Colossus awakens by Egor Zigura (Ukraine), exhibited at Bondi in Sculpture by the Sea 2019. Each year Sculpture by the Sea produces some of the most spectacular combinations of art and nature you can see anywhere. Photo: CB.
Sculpture by the Sea is a highlight of the Sydney calendar, an annual exhibition on the foreshore between Bondi and Tamarama Beach that is now in its 23rd year. There was some controversy this time around (2019) because the local council built a footpath in Marks Park that the organisers didn’t like. You can read about the outrage in The Guardian. Now that I’ve been there and seen it, I think the path is inoffensive, although I have no idea what trouble it might have caused the artists. The printed program for the event (not available online) included an article suggesting that Waverley Council’s path construction ignored “advocacy for a safe and accessible disability path” and reduced the number of sculpture sites available.
Viewfinder by Joel Adler (NSW, Australia), exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney, 2019. Photo: CB. This looped animation hardly does justice to the sculpture, which reflects the surf at the foot of the cliff. The viewfinder unites horizontal and vertical perspectives in a single gaze.
Viewfinder by Joel Adler, photo by the artist.
I sometimes wish that the organisers had been able to acquire one sculpture each year as a permanent exhibit, based on its unique excellence in its specific site. For example, Viewfinder (see photos) could legitimately inhabit an indefinite future exactly where it is now. By annual acquisition, a permanent collection could be built up, and the sculpture by the sea would be there for all forever. This growing permanent collection might also create some historical context for the annual temporary exhibition, which very well might, over time, migrate up or down the coast, leaving its history in its wake. An idea like this assumes that private patronage or government sponsorship might have been forthcoming for such an endowment, and that is probably asking too much.
In the grey of daybreak by Koichi Ishino (Japan). Photo: CB.
I am making no criticism of the people behind Sculpture by the Sea with these idiosyncratic remarks. The effort involved in creating the art and staging the exhibition is immense, and the joy of it is a gift to the people who come along. See the Sculpture by the Sea website for more images and information, including a guide to the 16th Cottesloe Sculpture by the Sea, to be held in Perth, Western Australia 6–23 March 2020.
Art of nature: wind-carved sandstone near the beginning of the Sculpture by the Sea walk.
The 23rd Bondi Sculpture by the Sea ended on Sunday 10 November 2019.
Empires dismantled by Richard Byrnes (NSW). Artist’s statement: “This work is prompted by observations of the devolution of standards and institutions in culture, education, politics and compassion.” Indeed, we live in a declining age. Yet this sculpture makes me smile. Photo: CB.
Tower for Jan Palach by Václav Fiala (Czech Republic). Artist’s statement: “The Soviet Union invaded Czechslovakia to crush the liberalising reforms of Alexander Dubček’s government during what was known as the Prague Spring in 1968. Prague-born Jan Palach sacrificed himself in protest to the invasion and set himself on fire, demanding abolition of censorship and a halt to the distribution of Zprávy, the official newspaper of the Soviet occupying forces.” This sculpture is one of ten contributed by Czech and Slovak sculptors celebrating 30 years of freedom since the Velvet Revolution in November 1989. Photo: CB.
Bird of Paradise by Lukáš Rittstein and Barbora Slapetova (Czech Republic). Wins my vote for the weirdest sculpture presented this year, a syngenesis of bird and car that the artists say represents “an optimistic vision of the future of humanity”, but which could also be seen more darkly.
Time after time no. 2 by Cui Yi (China). Photo: CB.
Terpsichore’s tribute by William Eicholtz (Vic, Australia). Photo: CB.
Pods by Rima Zabaneh and Berenice Rarig (WA, Australia). This series of biomorphs made of plastic zip ties was beautiful but unsettling, raising thoughts about the threat to our environment created by our careless production of plastic. Plastic is a common material/theme in Sculptures by the Sea. Can plastic art transcend the environmental disaster of plastic waste? Can disposable plastic be rehabilitated through art? Yes. No. Discuss.
Voices at dawn by Harry Fasher (NSW, Australia). Photo: CB.
Ouroboros by Charlie Trivers (NSW, Australia). Photo: CB.
Finally, my personal favourite this year: The statue of mad liberty by Wang Kaifang (China). It conjures up so many thoughts about our world now: spinning, distorted, rich, self-parodying, unsustainable. Photo: CB.
© 2019 Craig Bingham
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