Swell Sculpture Festival 2016

What's the savviest way to up your culture quota in true Gold Coast style this weekend? Head on down to Coolangatta's SWELL festival and squeak your way around 50 large-scale sculptures in the sand, of course! Crack art critic and Inside Gold Coast reporter, Camilla Jones, swaps her heels for Havaianas, to take in what is fast becoming one of the most significant arts and culture festivals in Queensland.

Now in its 14th year, SWELL brings the ultimate mix of sun, sea and sculpture to our white sandy shores. This year more than 275,000 visitors are expected to roll on in for the show too, which showcases contemporary sculpture by artists from Australia, New Zealand and Colombia.

While the full program of free live entertainment, masterclasses, kids’ activities, artist talks, yoga and twilight sculpture walks is due to wrap up this weekend, there's still time for you to make like a culture vulture and check out the festival before it packs up for another year.

Here are our top 5 recommendations for must-see installations, as judged by the non-arty farty cognoscenti of Inside Gold Coast. Oh, we've also included our own overblown prose for describing each piece, so if you want to make like a critic in the know, you've got the lingo at the ready.

1.      AWES_ME: by Emma Anna, Colombia. Made of recycled timber and aerated concrete, this oversized Scrabble sculpture is made for word-lovers, so naturally takes our number one spot.

Arty farty review: The iconicity of AWES_ME's negative space, spatially undermines the remarkable handling of light, which verges on over specificity.

2.      From Creek To Coast: Matthew Bird, QLD. This incredible sculpture is the perfect spot to rest your weary bones and take a #SWELLfie while you're at it.

Arty farty speak: This work's temporal forms become frozen through frantic relatively, leaving us with a tribute to the edges of our condition.

3.      With You: Katie & Derek Hooper, QLD. Be prepared to induce some serious Alice in Wonderland syndrome - these deck chairs are flippin' huge! Totally social media share-worthy.

Arty farty speak: As subtle forms become clarified through boundaries and repetitive practice, viewers of 'With You' are left with an epitaph for the outposts of our world.

4.      Jobs, Growth and the Anthropocene: Daniel Clemmett, NSW. Rev-heads will love this super cool giant skull, made from the recycled car bonnets, rod steel and 2pack enamel.

Arty Farty Speak: A less adroit artist may have been troubled by the internal dynamic of these biomorphic forms' and how they verge on codifying the work's accessibility.

5.      The Alpha Turtle: BJ Price, QLD. This mega inflatable turtle is super impressive and urges us to think about the Great Barrier Reef and its marine life.

Arty Farty Speak: 'Alphie' the turtle, challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves.

(Yep, that hurt us just as much to write in Arty Farty as it did for you to read it!)


Having your say at SWELL

It doesn't matter where you are, public displays of artwork necessarily bring the armchair-art-critic out of the cultural woodwork. So when you overhear Ma and Pa Pimpama espousing interminable platitudes, like, “This piece clearly should have won”, feel free to obligingly observe how they might put their opinions to use.

“Having your say on the sculptures at SWELL is as easy as popping a vote in the People’s Choice Award,” you can politely inform them, adding “This year, the prize is sponsored by the good people at Currumbin Beach Vikings SLSC and valued at $3,000 !” Wait for the surprised and self satisfied look of said armchair-art-critic, then smugly squeak past in the sand to peruse the next masterpiece. (Who said family outings can't be fun?)

Speaking of families, pint-sized pundits might be a few years off influencing the political outcome of the country, but SWELL encourages them to pipe up with their opinion too. In return, the Currumbin RSL Kids’ Choice Award will see the calloused palm of one hard working artiste, decorated with the princely sum of $3,000 cash.

But wait, if you think your ability to make it rain dollar dollar bills like a Silicon Valley exec in Vegas ends there, think again. There's one elaborately named prize you're forgetting: The Way of Design’s Smalls Gallery People’s Choice Award. This $500 prize will be judged by SWELL visitors like you and announced at 4pm on Sunday, September 18.

So what are you waiting for? Get opinionated Gold Coast and soak up some seaside culture this weekend at SWELL!


For more information, please visit www.swellsculpture.com.au.

By Camilla Jones