Oak leaf shoulder boss, 2023
Sydney Yellow Block Sandstone
About the Artist
My name is Matt McLennan and I'm a second-year apprentice at Rookwood Cemetery. I was encouraged to enter this competition to practice a skill set expected of a traditional monumental mason, but with our work being outsourced nowadays is extremely rare for us to be able to practice.
I drew my inspiration from the cemetery around us. A lot of the work that we do involves restoring old monuments over a century old and have been hand carved by the traditional masons. An immense time and effort are put into hand carving the borders, as well as the inscriptions. I wanted to draw particular attention to the shoulder boss stone that you may find at the end of the arch.
I picked oak leaves because they're quite common in some of the areas that we work on. Because oak leaves are a symbol for virtue, strength, endurance, eternity, honour, and qualities that people aspire towards, hence would like to represent them in death. You'll find these symbols in the cemetery are painstakingly chosen to best represent the person that they knew in life.
The reason I chose a leaf is simply because I enjoy the free form structure. No two leaves are ever the same, and while my carving is a representation of an actual leaf that I used as inspiration and a reference point, I do enjoy that most natural things are unique. It's very difficult to replicate them.
I hope that this piece serves as an inspiration for anyone interested in doing monumental carving, since the art itself is dying out in Australia and has largely been relegated to machinery. But you can see from other sculptures around, machines can't quite match the level of detail that a handcrafted sculpture can obtain.
If you're interested, feel free to take a walk around the cemetery and keep an eye out for some of the details that a lot of these older monuments are producing.