Alumni News

Suspended in space

Steven Cybulka

Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours)
Gabrielle Todd

Changing Spaces, Particle Board, Acrylic paint, Spray Paint, Dimensions variable, Adelaide Festival Centre, 2014


Former builder Steven Cybulka has enjoyed a dream run into a new career as a sculptor. Less than 12 months after gaining first class Honours in Visual Art he is on his third commission in Bandung, West Java.

In his third public art commission Steven is developing a collaborative sculpture project with West Java artist Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo to symbolise the importance of the close artistic and cultural ties established between West Java and South Australia.

This artwork to be prominently located in front of Government House, will embody the concept of “sound passage”, an interactive metal sculpture with sound as the main element. The renewal of the Sister State Memorandum of Understanding in September 2015 at the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide has led to a reinvigorating of cultural and trade ties between the two regions.

The site for the work was unveiled on 3 April 2017 by the West Java Governor, Ahmad Heryawan, and the South Australian Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith. The site is in a long corridor of parkland that stretches from the front of the old Dutch colonial building, a significant gathering space for the Bandung people over time, having been a site for protests and more recently a food market.

“It was really important that the artwork wasn‘t going to interfere with the way people were using the space, nor interrupt the view along the corridor,” says Steven.

Steven’s West Java collaborator, Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo, is a Bandung-born painter who studied at the Bandung Institute of Technology and the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He has worked with different media, including industrial materials, and pigmented resin has become his signature medium.

Steven first went to Bandung to meet Arin in December 2016 and after choosing a location for the work, they returned home to work separately on ideas.

“It was interesting to see our similar creative processes and the similarities in the artists and art that we both appreciate,” says Steven.

During several visits to Bandung this year working in Arin’s large studio, the two have been able to collaborate to a produce an interactive sculpture in materials outside their usual medium.

“Arin wanted the sculpture to have an educational element so the work is interactive. It uses metals true to the traditional Sundanese instruments of West Java and which replicate notes from traditional musical scale when struck.”

Steven’s links with Indonesia date back 15 years, having visited there on surfing holidays since the age of 20, and through regular visits to help his friend who runs a surf camp on the island of Sumatra. Steven’s familiarity with Indonesian culture, coupled with his experience with public art and his work at the Adelaide Festival Centre, made him a front-running candidate for the West Java project, which is being managed by the Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival.

He originally trained as a carpenter and spent many years in the building industry before being given the option to take over the home improvement business where he was working. Back problems and a waning interest in building work led to doubts about his long term future in the industry, and at the age of 27 Steven went overseas to rethink his future.

Steven had an interest in art and has been drawing since a young age, so he decided to go to art school and enrolled in TAFE SA’s Adelaide College of the Arts in Light Square.

With his building experience and knowledge of how to use the tools, sculpture was a natural fit, so Steven chose that as his major and “ended up falling in love with it.”

He says that all the things he had learned in the building trade, including his inherent knowledge of form, lines, and space, translated into the creative process and he harboured a growing interest in the way people use space. He went on to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia, completing in 2013.

He then applied for – and won – a residency as the inaugural South Australian Living Arts Festival (SALA) Adelaide Festival Centre Artist in Residence 2014. The five month residency was to make and present work inside Festival Centre.

“The building is heritage-listed, so finding a location for the work was a bit of a challenge,” Steven says, adding that the Dunstan Playhouse was finally settled upon as a location. (pictured above).

The installation, made up of wooden geometric shapes, responds to the energy, atmosphere, and physical structure of the building – one of Adelaide’s architectural landmarks – has remained as a permanent artwork.

Transition...109, GRC Coating, Steel, 3000mm x 1500mm x 1500mm, 2015. Image courtesy of Adelaide City Council. Photographer Steven Rendoulis

Transition...109, GRC Coating, Steel, 3000mm x 1500mm x 1500mm, 2015. Image courtesy of Adelaide City Council. Photographer Steven Rendoulis

In 2014 he was also accepted into Honours in Visual Arts at UniSA, which he completed over two years. During that time, as well as the SALA residency, he held a small exhibition at The Mill in Adelaide, had a solo show in Feltspace, staged a performance piece at Splendour in the Grass festival with friend Tom Borgas, and won his first commission.

“In 2015 whilst still studying I was awarded a commission from Adelaide City Council to develop a public work in at Ergo Apartments in Sturt Street. That was the first major public work I had put in an expression of interest for, so I was pretty happy to be just shortlisted,” says Steven, who won the $55,000 commission to develop art work (pictured).

Steven achieved first class Honours in Visual Art at UniSA, graduating in July 2016, and was invited to be involved in Primavera 2016: Young Australian Artists exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, 2016.

Steven will make two more trips to Bandung to work with Arin to complete the Passage of Sound sculpture before it is unveiled in November 2017.

In the meantime Steven has a commission for SA Power Networks – together with two emerging artists, Clancy Warner and Bianca Kennedy – for a work made with recycled materials to be installed in front of its head office on Anzac Highway.

Both he and Arin are preparing for separate exhibitions in Sydney in 2018.

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