During his short but productive life, the painter, sculptor and illustrator Joel Elenberg came to critical notice initially as a close friend of the celebrated Sydney-based artist Brett Whiteley. Elengerg’s work bore some affinities with that od the better-known Whiteley but he is today remembered chiefly for a series of smoothly-finished stone carvings of stylised heads and comparably simplified cast bronze counterparts. These works reveal a formal debt to so-called tribal carvings on the one hand and to certain of the portrait heads of the famous Swiss modernist Alberto Giacometti (1906-1966) on the other.
In 1977, together with his wife Anna, now a prominent Melbourne gallerist, Elenberg took advantage of an offer from painter Arthur Boyd to use Boyd’s Tuscan farmhouse, Casa Paretaio, for several months. As the farmhouse was not far from the legendary Carrara marble quarries, Elenberg sourced blocks of stone from the quarries and made from them his first ambitious sculpture. During the young family’s time at Boyd’s farmhouse, Elenberg established a good relationship with local carvers and artisans and developed his own carving skills in consequence of the sojourn.