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Friday, 26 September 2008

Swell Sculpture - A Community Event on the Beach

Believe it or not, these shoes are a giant sculpture exhibited last week by Australian artist Gregory Roy Cope as part of the Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach on the southern Gold Coast, Queensland.

The event is held each year over ten days and draws thousands of families who meander from art work to art work - all set up along the beach. It's great fun and a serious contribution to the wonderful community spirit in the town.

You may remember that my daughter and son-in-law are building at Currumbin EcoVillage, seven kilometres up the valley (see post of September 6). We make the festival a fixture in our annual calendar.

Brian Sandstrom fashioned a 16th century style gold frame to 'mount' a distant view of the Gold Coast high rises across the bay. This was a cloudy/windy day and it's hard to see them, which is probably a good thing!

These young men thought they were by far a better subject

Frederic Berjot's self portrait had a more serious theme. He asks us if we will look away from the world's global problems as they mount, or will we face and deal with them? There is quite an impact when one first discovers this figure, sitting in a bed of ashes beside the sand.

Lynne Adams' Sunlight Flowers are made from recycled materials such as PET bottles to emphasise our responsibility towards waste and proper use of energy resources.

Creator Monte Lupo says his soldier crabs bear beautiful ceramic impressions of cityscapes because they are doing their best to co-exist with the challenges of natural and urban environments.

These little guys aren't real seagulls ... they're sculptures by Su Brown.

Leisa Russell called this My Throne. It's coated in ceramics with many depictions of her favourite animal: the horse.

The stunning lines of Frank Miles' work are a perfect foil for their environment ...

Which is the sculpture? This pose seemed to capture the fun of a day at Swell. This bikini clad work in bronze was purchased by Gold Coast Council when it was entered into the festival a couple of years back. She's lived on Currumbin Beach ever since, and has even made an appearance on the front page of the Gold Coast telephone directory.

This beautiful piece has been placed near the local bus stop - giving the passengers a lot of enjoyment! By Ruth Park, it's called The Foreigner Within.

You'll be amazed when I tell you that this bust of Sir Edmund Hillary, first to Mount Everest, is made from chicken wire! The exquisite detail has to be seen to be believed. Artist Ian Lovatt says in the festival booklet that 'achievement evokes a great sense of joy'. He must be a very happy man.

These kids had empathy for this young surfer who'd broken his board ...

Joe Stark called his surfer's dog 'Scooter'. He'd keep anyone at bay ...

Col Henry's group of surf life savers captured a time when rescues were made with rope and reel.

Victims of Fashion was the name Frank Malerba gave to his group of four figures depicting the pressure on women to have the right look, the perfect body and all of the required accessories ...

This personification of a tree was more than two metres tall. Clyde Watts and Dean Nikijuluw wanted him to evoke a new perspective, understanding and respect for our sacred living earth.

It didn't matter that it was sprinkling with rain - the show went on.

I snap this picture and I am reflected in a cube of perspex that captures a square of permanently green grass. Artist Shelly Kelly wanted the viewer to be seen as part of the work which she hopes would encourage thought about the now utopian ideal that green grass is the norm.

There were many other sculptures at the Swell Festival - all of them wonderful. But me, I'd give the People's Choice Award to the entry from Nature herself.


  1. Hi June, I think I would agree with you about natures own sculpture being the one I would prefer - you can't beat Nature. Although I enjoyed seeing the exhibits in your photos.
    Cheers, Kate x.

  2. June, What a wonderful idea to have these art exhibits. And it feels good to see that people get to participate with the exhibits, pose next to them, sit with them etc; sort of taking art to the people, instead of making it sound very exalted and up there.

    However. the sculpture of the lady next to the bus stop. I was thinking what a commotion it would cause if this happened in Mumbai, how many public meetings will be held to register disapproval, how someone will take the municipal authorities to court etc, and finally, maybe you will get up one day to see a sari draped by someone across the statue by an embarrased woman.

    I agree with your people's choice . Nature wins. Hands down.

  3. June, thank you for sharing these. Every time I visit your blog I get a little insight into your part of the world, which is totally unfamiliar to me.

    Berjot's self portrait--the figure sitting in a bed of ashes with the hands reaching up--is now burned into my brain. What a powerful piece.

    I wish that you and I could sit down over a cup of tea and just ask each other a whole bunch of questions about our very different lives. Would you be willing to do some kind of info exchange online? I could post a list of questions--not personal stuff, just things I wonder about life on the other side of the world--and you could do the same, if you wished. Then we could each do a post of answers. What do you think?

  4. Wonderful. It would be very hard to pick my favorite. The woman by the bus stop really caught my eye, but I cannot say that is my favorite. I liked the bikini clad lady with the "real" person posing beside her. It's like watching "America's Got Talent". Sometimes it's really hard to pick a winner. Can I just say I like them all?

  5. Hi June, I love them all! I think I could spend days just rambling around looking at them over and over again. They are just amazing.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  6. Hi Kate
    Currumbin is a beautiful natural place - lots of dramatic rocks on the beach for instance. At the other end of this beach there is a surf life saving club where you can have a meal. It's actually built over the sea and the waves roll in underneath you as you sit on the deck. It's low rise and doesn't seem to intrude on the landscape too much.
    The sculpture though - these artists are clever clever people and I like the way they encourage one to think. All good art is like that I reckon.
    Cheers dear.

  7. Hello to Ugich Konitari
    That's one of the beautiful things about the attitude to art in Australia Suranga.
    Participation for all is encouraged most of the time, with public art galleries rarely charging for admittance. We have a lot of street or public art through our cities and regional areas - not just the formal statues of famous males. And community art exhibitions in public spaces - such as at Currumbin Beach - are becoming very popular indeed.
    Can people see art easily in India?
    I note from your comment that your people are still shy about the human body. It is my understanding that yours is a very religious country, and particular modesty may be the centrepiece of that.
    Personally, I think it is wonderful that the the naked older woman by Ruth Park is easily accepted here as a depiction of reality. People at Currumbin recognised it for what it was - sensitive art. There was no question of anyone pointing or giggling about it. I saw young children going up to the statue to look at the detail of leaves painted on it with no air of nervousness.
    Not that I mean we all go around naked or anything ...
    When I mentioned that the sculpture had been put at the bus stop and that people were entertained by that I didn't mean it in a bad way.
    Disrespect for such works happened here years ago, but it's not the case any more, in my experience.
    Perhaps the common familiarity that art is becoming here is doing its job.
    But, Suranga - to each his own!

  8. Hi Clairz
    Of course I'd love to have an exchange of such questions. That's what blogs should be all about - meaningful conversation, I reckon, and an exchange of ideas and knowledge.
    If you did wish to ask me special stuff you could send an email - now able to click on my profile.
    Thanks for your comment. And I'm really looking forward to finding out something of your world!

  9. To Clara
    You certainly can say you like all of the Currumbin sculptures. I reckon there was something special about every one!
    The community togetherness is so wonderful too. My photography visit was on a cold and blustery late afternoon, so there weren't a lot of people there. It was my second visit for the week and the first was sunny with people everywhere. A great sharing experience.

  10. Howdy Judy
    Thanks for visiting again. I did spend a lot of two days wandering myself ...

  11. I love this kind of art that invites visitors to participate and to see our world in a new way. I probably will never get to see your part of the world, and I am so grateful that you took the time to share these wonderful photos.

    I would be hardpressed to pick a favorite. The large women's sandals are impressive. The little gulls are sweet. I was touched the treelike entreaty to respect nature.

    Thank you, June.

  12. Hi Tropigal - thanks for the comment. The tree person got me too. I think we're very lucky to have this type of community event - especially as the artists do encourage us to think out of our normal square.
    I have left a comment on your blog Just an Ordinary Gal. Recommend this incisive commentary on life in Florida.
    See you again Tropigal.
    June in Oz

  13. June, Something for you at my blogsite !!!

  14. June, thanks for dropping by my blog and thanks for the Award. Yes I am like you in regards to them - they are a little difficult to organise. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this array of art and the setting is fantastic. That's taking it to the people isn't it? Wonderful concept. Shame it was too far away from me down south but my daughter lives up that way. I used to live in Coffs Harbour and so love the northern rivers area - love to go up that one day. One day. Oh and thanks for the tip on the real background to the 'Give me a home among the gum trees' - yes, I do remember them too!

  15. Thanks for the comment Lilly. Remind your daughter Swell will be on again next September - worth putting it in the diary.
    Coffs is a great place - I'm in the Tweed Valley.


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