With a career spanning decades and continents, the work of Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers has, quite literally, had a global impact. The prolific artist is known for his work Rhythms of Life, an interconnected series of geoglyphs stretching over several kilometres, 16 countries and seven continents.

Of course, the artist’s work started on a much smaller scale. Rogers was taught by John Brack in secondary school, and he began his career as a painter. Following a visit to the Rodin Museum in Paris in 1989, when he was in his early 40s, he shifted to sculpture, focusing on nudes and studies of hands. From there, he moved to large-scale figurative sculptures crafted from bronze, as well as his impressive, career-defining land art.

Works representing all these periods – including the early and intimate, and more recent and monumental – will be celebrated in Where We Are, a retrospective showing at the Jewish Museum of Australia until September 1. The exhibition’s opening night was the gallery’s largest ever, with nearly 250 attendees. For Rogers, it’s especially meaningful to have his life’s work exhibited there.

Never miss a Melbourne moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

“It’s an institute that has a lot of worthwhile aims for the Australian community and the Jewish community, which I identify with,” says Rogers. “It should be a fulcrum for contemplation about the history of the Jewish people and the great contribution they’ve made within Australia and around the world.”

Curated by Esther Gyorki, the exhibition includes some of Rogers’s most personal work, including his first ever sculpture, a model of his left hand he created with his right. A selection of his larger bronze works is on display too, both inside the museum and at the entrance out front. As visitors arrive, they will also be struck by an enormous print on the museum’s facade, which shows one of Rogers’s Rhythms of Life land drawings in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Works from Rhythms of Life are also on display across the museum’s walls in a huge photo series that details its epic, globe-spanning scale. Rogers began the series in 1998, while teaching at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. After being commissioned to create an artwork in the Arava Desert, on the Jordanian border, Rogers worked with a construction contractor and three architecture students to create the first geoglyph.

Standing 4.5 metres high and spanning 38 metres in length and width, the stunning work forms the letters of the Hebrew word “chai”, meaning “life”. The massive work was later the site of the 2006 photographic series Celebration of Life, which saw 42 women, all more than six months pregnant, standing atop the geoglyph. The series has since expanded into 50 more works around the world, each celebrating its unique location and the history of the land it’s built on.

“We’ve had it in various scales, we’ve had it built by 1000 soldiers of the army of China, we’ve had 1300 Maasai create it in Kenya,” says Rogers. “And we’ve created it as one of the highest contemporary land art sites in the world in Bolivia, at 4300 meters, which is about equivalent to halfway up Mount Everest. And we’ve created it in Israel, which was the first one in 1998, at 400 metres below sea level.”

While Rogers’s work is often intimidating in scale, the vision behind it is deeply human – concerned with the importance of unity and care for community. That’s nowhere more central than in his series of gravity-defying bronze sculptures titled I Am, which, despite their size, seem to ripple like silk. They include a 7.5 metre version in the Canberra Airport, and one in Kazakhstan – the largest – standing at 10.5 metres. “There’s multiple installations of that form,” says Rogers. “We have unveiled 15 of them on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza outside the United Nations in the US.

“That sculpture is about the sanctity of an individual life, and the importance of community and having responsibility towards it. So that’s very significant in these times.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Jewish Museum of Australia.