For 20 years Bondi Sculpture by the Sea has graced the coastal walk, parks and beaches of South Bondi and Tamarama, a scenic area of great natural beauty but not architectural wonder.
Standing above the Bondi Icebergs Club, looking north over the ocean pool, gives the perfect panorama of Bondi, probably the world’s most famous beach. Yet this year, at the beginning of October, the beach was deserted and the great ‘sets’ rolled in to steal the sands.
Waves up to 10 metres crashed ‘out the back’ and the white sea filled the bay. The coastal walk was closed south of Bondi as the breakers washed over the path. At Tamarama the beach had been engulfed and several sculptures no longer stood. The metal works that were mounted securely on the rocks survived the surf, while being soaked with sea spray.
Sculpture by the Sea attracts about 100 entries from leading sculptors from around the world, predominantly from Australasia, eastern Asia and Europe. The free sculpture exhibition has revitalised Sydneysider’s interest in sculpture and the environment and has been a catalyst for a surge in sculptures in public parks throughout the city and suburbs.
This year celebrated the work of Inge Kim An who passed away at 100 years just a few months earlier. Two of her works ‘Link III’ and ‘Celestial Rings I’ were displayed overlooking the turbulent sea.
The works all have an inspirational element and most cannot be fully appreciated except by visiting the exhibition, and ‘walking the walk’ from the Icebergs to Tamarama. Let me reminisce about a few works that captured my attention.
The first sculpture as I walked past the Icebergs Club was ‘Traveling Bag’ by Yumin Jing from China standing remote on the rock shelf in the spray and waves just beyond. It is a very large stainless steel open bag with flowers and grass sprouting from the open top.
A few steps further on the path the visitor is accosted by a network collage of colourful plastic rubbish collected by the Ian Swift, the artist and arranged to cover the rock face beside the walk. He named it ‘Detritus Parasitus’.
Later on, in the park, we encountered an even more grotesque approach to ‘rubbish’ – a large earthmover sits, its dumper filled with plastic rubbish and drink cans. Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy named this work ‘After Party’.
The other works that grabbed my attention were also in the park protected from the sea. There was a gaudy pink stylistic brain that on closer inspection is a divan that had to be seen to be believed.
I was enthralled by ‘The Message’, a stonehenge style arrangement of ones and zeroes (1,1,0,0,1,0,1,0,1,0), crafted in pre-rusted steel. Only the starting digit was not told to the desperate decipherers by Marcus Tatton.
Another intellectual challenge was ‘Infrastructure 5’, two ends of a ship of predominantly small redwood blocks, the ship split open and sinking beneath the grassy knoll – in the prow what appears to be a renaissance or medieval town and a modern city sits in the poop. Interpretation was a complex challenge.
Finally, near the exit from the park is another touch of the quizzical titled ‘Ooroo’ (Australian for ‘Goodbye’), by Richard Tipping comprising two large roadside warning signs, the first a ‘kangaroo’ sign with the kangaroo cut out and the word Ooroo (meaning I guess that the ‘roo’ has gone, while the second sign, a little in advance of the first, comprises the cut out kangaroo. OOROO!!!
Sculpture by the Sea is another reason to extend your visits to Sydney, the most beautiful city in the world. Come back in spring next year and maybe the surf will be up again.