotive message of the piece. For instance the finger’s of the male who holds the old and fragile body of a naked man dig into the invalid’s flesh in a slightly exaggerated manner. Stressing the need, the cling, and the weakness of the flesh.

Vulnerability was the strongest emotion I took from the exhibition.

Frail, pale characters in different stages of life.

Silent and symbolic

Still, passive and dwarfed by us the clunky noisy viewer.

It was disconcerting and technically amazing.

Well worth the 2 hour drive

Max enjoyed the experience and my budding art buff as usual knew all the right things to say…

This is fascinating, Mummy”

“Yes Max, indeed it is”

“Can we go to the skatepark now Mummy?”


  1. loved this post. I have seen RM’s exhibitions a few times and love the little old ladies, so frail, so beady-eyed, so accurate, especially compared to the giant baby or hairy arsed man. I would have really liked to see Sam Jinks to see how different they feel when observing and taking it in. – lovely blog btw – emily xx

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