Several years ago we visited the strange and wonderful Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, began building in the 1920s and spent 30 years quietly crafting giant steel, cement and found-object-mosaic structures in his garden. 60 years later his monuments of junk are still admired by thousands of people every year.
Last week I met a local gardener whose preoccupation with junk has also produced a quirky back yard, and I’d like to encourage more Australians and overseas visitors to seek it out.
Antares Iron Art Garden is situated in the back roads of Victorian gold country and was a barren, rubbish-strewn wasteland of stinging nettles and weeds when Roger moved in six years ago. The hundred-year-old cottage still has no electricity or mod-cons of any kind, but Roger’s calm perseverance and eye for beauty has slowly transformed the property into an intriguing destination.
In his hands old hand-forged metal, broken glass, rusted machinery, rough sticks and local stones form intricate patterns and whimsical shapes that change with the light and the weather. On windy days the garden even chimes with eerie music.
Surprisingly, nothing in the garden is fixed and Roger can rearrange all the pieces whenever the mood takes him. Patterns change and collections expand as each new piece finds a loving home.
It’s also fascinating to talk to the artist behind the junk. Roger is a warm, sensitive character with a natural sense of playfulness and fun. Each piece has a name and a story, and he absolutely loves to share his creations, and his passion for discarded materials, with visitors of all ages.
Photos can give you a hint of what’s here but you really need to stand before each strange installation, or sit quietly behind the chain curtains in Roger’s big, handmade chairs, to truly see this place. Bring some friends, head to the country and experience something new.
ADDRESS: 56 Punt Road, corner Brandt Street and Punt Road, Newstead, Victoria. (Google maps currently only shows Brandt St which is the way I went. Drive until you see sculptures everywhere and you can’t miss it.)
PHONE: Roger McKindley 0447 229 149
OPEN HOURS: At the time of writing the garden is open by appointment or for set hours during local festivals. Don’t let that put you off. Roger’s words to me were, “I want the world to come.” Just give him a call and arrange a time to visit.