Ilona Herreiner and her sculpture titled ‘Time to Fly’ with Paul-Thomas Hicks, grandson of the late George Hicks, representing the George Hicks Foundation.
Photograph by Ron Smith OAM HON VAS, VAS Councillor
After discovering that studying Science of Religion and Social Science was not for her, Ilona studied Wood Sculpting for three years, followed by another six years of Bachelor and Master’s studies in Fine Arts. She then began working as artist with numerous exhibitions in Galleries, Museums, and Art Fairs such as Art Basel, Art Cologne, and The Armory Show New York. As a single mother, this was not always easy and required a great deal of creativity and, above all, trust in life itself.
It took a few years for Ilona to decide to leave her intense life as an artist in Europe and move to Australia to live with her partner, but in 2019 the time had come, and she moved from Berlin to Melbourne.
In a similar vein to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, whose heroes are linked by perpetual change and compelled by the psychological, Ilona’s sculptures are connected by the act of mythical transformation. It is Ilona’s perception of intermediate or parallel worlds, where her archetypal figures connect and interact with each other, which drives her creativity.
'In Between' by Ilona Herreiner
Poplar Tree, Oil Colour
'Out of Frame' by Ilona Herreiner
Clay, Wood, Oil Colour
As the descendant of many generations of foresters, Ilona grew up surrounded by woods and often accompanied her father, a trained carpenter, on his daily visits to the forest. She followed the paths of the deer’s, helped to provide feed for them and assisted her father in the construction of deer stands. Ilona learned the trees needed to be cared for, in order for them to flourish there had to be a balance between logging and reforestation. She smelled the seasons, tasted the fruits, and watched the animals. It was in the forest Ilona experienced both living and dying. And if, perhaps, she glimpsed an elf or heard a root troll giggle, it seemed only natural for this to happen in the forest where fairy tales and fables began. So it was that, Ilona discovered, what has remained her theme throughout her artistic career—transformation.
Ilona’s characters live through their transformation. (Or: Transformation breathes life into Ilona’s characters.) We encounter them in the moment of their change; in between one entity and the other, no longer the original but not yet the new. These characters are sometimes half-human, half-animal; occasionally they resemble plants. Children appear to be old, and elders regain their youth. As with Ovid’s tales, Ilona’s characters sometimes face ordeals, or must confront their own transition. They often are quietly comical in nature, these characters who strive to be everything to everyone.
Over the years Ilona has built an alternative world which exists beyond the real world where we live. It is strange, but at the same time familiar; a world where things mix, where nothing stays in place. It is a world where animals, plants, machines, and humans unite and commingle and we have to ask ourselves, 'If it is so difficult to figure out where one begins and the other ends, can we really continue to believe in the barriers that separate us?'
In terms of art history, she is drawn to surrealism and the social realism of the 19th century. These two movements are attempts to portray social reality in a time of dramatic change. The Surrealists dealt with the latest technologies in photography and psychoanalysis in ways that went beyond reproducing the objective appearance of reality, in an attempt to reach their subjective core. Humour, emotions, and strangeness played an essential role for the work.
Art means encountering new places. Displaying the world we know, but in a way that we may not have imagined. We face mental and physical issues of imprisonment and freedom and are challenged to question the notion of free will and determinism.
Ilona wants the viewer to think, but she believes they cannot think without feeling. She is interested in creating an experience with multiple levels where wonder and amazement lead to reflection and insight.
We would like to pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land on which our building stands, their leaders, past, present and emerging.