Thursday, 13 October 2016

‘Fallen,’ by Sam Harrison


Fallen, Sam Harrison; concrete, pigment & wax
Wallace Arts Trust

It’s always a thrill to stumble upon something as good as this in a place you never expected, in a collection you’ve never admired by an artist you’ve never heard of. But here it is!

I came across this last Sunday at the Pah Homestead Gallery in Auckland which, other than this, is at present mostly full up with piles of junk.

But this – this is very far from that.

, Sam Harrison; concrete, pigment & wax
Wallace Arts Trust

I know nothing about the sculptor other than what I’ve read here (and I wonder whether it may be moulded from life?) but I would like to learn much more about him and his other work.



  1. I have to disagree with you. While it's certainly not junk, the cringing pose--preparing for disaster but incapable of opposing it--suggests a view of life I find antithetical to mine.

    It's not just this piece, either. I'm reminded of numerous other works of art of similar nature. Christ in the Garden has that sort of feel--many Christians I know love it because it shows a god brought low. A lot of Christian iconography is like that. I also once saw a table made out of a sheet of glass placed over a dragon (my favorite fantasy animal). My wife thought I'd love it, but honestly my only desire was to smash it. The dragon was limp, head lowered, limbs stiff and languid; its body was fine, but its spirit was broken.

    In contrast, there's an Irish ballad titled Leis an Lurrighan (find the Scatter the Mud version if possible!) which features a captain of a ship fighting a storm almost certain to destroy the ship. The captain is defiant, crying "Those that courage would flee/Let him go down below" (the music makes the defiance much more clear). That is, in my view, the proper approach to disaster: you may not win, but there is such a thing as going down fighting!

    1. Hi Dinwar, yes, I concur that art portaying defiance in the face of disaster is more in my line too (and your ballad sounds a great one, I must track it down). But seeing art this good in the place I found it was a rare find -- even if you and I don't concur with its sense of life.

      But don't we? I agree the pose looks like it's flinching from inevitable disaster (and while I could say that's certainly the way any decent person *should* feel in the face of events like the present election, that would be a journalistic value judgement and art is *supposed* to be about the metaphysical).

      But it's not inevitable that such a pose appears thus however: Rodin's 'Fallen Caryatid' is a great example, as Robert Heinlein describes it:

      "'For three thousand years architects designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures. At last Rodin pointed out that this was work too heavy for a girl. He didn’t say, ‘Look, you jerks, if you must do this, make it a brawny male figure.’ No, he showed it. This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl-look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods…and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

      “But she’s more than good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage, […] and victory.


      “Victory in defeat; there is none higher. She didn’t give up[…]; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father working while cancer eats away his insides, to bring home one more pay check. She’s a twelve-year old trying to mother her brothers and sisters because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her post while smoke chokes her and fire cuts off her escape. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit."

      —Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1961)

      Now, I don't say that this is the Fallen Caryatid, or that Mr Harrison is Rodin. But I do say that this piece conveys the scale of feeling and wisdom Heinlein perceives in the Fallen Caryatid, and that makes it good art.

      Given the opportunity, I would happily commission him.


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