The Story of Ascalon
On 15 June 2009, after a 12-month submission and selection process, the Dean and Chapter of St George’s Cathedral commissioned Marcus Canning and Christian de Vietri to create a contemporary sculpture on the theme of St George and the Dragon for the Cathedral grounds.
The commission was made possible by a generous donation to the Cathedral Arts Foundation, which was earmarked for the project. The donor, Mark Creasy, pledged $500,000 to enable Canning and de Vietri’s design to be realized as an 18-metre artwork.
Named Ascalon after the lance used by St George to slay the dragon, the artwork aims “to evoke a sense of righteous power and victory over a force of darkness and oppression."
The Dean, Dr John Shepherd, praised Mark Creasy for his vision and generosity:
“Private funding has enabled us to keep the parameters as wide as possible,” he said. “The only guideline was the theme of St George and the Dragon.
“Above all, we looked for a work that would give permission to imagine, to stimulate fresh insights into the mystery of good, evil, life – something that stimulated in us a sense of transcendence, something we could turn like a diamond in our mind, and see new implications for living – a spiritual stimulus.”
West Australians Canning and de Vietri competed for the award against 98 other submissions from 17 countries.
The expert selection panel included Gary Dufour, Deputy Director of the Art Gallery of WA; Amy Barrett-Lennard, Director of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art; John Moody, Chair of the Cathedral Restoration Task Force; Dr John Shepherd; and Mark Creasy.
The artwork will be installed over a period of several weeks, starting with the lance and billow July/August. The black mass and lighting will be installed along with new Cathedral landscaping and floodlighting later in the year, at which point Ascalon will be officially ‘unveiled’ and the light switched on.
Background to the Commission
The St George and the Dragon Public Artwork Commission began with a call for submissions in July 2008, in search of a contemporary representation of the theme of St George and the Dragon.
The Commission attracted international attention, with arts organizations around the world watching its progress.
In February 2009, the expert selection panel announced a shortlist of ten designs, which included artists from Australia, the US, Canada, the UK and Belgium. Three of the shortlisted designs were by WA artists.
People’s Choice voting attracted around 4,300 votes in the first round and over 2,000 votes in the second round, which focused only on the shortlisted designs.
The People’s Choice Award went to Gil Bruvel. The people’s second choice was Ascalon, by Marcus Canning and Christian de Vietri, chosen by the selection panel to receive the Commission, which was awarded on 15 June 2009 by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.
This decision marks an important moment for Perth public art and for the two WA artists, given the strong international competition. Canning and de Vietri were both schooled in WA and first collaborated in 2001 when Marcus curated Christian’s work, (in)security, as part of Tactical Intervention Strategies (T.I.S) at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art.
Christian is currently based in New York. He has been working independently as an artist since 2000 and has exhibited his work internationally.
Marcus’s art practice has run parallel for the last decade with his professional appointments as a producer, director, curator, manager and designer of various cultural programmes and enterprises. He has been executive director of ARTRAGE Inc. since 2002.
The Dedication of Ascalon
At 5.00pm on Sunday 3 April 2011, a Solemn Evensong was held to celebrate the completion of the Cathedral's forecourt and the installation of Ascalon. The Lord Mayor of Perth, The Right Honourable Lisa Scaffidi, officially opened the new steps leading to St Georges Terrace. The Dean of Perth, The Very Reverend Dr John Shepherd, blessed the new statue.