Old dog given new life thanks to ANU artist

13 August 2019

One of Australia's most iconic public artworks is being given a new lease on life thanks to an artist from The Australian National University (ANU).

Sculptor Nick Stranks was tasked with repairing the Dog on the Tuckerbox statue, after it was vandalised last month.

It's a job that's thrown up some unique challenges.

"The work has a significant history. It's over 80-years-old and it's had a number of lives in that time," Mr Stranks said.

"There is evidence that the Dog been vandalised and repaired in the past, it's been moved, it's been altered. For example, the original 'droopy' ears were apparently replaced at some stage. I thought it was really important that we recognise and respect those layers of history.

"Some of the most recent repairs were done locally in Gundagai and I thought it was important to retain those as well, especially considering it was a local artist who created the work in the first place."

The repair work being done at ANU will involve several intricate steps.

"We'll clean the work, we'll repair the work, we'll then colour it chemically and seal it with a museum quality wax, which will help protect it in the future," Mr Stranks said.

"The idea is to mask some of the really obvious damage, which is distracting. I don't want people to focus on a shiny repaired ear. I'd rather them see it as a whole work."

The repair is being done at the request of Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council. 

While some of the hurdles Mr Stranks has had to overcome are artistic, others are more practical.

"Before I did anything I wanted to send it back to council to get approval, because they're the custodians of the work.

"We're also on a tight deadline. We'll have the dog for less than two weeks and I have to fit the work in around my other commitments, so there is a short time frame.

"It also weighs over 200 kilos!"

Despite looking a little worse for wear, the Dog on the Tuckerbox still managed to make a grand entrance when it arrived at ANU.

"It arrived on the back of a ute. I think there's something really ironic and beautiful about that, I thought it was really nice," Mr Stranks said.

The statue's won over plenty of new fans during it's time on campus.

"Some of our students weren't aware of the story of the Dog on the Tuckerbox at all. On the other hand, we had a student who lived in Gundagai and was really concerned about it," Mr Stranks said.

"I've been getting lots of photos of people with their parents or grandparents standing next to it during car trips.

"We've been able to use it as a teaching aid as well."

The Dog on the Tuckerbox will return home to Gundagai later this week.