George Zacharewicz (1951-2004) 1
The buttocks of George’s women are beautiful. He really had a love of the human form especially women. The arms, the breasts, every muscle showed his technique and modeling skills as the clay was moved under his caressing hands.
George could turn his hand to anything. First mastering the technique then creating and moving on, whilst others were left wondering how it was done.2
Working in any medium including bricks, steel, glass, ceramic, bronze, ciment fondu, wood and paper mashie, he was not only and accomplished sculptor, he had the talents of architect, builder, calligrapher, carpenter, engineer, illustrator, painter and many other skills.3
As well as his own work others recognized his talents. In 1992 George was commissioned to repair, remodel, paint and gilt the pair of large British and Australian Coats of Arms attached to the front of old Parliament House in Canberra.4
He also assisted in the enlargement and making of the huge Navy Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra and other works. 5
His sculpture of the huge Goanna at Girrawah Park playground, Gungahlin (1994) and the huge Platypus (1995) at the entrance to the Gold Course Estate, Gungahlin are popular tourist attractions, as is the Snakes and Ladders playground sculpture at John Knight Memorial Park, Lake Ginninderra a popular children’s attraction.6
George’s Ukrainian mother Anna and his father Wladyslaw Zacharewicz arrived in Australia carrying one suitcase. Everything else that Wladyslaw would need to make his new life a success he carried in his head. Wladyslaw was a talented cabinetmaker and builder.7
In Europe at the end of World War II Wladyslaw had scavenged scraps from the bombed landscape and built a suitcase to carry his meager possessions to far off Australia.8
In Australia Wladyslaw scavenged old packing cases and constructed a solid old style kitchen cabinet, complete with breadbox and draws, with two doors at the top and two doors at the bottom. The wooden crates are still recognizable on the inside of the cabinet, albeit that they are tongue and grooved. On the outside the boards are sanded smooth.9
These professional skills of Wladyslaw and his love of building he passed on to his son George. This inheritance gave George the gift for building and analyzing and calculating and computing. George used his skills inherited from his father, traditionally and also adapted them to suit his own love of design and creation in his true vocation as an artist.10
Wladyslaw built his own home complete with cellar for food storage. George followed this traditional usage but also in between the eggs and fruit and meat were male and female wax nudes. George stored his wax masterpieces in the cellar so they would not distort in the summer heat.11
A confirmed bachelor George continued the tradition of self-sufficiency with the vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees intermingled amongst the ornamental trees.12
The girls clucked contentedly at George’s feet as he collected their eggs. The rabbits bred, as rabbits do, and filled George’s freezer. He kept his friends supplied with his bottled garden products under his own distinct ‘Uncle George’ label. He was a great cook and loved to entertain. He was proud of being known as the host with the most.13
George did not like hybrids or anything artificial, he and everything he produced was genuine and everyone left with a bouquet of his perfumed roses.14
Hidden amongst the roses in George’s garden was his 25 year old ceramic kiln and one of Queanbeyan’s hidden treasurers – the Caryatid Nude sculpture.15
The purpose of the Caryatid Nude for the past 25 years has been to hold up a corner of George’s wood fired kiln where he cast his huge ceramic pots and in latter life smoked his bacon.16
At 25 years of age she is certainly mature enough to be appreciated by the Queanbeyan Community, but perhaps it is not her maturity that is in question but Queanbeyan’s maturity. Is Queanbeyan mature enough to cope with a nude female in its midst? Perhaps holding up the verandah on the Art Society building in Trinculo Place or part of one of those multi storied complexes that are mushrooming all over our fair city?17
By mid 2004 George, the robust kindly giant of a man with the black bushy beard, had became a shell of a man. He had become a ghost even before cancer had finished with him.18
George Zacharewicz 1951-2004 sculptor is missed from the art scene in the Canberra-Queanbeyan area but the nicest thing about being an artist is that your work does not die with you.19
George is missed, but the nude with a purpose lives on. 20
Footnotes / Resources
1. George Zacharewicz (1951-2004) artist-sculptor:
Training: Diploma of Art, Canberra School of Art (1975-79).
Born: Canberra Hospital, 25 September, 1951.
Home: Booth Street, Queanbeyan, 2620.
Died: Canberra Hospice, 18 July, 2004.
Funeral: Canberra, Tobin Bros Chapel, Nettlefold Street, 23 July, 2004.
Cremated: Private service, Mitchell Crematorium, Canberra.
2. Connee-Colleen © Queanbeyan Outlook (2), “Nude with a purpose lives on”, The Queanbeyan Age, February 15, 2005, p. 4.
3. At the funeral fellow friend and artist Caroline Ambrus spoke of George’s abilities, and everyone agreed that his technical and creative skills were out of this world.
4. Restoration British & Australian Coats of Arm, Canberra, on the “Provisional Parliament House, built 1927, (now a gallery/museum) and replaced by the new Parliament House built on Capital Hill and opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1988, our bicentennial year (1788-1988).
Note: Photos and notes of the restoration of the 1927 Parliament Coat of Arms, old Parliament House, are to be a separate article covering sculpture restoration on this site.
5. George was sculptor Ante Dabro’s assistant on the Navy Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra.
6. ACT Government commissions.
7. Connee-Colleen. This article is based on notes from interviews with two people: (i) Talking over time to George Zacharewicz, Queanbeyan 1979-2004″; (ii) Interview with George Zarcharewicz sister , Jan Brown, August, 2004.
8. Ibid. – The family are proud of their parents and their attitude and achievement in life.
9. Ibid. – The kitchen cabinet is still being used by the family.
10. George designed and drew architectural extensions and alterations for the homes of other artists and then did the building – he was very professional and took pride in the result.
11. Interviews, 1979-2004.
12. George was a great in the garden and had green fingers and was a excellent cook with all fresh produce.
13. (i) George referred to himself as Uncle George, he was that kind of man – a kindly man. (ii) Carolyn Ambrus nicknamed George “the host with the most” because he was so considerate of guests.
14. The roses were his final touch and concluded a visit with the “black bushy beard”.
15. Cast in fibreglass this larger than life female figure was completed in 1979.
16. One day the post on the corner of the kiln fell down so George propped one of his sculptures in its place and there she stayed – a perfect spot for her – and she is still there.
17. George was a master at modeling with clay, just wonderful at creating voluptuous women and cast several in bronze at The Bronze Works, a community casting facility which helped get started. The Bronze Works was located in the old section of Fyshwick near the sandblasting business and near the old dairy. George was good at casting, especially, like everything else he tried.
18. George smoked a lot and a very aggressive cancer of the throat developed and cut his life short; his teeth were first to fall out; and the nerves down his left arm were painfully affected; the cancer traveled from his throat and ate his jaw bones and his black busy beard fell out; then it travelled up the left side of his face; and he lost the sight of his left eye and hearing on his left side; and then the cancer settled at the back of his head, eating and growing; and he could not lay his head back to rest; but he had cared for himself (with his sister’s help towards the end) until he was near death and then he went to the hospice.
19. A great sculptor but like a lot of artists George didn’t have the confidence and the compulsion to mass produce and make a name; but he did leave a significant body of work.
20. The caryatid nude still stands in George’s orchard, still holding up the kiln where he used to fire his pots, and on other occasions make smoked pork in the traditional way to share with his friends.
All content on Before Canberra Copyright © Connee-Colleen unless otherwise noted – apologies extended if inadvertently a copyright has not been acknowledged – please inform so this can be rectified.