About gregbanfield

Enjoying the art of sculpting, mostly using timber, copper and mild steel. Add this to cycling and tennis, makes for a good life in a great part of Australia.

Sonthofen – love and witches

 15 – 18th May 2014 ….. To get there from our start point, Plzen, a scenic train trip through Cheb, Nurnberg, Buchloe and Kempten … attractive towns and cities, but none that quite matched the beauty and friendliness of our destination, Sonthofen, with Emilly as our wonderful host. We could sense as soon as we met –  Love is in the Air.DSCN2645  Em met us at the station, tears streamed after long hugs (this is Em with Jenny, not Jack); it was really nice to see her after some years ago when she stayed with us in Oz.  And yes – a man Jack (Yurgen) has entered her life.

Sonthofen is beautiful, at the foot of the Alps not far from Austria, Bavarian as Bavaria can be, icey streams, cobbled walkways through the town, scrumptious markets (this is Jack & I at the strawberry stall – you wouldn’t have guessed this would you?)DSCN2706and picturebook mountainous landscape.  Add this to a modern town with rich cultural and strong economic foundations, it was an unforgetable visit.

The town has great shopping for shoes and sports apparel.  We were a tad short of both so it was timely.  The guys at the bike shop were also most helpful, providing the best cycles we managed to get in 7 weeks of many hirings.

Amongst the many unique festivals one is the Egga-Play.  Culturally illustrating the importance of agriculture, it symbolizes the struggle of the people with the elements of nature. The actors all have large carved wooden masks and figures represent the following: farmer and his wife, son, daughter, servant, maid, horse, cow,  cat, dog, pig, rooster and billy goat. IMG_2322The game starts with a parade of the participants through the city to the market place before it ends before its hall.   Transformed into a farm with a field, the farmer, the farmer’s wife, servant and maid start tilling the field. But there comes the “witch” in between and mixes all up. It makes the cattle shy and spoil the food. Finally, a big witch hunt begins on until the witch is captured and imprisoned.

It is a thoughtful town.

fancy underwear from bavaria

fancy underwear from Bavaria

The public art illustrates its concern for the world, the strength of religion and also the artfulness in underwear!

family world

family world

The beauty though is massively enhanced by the backdrop of mountains and that clean, crisp, fresh air (Em and I on mountain bikes).DSCN2796

On the way we came upon the most amazing collection of sculptures and collectables.  It is on the way up the mountain from town, a collection of so much it is impossible to describe – he has created a world of how things were, might be, are.  A couple of photos does no justice, a book would do no justice!

Thanks Em.


Monday – a comment on Geoff Koons


One has to love the work done by Geoff Koons outside the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Sydney – Puppy


This is a wonderful expression of art living with the community.

Plzen Synagogue statement

A wonderful small bronze and sandstone piece that so vividly describes the battle of developing the synagogue, and recognition of a culture, within this town and region.  The Jewish faith abounds with these stories of oppression and meeting challenges.  One cannot help but admire these achievements, but in the same light it shows ho it is part of human nature to strike out at achievers and those that do things a little differently.

This piece is in the Plzen synagogue (May 2014) along with other small bronzes, equally expressive of the then and now.  This piece is only about 500mm high in total, the figure about 200mm, but the lines of the body express strongly that defiance and will of mind.  A memorable piece.

pushing up hill

pushing up hill

It is becoming quite common for places of worship to display modern art that expresses the history of the culture associates with the supporting culture.  For me this has become an improvement, helping to explain the background, purpose, place.



Plzen – Skoda, Pilsner Urquell ….. strong culture


Plzen - Skoda, Pilsener Urquell ..... strong culture

Since their period of oppression (during 2nd World War to 1989 when Russians left) photos and word-of-mouth indicates to me the cleanup and progress has been massive. Even though no-one would have liked to be in the Czech’s shoes during this period, it does seem to have given them great drive to achieve, what could be seen as an advantage in Europe … they are not just working for money, but also to prove what Czech can achieve, how productive they can be and how strong a culture they have.
This photo of Techmania in the Skoda precinct is indicative of the targets being set and the investment being made in education and research. Technology and science are foremost in the Czech future.

A wonderful piece of public art by David Cerny is housed in this building – a statement on each European nation.

Plzen camel


Plzen camel

One of 4 public art pieces in namesti repiublicka (city centre square). This one represents the camel in the Plzen coat of arms, the other 3 being the saint, the greyhound and a religious emblem. The camel, greyhound & saint are all gold plate water features, command attention and motivate the question “what do they represent?” Their size, scale and joyful nature seem to accurately represent the way in which Plzen is going about their business of creating a cultural centre.

Apple & Pear


Apple & Pear

winner of People’s Choice, Sculpture By The Bay 2011, this piece represents the problems that have all but destroyed a vibrant apple & pear industry in Australia. A policy of Free Trade adopted by the Australian Government whilst other countries subsidise their farmers and impose tariffs on the import of our products. The unfair trading field has left the apples and pears swinging in the breeze whilst retailers pick and choose from around the world.
Made from recycled bicycle parts, driftwood, paper mache and fibreglass; by Greg Banfield