Reviews/Visual Art

More than a pretty space

9 March 2022

From the poignant to the political, many works in this year’s iteration of ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ are about more than its coastal setting, discovers Kim Kirkman.

‘Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2022’, various artists ·
Cottesloe Beach ·

Now in its 18th year, Western Australia’s “Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe” exhibition takes art out of galleries and places it amid the sand and surf of the popular beach.

While the “Sculpture by the Sea” concept originated in 1997 at NSW’s famed Bondi Beach, it’s a winning approach for our sun-drenched, coastal city; attracting around 200,000 bathers-clad visitors over 18 days, and constituting one of Perth’s largest free events. This year’s iteration exhibits the work of 70 artists from 13 countries, curated by a panel that includes Ron Bradfield Jnr, Dr Nien Schwarz, Professor Ted Snell and Ashley Yihsin Chang.

High profile artists in this year’s exhibition include Perth collective Heavy Duty, known for recent arts activism installations including Shelter Seat for the city’s homeless; and Deforestation Detour, which cast a spotlight on land clearing in the South West. Now, Beach Goals partly submerges 7.5 metre-tall goal posts in the ocean, at first glance simply uniting two WA icons – footy and the beach. But as the tide rises, the installation reveals a stark prophecy for the future of our AFL-mad state in the face of the rising sea levels caused by climate change.

A sculpture of a dog, in steel. It sits on scraggy grass under pine trees. We can see a beach in the background.
Conjuring tones of the Pilbara: Jimmy Rix, ‘Lone Dingo’. Photo: David Dare Parker

In other timely statements, Anthony Xerri’s (NSW) Following Orders stacks mean, glinting steel warheads atop one another in a “monument to our legacy of annihilating one another”; and Jimmy Rix’s (Vic) Lone Dingo “stands apart from its pack, waiting, mirroring our experiences of social distancing and lockdown” in pindan-red corten steel. Despite the artist hailing from Victoria; the work’s rusty cast conjures tones of the Pilbara, and Dampier’s Red Dog, furthering a sense of the artwork’s fit to site.

WA artist Sachio Ingrilli’s Perspective (pictured top) places a series of posts in the sand which, when viewed from a specific angle, combine to form the words “yes”, and from another “no”. The clever artwork, which evokes the style of Marco Cianfanelli’s iconic Nelson Mandela monument in South Africa, manifests concepts about the differing interpretations of art. Nearby, Figurative Abstraction, by WA artist Norton Flavel, plays with imprints and negative space in aluminium blocks from which human forms protrude and curve inward.

Other works pull at heartstrings. WA artist Mikaela Castledine’s delightful Woodland Numbats are created from found timber and jute, and somehow echo flawlessly, in their shape, the scamper and dart of our state animal emblem. Anywhere with You, by South Korea’s Sangsug Kim, tells a story that could be about displacement and starting again, in a bronze sculpture depicting twin shoots growing alongside one another from within an open suitcase.

A sculpture of a woman in a shiny silver material. She is stylised to accentuate her curves and has no arms.
Hugh Mclachlan, ‘Bathing Woman Slowly Flowing’. Photo: Martine Perret

Standout are works that celebrate their setting. Though the artist is from NSW, Christine Simpson’s peachy orange and lilac colour field feels like a nod to the shifting hues of a West Coast sunset. Startupup_educatedlife, by Milan Kuzica (Czech Republic/Slovakia), waves in the breeze like bright sea grass underwater. Closer to the surf, Singapore’s Chee Kiong Yeo and WA’s Hugh McLachlan both use polished stainless steel to craft forms which seem to freeze the flow of water, droplets splashing back, running down, reflecting light.

Richard Hammer’s (WA) Heap of Flowers is inspired by a group of everlastings. In the sea breeze, and against the crash of waves, however, the wind-driven kinetic work’s fluttering aluminium sheets evoke signal flags in a regatta, and the rattle of rigging associated with boats at harbour.

While there is a risk of thematic repetition in an annual exhibition that returns to the same site each year, these particular works demonstrate that innovation is still possible… even after 18 years.

Sculpture by the Sea continues until 21 March 2022.

Pictured top: Sachio Ingrilli’s Perspective. Photo: Martine Perret

Two sculptures of numbats. Their bodies are bade of branches and their heads are crocheted.
Michaela Castledine, ‘Woodland Numbats’. Photo: Jessica Wyld

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Author —
Kim Kirkman

Kim Kirkman studied journalism and community development, and has worked across the state as a reporter and story gatherer. She loves food and fiction writing and hearing other people’s stories. Always up for a challenge, the monkey bars are her favourite part of the playground.

Past Articles

  • Taking it from the streets

    Can the havoc and exhilaration of graffiti survive relocation into a gallery? Kim Kirkman heads to the Art Gallery of Western Australia to find out.

  • Freshly hatched statements

    Newly graduated artists take a lively approach to the dilemmas and delights we currently face, in the latest iteration of PICA’s “Hatched” exhibition, writes Kim Kirkman.

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