Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi! 2016

Yumin Jing. Traveling Bag. Stainless steel, local flowers and grass. 140 x 380 x 220 cm.

Stretching two kilometres along the coast from Bondi to Tamarama, figures of wood, steel, and miscellanous objects were integrated to the natural structures of the beach. They were selected works from various local and international artists, emerging and established. The recently dismantled exhibition, held annually every October for a short period of time, was a celebration to the event’s twentieth anniversary. It was founded by David Handley (AM) who envisions the event to be the benchmark of contemporary sculptures, made freely accessible to the public under the hospitality of Waverly Council, New South Wales.

Had the committee not stationed little signs near the structure, some works looked like they have always belonged there as part of the uneven and multishaded rock formation and the rise and fall of tides against it. Stephen King’s idol-like woodwork Many Many III and Hidemi Tokutake’s Wasp Nest were ones to greet visitors as they start the surreal coast walk. Not far around, Tsukasa’s Nakahara’s playful Water Blocks gives the illusion of animate liquids frozen in time, and Yumin Jing’s realistic Travelling Bag sculpture looked like it crashed down from the sky to one of Bondi’s edges, torn open, and omitted a colourful array of wild plants.

The jewel on the area, however, was not saved for the last. Situated to face the expansive horizon, a stunning design made of pure stainless steel reflects the cool shades from the sky and water. Inge King (AM)’s Celestial Rings I was erected in memory of the late artist (1915 – 2016) as a leading figure in modern and contemporary sculpting. The oeuvre, like many other of hers, draw inspiration from her study of planetary orbits and cosmic pathways evoked in rings, discs, and void forms. Its placement in this event complements the environment, and looking through the rings as accompanied by natural breeze gave a liberating feeling and a sense of connection to both the Earth and the space.

king-celestial-ringKing, Inge. 2014. Celestial Rings I. Stainless Steel. 200 x 227 x 117 cm.

There was a narrow path along the cliffside between the steep rocks and the ocean, and this too, was activated. Spontaneous forms popped out of the rocky wall, stopping journeys and, sometimes, tempting to be touched and interacted with. Niharika Ruhu’s glow in the dark Adaptation is a porcelain immitation of a coral school, planted on the sidewalk as a marine inhabitant invading the shores. Ian Swift’s Detritus Parasitus and Marion Gaemers’ Weave the Reef, Love the Reef are made using familiar found objects to poke on urban lifestyle that discharges waste to the ocean and affects how human and other natural lifeforms interact correspondingly.

By the side of this path, a line of hand rail overlaid with bright yellow screen protected visitors from slipping to the ocean, but it did not cover the natural display of crashing waves and, below it, a forest of crayweeds swaying to the current. The project Operation Crayweed was integrated as a part of the exhibition,  initiated by Jennifer Turpin who aims to recover the diminishing population of crayweed as home to various marine animals, including the edible crayfish. Turpin became one of The Helen Lempiere Scholarships recipient this year, and her on-going work could be followed and supported through the project’s eponymous website.

sbts-4Dennett, Mimi. Measuring the Sky. Painted Aluminium. 270 x 230 x 12 cm; Seung-Hwan, Kim. From the Nest. Bronze casting, granite, urethane painting. 475 x 180 x 140 cm.

Leading up past the cliffside, a spacious field of grassland laid out like a playground where more of both geometric and organic figures were erected. Some are interactive, such as in Cave Urban’s The Golden Hour, children were found to be climbing and peeking from the inside of the oeuvre; and not far around, a group of women insisted that sitting on Margarita Sampson’s eccentric couch Dearest was appropriate, in response to a nearby prohibition sign to not climb. Meanwhile, Nicole Larkin’s Dynamics in Impermanence created an intimate, sanctuary-like space where visitors could pause a bit from other activities around, without feeling detached or claustrophobic from the rest inside the semi-enclosed structure.

urban_golden-hourUrban, Cave. The Golden Hour. Bamboo, steel. 380 x 380 x 380 cm.

The location and position in which the artworks were situated played a crucial role in delivering its wit. Sampson’s tentacle-covered couch was on the edge of the grass field, facing the waters. It provides the oceanic view for those who were sitting on it, yet its backside looks like a heart-shaped alien mollusc stranded on the land. A level lower from here, Cathyann Coady’s Dave was also situated on a cliff edge to face the sea, somberly gazing to the crashing waves, his outstretched arms quickly brought to mind the pose of Cristo Redentor.

leahey-signedLeahey, Jonathan. Signed. Steel, paint. 620 x 600 x 350 cm.
sampson_dearestSampson, Margarita. Dearest. 240 x 240 x 140 cm.

Looking up to the clouds, an empty billboard was struck by a giant paper plane in Jonathan Leahey’s Signed, which conveys the cynical reality that leaves little room for simple and spontaneous creativity. On a tree, Jette Melgren’s works of organic basketry, Nests, cling and twirl themselves to the branches, as if alive or having been a part of the tree. Playing with the sense of time, Lucy Barker’s Bye Gone is a series of emojis carved to rectangular sandstones and arranged as ruins from a lost civilisation, along with Hui Selwood Pentad which investigates contemporary design and architecture in a totemic form.

sbts-2Tuccimei, Silvia. Flower Power. Mirroring stainless steel. 287 x 314 x 100, 249 x 273 x 100; 217 x 238 x 100; Barker, Lucy. Bye Gone. Sandstone. 64 x 64 x 8 cm.

Claiming to be the largest annual sculpture exhibition in the world, a walk through Sculpture by the Sea would not end quickly. Works are situationed in close proximity but they were not overwhelming. It is still possible to appreciate each sculpture individually, even lie down among an array of these uniquely shaped bodies. Overall, the event offers a unique destination for a day trip with family, friends, or a group of tourists outside the restrictive space of most galleries and museums.

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