Artful Sydney

06.02.39: AUSTRALIA COULD never claim to have been at the forefront of the 20th-century arts scene, whatever the reputation of individual painters and sculptors.

But now Sydney has overtaken London, New York, Milan and Paris as a centre for cutting-edge dance, theatre, music and sculpture. The press is calling it an Australian renaissance, although some of its prime movers are actually Asian.

The biggest news in Sydney this year has been the emergence of the Chinese-born Dim Lok, regarded as the world's most important conceptual sculptor. Working with hitherto neglected materials such as clay and brick, Lok has dedicated himself to contextualising the Asian-Antipodean spirit, eschewing all western forms of sculpture. The work that made him famous was the Barrier Reef, a floating, 100m-high fibreglass wall stretching from Canton, on the south China coast, to Darwin in northern Australia. Like the Great Wall of China, the Barrier Reef can be seen from space. DJ