Shore is full of surprises
Sculptures by the Sea starts tommorow at Cottesloe Beach. Friends Jackie Jepiuh and Kayla Lehmann run through Signature by Johannes Pannekoek with Bulk Carrier by Norton Flavel in the background. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Culture and the coast combine in magnificent harmony as Sculpture by the Sea opens today at Cottesloe beach.

The free two-week exhibition has returned to the sand and terraced lawns of Cottesloe for the 10th year with 74 diverse, challenging and sometimes amusing artworks from around the world.

A giant wine-cask bladder, an enormous pencil-sharpener, a fully-furnished mining-camp donga (complete with inhabitants), and 150 surfboard tombstones are among the more unusual exhibits on show until March 24.

Number 35: There's Many a Slip 'Twix the Cup and the Lip by Australian Ken Unsworth. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

For the first time this year the sculptors, including 25 from overseas, are competing for a $50,000 first prize put up by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.

The 28 WA artists also will be in the running for the $10,000 WA Sculptor’s Scholarship to be announced today.

Number 72: In the Beginning by Jimmy Rix, NSW. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Guests will be able to sleep overnight in the donga installed on the sand by WA artist Olga Cironis and furnished with items picked up from roadside verges.

“I’ve wanted to do something like this for ages,” Cironis said.

“It is a comment on many things but literally West Australian identity and mining, shacks disappearing along the coast as well as ideas of ownership and what is public and what is private.”

Cottesloe may be a public beach but some sections of the community did not feel welcome there, Cironis said.

“I sometimes work in Kwinana and the majority of kids I work with have never been to Cottesloe, she said. “I find that quite shocking.”

“Some of them don’t ever want to come here but some of them don’t feel that they can.
“It is that silent, hidden agenda of class and social history that I am exploring in my work as well.”

This is the fourth Sculpture by the Sea for Cironis, whose art often has a political edge, incorporates recycled materials and relies on public participation to complete its meaning.

She said much of her work was informed by her experience as a Greek migrant exploring identity and ideas of place.

Her donga - on loan from a company which provides them for mining and construction sites, schools, detention centres and Aboriginal communities - comes with a queen bed, stove, carpets, table, chairs and kitchen utensils.

“Everything is ready for guests except for an extra blanket. People can book in and I get everything ready for them,” she said.

“This is a five-star donga because I have stayed in dongas up north in Aboriginal communities and, believe me, this is five-star.”

Number 46: Life Reflection XX #1 by Byung-Chul Ahn, South Korea. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Bigger is definitely better for another Perth artist, Norton Flavel, whose Bulk Carrier represents the inflated innards of a giant wine cask.

Measuring 15m square and standing 4m-tall, it dominates the southern end of the beach like a stranded blimp or zeppelin.

Flavel said Bulk Carrier was a playful reference to Australians’ inventiveness in carrying things in large volumes, whether in the export of iron ore and wheat or taking wine to a barbecue.

The “goon bag” loomed large as an Australian icon, he said.

“I grew up playing with goon bags as a six-year-old, filling them with water and playing imaginary games in the backyard.”

With an asking price of $20,000, the high-strength PVC artwork is anchored by 30 tonnes of water as ballast and filled with 500,000 litres of air.

“I was in the shower one night thinking what I would put into Sculpture by the Sea and thought, ‘That’s what I’ll do’,” Flavel said of his first-time entry in the event.

“As an artist I normally first think of the form of something and I was playing with the idea of something reflective and had a few ideas. For some reason the goon bag popped up, so I hunted around for ways to do it.

“As Aussies, we have lots of things in abundance so it is a celebration of that and the ingenuity in carting all that around.”

The 2002 Edith Cowan University graduate has managed a regional gallery in Esperance and now works as an art technician at ECU.

Number 63: Wave 1 by Annette Thas, WA. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Bulk Carrier, fabricated in China, was by far his biggest artwork, he said.

Given the location, environmental concern is a recurrent theme in the exhibition. Many WA artists, in particular, have relied on recycled materials such as plastic bags and bottles.

Kathy Allam’s Green Dream is a “cloud” of water bottles illuminated at night by solar powered LED lights and Helen Seiver’s Rescheduling Permanence is large blanket crocheted from plastic shopping bags.

Geoffrey Drake-Brockman has installed a solar-activated robot sculpture based on a body mould of WA Ballet principal dancer Jayne Smeulders.

Number 44: Red Center by Carl Billingsley, USA. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Two installations also dominating the beach are Permanent Sunrise, Argentine artist Leantro Propato’s 45m-long rainbow of pipes and wires, and American artist Carl Billingsley’s Red Center, a 30m circle of hundreds of red and yellow flags.

“It has been a real privilege to stage Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe since 2005,” director David Handley said of the WA sister exhibition to others at Bondi and Aarhus in Denmark.

“We look forward to building on the foundations of our first decade to make the exhibition even more significant to the global art scene,” Mr Handley said.

“In doing so we will provide more benefits for WA artists and exhibitions that continue to delight and surprise so many people.”

The West Australian

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