The last time Alex Pentek was mentioned in these pages (Spring 2014 p8), he had just secured a commission for a giant violin cast in Corten steel to be partially submerged on a bank of the N5 Longford bypass. Now he has moved on to a much larger commission for the City of Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia with a budget of €220,000. The city is due to host the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and is also creating a massive Cultural Precinct. Pentek’s installation of four stainless-steel ferns, called Urban Oasis, standing eleven metres tall at each corner of the intersection of the wonderfully named Surfers Paradise Boulevard and Elkhorn Avenue in the city centre is complemented by a series of ground panels. The artwork is an impression of the shield fern which once grew in profusion at this location when it was an aboriginal rain forest.
Pentek’s submission was finally chosen which must have been quite exceptional as the other final four were all Australian
The Hungarian-born, Crawford-qualified and Cork-based Pentek has completed several major projects over the past few years including his Kindred Spirits in Midleton, County Cork where feathers rather than ferns are the soaring symbols of his creation. In his Forget Me Not for Belfast City Cemetery in 2015, it was the flowers of that name that inspired his constructions, again in steel. But his Australian commission is the biggest and the most difficult from every point of view that he has undertaken so far.
An international competition for the work started out online, as these things do nowadays, with a detailed brief under the direction of the jury chairperson Robyn Archer. Pentek studied the site from Cork using Google earth maps and developed the concept through SketchUp software. There were fifty submissions in the competition from which a short list of five emerged. Pentek’s submission was finally chosen which must have been quite exceptional as the other final four were all Australian. As with all his steel projects, Urban Oasis will be cast at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork and shipped in two containers via Rotterdam, Singapore and Brisbane to be erected in far-off City of Gold Coast well before the start of the Commonwealth Games in 2018. An international, Cork-based achievement in 2016. Reminds one of the Donovan brothers! JM