For the last 18 years, SWELL has been a landmark festival of the arts and one that the Gold Coast should be immensely proud of. If you’ve been before, you’ll know how crazily good it is to wander along a pristine patch of sand such as Currumbin Beach and take in some incredible sculptures of varying sizes and shapes by artists from not just Australia but from all over the globe.
Meander between towering art pieces at dawn with a coffee in hand or sit in the dune grass as the afternoon light fades and marvel at the smallest of details. This unique annual festival is truly a one-off and rightly holds the title of Queensland’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition.
This year’s festival is more significant than ever, with additional sites of Northerly Swell at Helensvale Cultural Precinct, Westerly Swell at Mudgeeraba and Lower Beechmont, and Easterly Swell on Chevron Island. There is also an additional fringe festival with events being held at Currumbin’s Dust Temple and a jam-packed program of events for all ages running from 10-19 September that must be seen to be believed!
Here is our rundown of the pieces that caught our eye, and the selections you have to see when you head down to the festival.
#Lifetime — Hooman Jaffar, Taylah Jardine, Owen Thompson
If you don’t rush this piece and study it carefully, you’ll notice the incredible attention to detail and nuances, like the twelve outer vertical sticks representing a clock face. The exhibit also features mirror pieces in the interior that are precisely positioned to reflect off one another. Put yourself in the right spot, and you can take in an eternal reflection as the majority of the piece looms above you.
Industrial Wildflowers — Carolyn Donovan
This colourful pillar of industrial chic is sure to grab your attention. Contrasting with the creamy white sand, this vibrant splash of colours is meant to depict the balance of nature with our industrial progress. The installation uses discarded and recycled metal containers and promises to reveal different details with the ever-changing light of the day.
Reflection — Dion Parker
Local guy Dion has created himself quite the following with his famous muse Lil Dusty over the years. You’ll find him in all sorts of mediums and always up to something different yet fun. For those who know Currumbin beachfront, you’ll find this piece by the Sun Spirit sunbathing lady statue by Frank Miles; this statue ten years ago encouraged Dion to enter his very first exhibit — and since then, he hasn’t looked back.
Brain Freeze — Jen Mallinson
With the Surfers Paradise skyline in the foreground, these shiny metallic pieces capture your attention straight away. The message though behind this piece is quite profound. Artist Jen Mallinson aims to bring awareness to brain coral: a particularly robust coral with the capacity to regenerate. She hopes the piece will show hope for our dying coral reefs and bring recognition to their plight.
Whale Playground — Sam Gowing
As well as being a talented artist, Sam is also a massive admirer of whales and often spends a considerable amount of her spare time logging whale behaviour around our coastline. This piece depicts five separate whales in a series of passing moments, bringing their interaction with us from the faraway ocean to right in front of us on the beach.
Passing Through — Rae Saheli
Palm Beach local Rae uses a unique piece of equipment to make these distinct aluminium pillars: a 12-gauge shotgun! A highly experienced clay pigeon shooter, she decided that she could create something special by combining her love for art and her passion for shooting. And we can’t argue with that! The pieces are reflective of the patterns left behind on the shoreline from the ocean, with each bullet hole diffusing light in different ways.
Sway — Shiloh Perry
With a collective total of 1500 folded paper cranes on cane sticks, this piece appears to be flowing and moving like a flock of birds or an ocean wave. Inspiration comes from an old Japanese legend that says if you fold 1000 paper cranes, you can be granted a wish. The artist has focused more on the viewer’s interaction and experience around the piece, not how it should be perceived.
Words by Alex Mitcheson.