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Trying to solve the mystery of Hal Holman’s wingless fairy

Hal Holman's inscription on the sculptureKEITH JACKSON

LORENGAU – Occasionally I receive an email that truly surprises me, and Friday was one of those times.

Edin Corr, a regular PNG Attitude reader currently in Lorengau, wrote telling of a person from Sori Island off the north coast of Manus who had turned up with a mysterious bronze sculpture.

Edin examined the sculpture and found inscribed the sculptor’s name (right). It was a work of Hal Holman, who died last year leaving a rich legacy of sculpture and painting, much of it part of the modern artistic heritage of Papua New Guinea.

“I was pleasantly surprised to come across this bronze piece by such a renowned artist,” wrote Edin, who then went on to tell me the remarkable story of its discovery.

Bronze fairy (front)“About two weeks ago an elderly local lady was having a swim at Sori Island passage when she noticed a reflection of something at the bottom of the sea, about two metres down.

“She dove down and recovered this sculpture, which stands about 24 cm high and weighs 23.5 kg.”

Edin thought that PNG Attitude might be able to trace the origin of the sculpture and e ven find out how it ended up here in Admiralty Islands, adding: “It is not for sale.”

So I got in touch with Jo Holman, Hal’s wife, who quickly responded: “This is indeed curious! The sculpture is one of the cast bronze fairies that Hal produced but without the wings that he would add after the body had been cast.

“I organised the casting of several (four I think) in Brisbane after Hal moved there but have no idea how many bodies he had cast in Sydney when he first made the fairy original.

Bronze fairy (rear)“Goodness knows why one of the bodies would end up on the bottom of the sea many miles from Sydney or Brisbane!

“Maybe someone who lived on a boat bought or was given one and then lost it overboard.

“Finders keepers, so I’m glad the people who found it want to keep it.”

And Hal’s daughter Lisa Crowle, commented: “That's amazing! Love it! Wonder where the others will turn up?”

The fairies were almost certainly designed and cast in the mid to late 2000's.

So there – part of the mystery solved.

And Edin, that fairy will forever remain waiting for the wings that Hal Holman never got round to attaching to it. But you have possession of a fine work of art from a great sculptor.

Waterbung Man (Holman)On a related matter, Esmee and Ian Rowden write from Palmerston North in New Zealand to say they are downsizing and wish to sell a Holman pastel they acquired in the late 1970s when they lived in PNG.

It’s entitled ‘Waterbung Man’, and is characteristic of Hal’s work around this time when he worked in Port Moresby and did a lot of sketching in the Eastern Highlands, including around Watabung (spelling wasn’t necessarily his long suit).

It was during this very productive period of Hal's many years in Papua New Guinea that he also designed the PNG national crest and much of the iconography of the new nation and also began to move more seriously into sculpture.

The work is for private sale and if you’re interested you can contact Esmee and Ian at this email address.


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Lindsay F Bond

Art cast for human appreciation thence to fish interpretation?

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