Ante Dabro, who had migrated to Canberra from Croatia in 1967, received a Churchill Fellowship in 1982 to study casting methods in sculpture. On his Fellowship he travelled to the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as going to Venice.
Ante remembers the historian Manning Clark calling him ‘Anti’ – because he was anti-everything. Ante has a sharp eye for what is wrong with society and plenty of opinions about what would improve it. Perhaps the same forceful energy and determination with which he expresses opinions is also the source of his success as a sculptor. As we stood on the concrete floor of his Canberra studio surrounded by towering plaster works in progress, he explained how his Churchill Fellowship gave him the opportunity to meet many peers and teachers in the field and to see awe-inspiring works of art overseas.
‘It all widened my horizons,’ he said, ‘It was fantastic!’ He was able to see, among other techniques, how tons of bronze was melted in a deep pit at the Henry Moore Foundry in Berlin. He loved the fantastic works of art he saw in the New York galleries.
One of the techniques that Ante learned at Princeton, the United States, was for stabilising the wax and reinforcing the mould, which helped him both in the knowledge he could then impart to his students at Canberra’s School of Art and in his future commissioned works.
His commissioned works can be seen in many public spaces in Australia and abroad, for example, the Royal Australian Navy Memorial in Canberra’s Anzac Parade, unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in 1986; Australia’s gift to the people of Paris to commemorate the French Bicentenary in 1989; and, more recently, in Canberra’s airport.
Ante taught at the School of Art at the Australian National University until 2004, conducting special foundry courses in metal casting from 1983. More recently, he was a State Finalist, Senior Australian of the Year for 2012. He now works full-time on sculpting public and private commissions.
Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)
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