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Parts for art's sake

galleryIt's a long way from a Queensland car wrecking yard to the art galleries of Europe and the US. But that's the journey ex-wrecker James Corbett has taken with his artworks created from old car parts.

Corbett turns scrap metal parts into whimsical and engaging sculptures that have earned him an international reputation over the past decade.

An exhibition opening in Sydney this week is the latest in a recent string that includes the UK and US -- with France also on the plan -- and see collectors snapping up pieces for as much as $25,000.

Corbett's best known for his animal sculptures -- and his ability to transform a pile of old parts into creatures infused with life and personality. But his race cars and bikes also strike a strong chord with fans, and are among the subjects he takes most delight in creating.

"I probably most enjoy creating sculptures of the fantastic early Jules Vern-like pre WWI racers like the 'Blitzen Benz' - things I wish I could own in real life," Corbett says. "But I also really enjoy creating dog sculptures.  I like to try and capture their personalities ... and their shapes can be so different."

But Corbett says dogs pose particular difficulties as a subject. "Everyone is familiar with how a dog sits, stands and displays its moods -- so for me as an artist there is no hiding.  If you have it right the dog will look incredibly alive, if you're a bit off with any aspect, everyone can see it."

However dogs are not the most challenging creatures he's tackled, Corbett says.  "Owls are the hardest.  It's incredibly difficult to get their intense eyes just right." In addition to future exhibitions both here and overseas, Corbett says he'd like to venture into books.

"I'm happy with what I've achieved to this point, but I feel sure that there are much bigger things to come.  I'm just not sure where or how as yet.

"I would like to find the time to write an unpretentious book that displays my work and describes what it's like to accidentally become an artist.  I'd like to see this in the high school libraries.  I get an amazing number of emails from students studying art in all parts of the world, wanting information for assignments.

"One wrote me that they were critiquing my work in art class at the University of Miami, Florida - that just astounded me," he says.

James Corbett's exhibition opens at the Michael Commerford Gallery, 68 New South Head Road, Edgecliff on May 30.

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott