Artist: John Kelly
Location: Hampshire Road, Sunshine
Man lifting cow is a monumental bronze sculpture by renowned artist John Kelly. John emigrated from Ireland to Australia with his family. He grew up in Sunshine before going on to international artistic acclaim.
John’s large cow works are in part a homage to the work of another Australian artist William Dobell. The elongated neck of the cow is a reference to Dobell’s 1943 portrait of Joshua Smith. The portrait was surrounded in controversy when after winning the Archibald prize, it was challenged on the grounds of being a caricature. While Dobell won the case, it set the scene for the many Archibald prize controversies that followed.
During the Second World War Dobell is believed to have made papier-mâché cows to camouflage military bases from enemy aircraft overhead. Having come across this reference John developed his own works in response.
John’s focus on Dobell’s World War II efforts is particularly relevant to Brimbank as the home of a major munitions factory during the Second World War. The sculptural form of the man lifting cow, alludes to the physicality of hard work and labour which is a subtle reference to the industrial history of Sunshine. Additionally, the cow acknowledges the area’s connection to Australia’s agricultural industry.