Lake Ballard Sculptures, Western Australia

I’ve always loved Sydney’s famous Sculptures By The Sea. Me and the half a million other people it attracts in a matter of weeks. But on the other side of Australia there’s another set of sculptures that may not be as well known, but also deserve a visit.

The “Inside Australia” sculptures at Lake Ballard in Western Australia were created by British artist and Turner Prize winner Antony Gormley back in 2003 as part of Perth’s International Arts Festival.

At the time they were supposed to be a temporary exhibition, but they proved to be so popular that they were allowed to claim the 10 square kilometre salt lake as their permanent home.

Gormley based the sculptures on local people from the nearby town of Menzies. After getting permission from the local Aboriginal people to use the salt lake, and getting to know the people he would be immortalising, he started capturing their images and then transformed them into the steel sculptures.

There are 51 sculptures of men, women, and children spread around Lake Ballard, and I found them hauntingly beautiful, standing out on their salty surface under a blazing sun.

The lake itself felt quite eerie, with mirages shimmering in the distance, and these shadowy sculptures dotted around the landscape. At times it was hard to tell if a sculpture was in the distance or not, but the path of footprints that traversed the salt lake could be relied upon to take you to a new friend.

The best time to visit the Lake Ballard sculptures is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is lower in the sky. This is not only easier to cope with if it’s a hot day, it has the added bonus of creating beautiful shadows.

It’s also best not to walk the lake by yourself, but to travel with at least one companion. When I visited Lake Ballard with my mother, we were lucky to have the place almost entirely to ourselves… with only one other couple crossing our path, and even then it was for one quick “can you take photos of the two of us together?” moment before we all moved our separate ways.

So for safety it’s definitely best to have a companion with you in case something does go wrong. Of course, take lots of water out there into the salt lake, and do lather up with sunscreen as the lake reflects the sun’s rays straight back up at you.

Lake Ballard can be quite muddy at times, and nice and dry at others, so comfortable and water proof shoes are a good idea. Or shoes that are on their last adventure so you don’t mind saying good-bye.
I actually wasn’t travelling with any such shoes at the time, and after borrowing a pair of my mum’s old workhorses which didn’t fit all that well, I decided to try barefoot.

The surface of the lake felt beautiful… it was all warm and soft, like walking on fresh clay. And the salt did wonders for my feet. They were super soft and felt like they’d been pampered in a spa treatment at the end of it all. Here’s hoping I didn’t pick up any rare salt lake burrowing parasites.

Lake Ballard is found about two hours’ drive north of Kalgoorlie, and just over half an hour outside of Menzies. There a small local shop selling sandwiches, pies and the like in Menzies, but beyond that there are no pub counter lunches or cafes to stock up on, so a big breakfast or packed picnic may be in order.

At more than 700 kilometres outside of Perth, the Inside Australia sculptures aren’t exactly a day trip from any major city. But if you’re travelling through Western Australia it’s definitely worth putting on the itinerary. And travelling through Western Australia is something you are unlikely to forget.

Like sculpture? Check out my post about Sculpture at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips through my blog and on my weekly travel segment on Sydney Radio 2UE. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

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