Bell brings whale shark festival to fiery end

Fresh from his first swim with whale sharks, Fremantle artist Toby Bell brought the Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival to a mesmerising conclusion.

Standing next to a burning effigy of the biggest fish in the sea, a fire cannon strapped around his waist, Bell sent flames soaring 10m into the night sky on Sunday.

The sculptor, 50, was one of several WA artists involved in the Gascoyne in May travelling arts festival.

He worked with youths in Shark Bay, Denham, Exmouth and an indigenous community outside Carnarvon to create fire sculptures.

The sculptures were combined to form three fire tableaux which were set alight on the sand.

"We've been touring for a month and the tableaux are what bring it all together," he said.

"They're little symbols from each community we've been to.

"I love the places we've been to. I love the sense of community and the friendliness of the people."

Bell, an artist who usually works with plastics, metals and the human form, said there was something hypnotic about the medium of fire.

"Fire obviously works really well for external performance and there's something about it that holds your attention, something that goes back to our roots," he said.

The West Australian

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