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Garden Design

Book review – Wombarra Sculpture Garden

Bernard Chapman

Bernard Chapman

June 12, 2012

WOMBARRA SCULPTURE GARDEN by Gaby Porter Black Duck Press

Gaby Porter is a well known Australian sculptor, who works with fascinating and varied materials to
create extraordinary works of art. 
Her work contains great humour, rhythm, and they often have a sensuous character. Although most of her work is found in Australia, she has also had some significant international success, too.

Although she has been sculpting for decades, in 1997, with her husband, John Haymes, Gaby bought land at Wombarra, near Wollongong, and began to develop a natural environment in which to showcase her sculpture.

One of the many pathways through Gaby Porter’s Wombarra Sculpture Garden rainforest. Photograph Sharon Hickey

Part of this process involved the removal of many exotic plants such as camellias and clivia, which previous owners had introduced, so that Gaby and John could return the site to one more in keeping with how it would have been originally. However, it was not a matter of slavishly trying to recreate the past (although plants, birds and animals have all returned with the work done) but the rain forest is enhanced by steps, paths, bridges, and, of course, the sculptures, which really bring the garden to life!

The garden is a testament to the artist Gaby is. It is her own work, not just in design, but in the hard slog of physically sculpting the site into the garden it is today.

The sculptures within the garden are not all Gaby’s work, although most are. Her sculptures tend to be large, which suits the scale of the site, although there are often intimate moments, too, where a small

‘Lucy’ (Hebel and cement) by Gaby Porter, photograph Sharon Hickey

sculpture interacts with the root of a tree or a flurry of bracken fern. The nature of the garden also aids the sculpture by creating natural framing of the works.

With John she has produced a beautiful book about the garden. It is a wonderful pictorial record of how the garden presents at this time. Gaby has been lucky to have found a photographer like Sharon Hickey, who has captured the sculptures at Wombarra, but also has presented them beautifully in their context – the lovely, lush rainforest. The book design by Karen Jeffery is also complimentary to Gaby’s philosophy and art works.

‘Two Birds’ (ceramic) by Gaby Porter, photograph by Sharon Hickey

Detail from ‘Sanctum’ (carved limestone) by Gaby Porter, photograph Sharon Hickey







Wombarra Sculpture Garden is a book worth buying both for professionals such as landscape designers, but also for the home gardener, as it shows how sculpture can be used in the garden to compliment and embellish what is already there. Regardless of whether it actually inspires someone to use sculpture in their own garden, the book will give anyone who looks at it enormous pleasure, such is the delicious nature of Gaby’s work!

Gaby Porter at work, Wombarra Sculpture Garden. Photograph Sharon Hickey

[Editor’s note: CONGRATULATIONS to Gaby Porter who has just been awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM General Division) for “service to the visual arts as a sculptor, author and educator”. A well-deserved gong for the talented lady from the ‘Gong]

You can see more of Gaby’s work at Wombarra Sculpture Garden and at Sculptors Gallery


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