Ante Dabro received his Fellowship in 1982 especially to expand his knowledge of two advanced sculptural techniques. At Princeton University for eight weeks he watched and learned how to cast ceramic shells, then to the Herman Noack foundry in Berlin to observe the techniques massive sand casting, five tonnes at a time, for pieces up to ten metres long.
These techniques he immediately put to use as, returning to Australia, he was commissioned to produce the Naval Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra. This massive work, involving hundreds of separate castings, was opened by the Her Majesty the Queen in February 1983. He called the work ‘Men and Ships. Dependence and Interdependence’. The critic Sasha Grishin described the work ‘The strength of this work stems from the conflict and tension between the dynamic abstract masses and the bursting figurative elements…. The [memorial] shows and enormous development in the thinking and technical skills of this sculptor’.
All Dabro’s major works commissioned after this time needed the same advanced technology. ‘Resilience’, in Canberra’s CBD, represents his own as well as the universal experience of loss, pain, struggle and hope. A woman representing Dabro’s mother lies crushed beneath an enormous bronze diagonal beam. One child bears an almost unsupportable burden, her younger sister crawls upwards, ever expectant and hopeful. Meanwhile on the left stands a man representing the sculptor himself. He seems to reflect on the struggles taking place now, in the past and in the future.
Terry Snow, the Canberra arts patron and entrepreneur saw the strength of Dabro’s work and asked him to consider moving his studio to the developing Canberra Business Park that he was at the time developing at the airport. In the course of the next fifteen years Snow commissioned or bought ten Dabro works, most of which are on public display. Many are enormous, all are ambitious in exploring new imaginings of the human frame and experience.
Throughout his artistic life Dabro’s guiding principles lie in the same ultimate value of the human figure clearly enunciated by Michelangelo, of whose works Dabro has made a close study. He believes ‘A good sculpture is a visual symphony. Words are unnecessary. If you are visually literate it will touch you. If you’re not it still should touch everyone, though at different levels. If it doesn’t speak for itself it’s no good. Matter and spirit are one. It must trigger an emotion. It must speak of humanity and be related to us humans.