As you descend the hill to look over Bondi Beach, you could be forgiven for doubting the legitimacy of all the fame behind the name; ‘Bondi’. With dreary skies and the ever-present threat of storms, Bondi Sculptures by the Sea seems less accurate than possibly Sculptures in the Rain.
While a great motivation inspires the event, maybe a transfer to one of the less rainy months could be considered. This was the third day that I had attempted to walk around the Bondi Cliffside to admire the sculptures, but had once again been thwarted by mother nature. Not to be denied, yet again I ventured out with my warmest jacket towards the beach at Tamarama.
As I walk down the steps of the cliff to the beach, I notice that I am not the only one to brave the wind and the cold, there are families, couples, and groups of friends walking, viewing and appreciating the artworks of Bondi Sculptures by the Sea as well. The sand and the water has covered many artworks in detritus, making Sarah Fitzgerald’s ‘X’ all the more authentic, as if pirates had marked not only their maps but the cove for their treasure years ago.
Other artworks have not embraced the adverse conditions with such grace, Elaine Miles ‘Tidal Pools’ can be barely seen through the thick veil of water droplets, the sand encapsulating the installation having been washed away, with a swipe of the hand one can still see the pools standing there with beautiful glass reminiscent of the Muranese artisans or the great Chihuli.
Other artworks of Bondi Sculptures by the Sea suffer from more personified attentions, signs exclaiming ‘do not climb on the artworks’ being studiously ignored by children much to the chagrin of their parents, but not necessarily the artists, as Tae Geun Yang’s ‘Pig of Fortune’ has become a playground of laughter to accompany the movements of water from sea and sky. RCM Collective’s ‘The Bottles’ adds to this liquid cacophony, as 1 metre ‘spray and wipe’ bottles become a water park more suited to the depths of Australian Summer than the rainy spring.
Finally the most eye catching work, Annette Thas’ ‘The Wave’ has a medium of the most confusing texture from far away, a light fur drenched by the rain, upon closer inspection it is actually comprised of thousands of barbie dolls strapped together to form a crashing wave, with many of the dolls having been acquired by wayward attendees.
With the rain beginning to become unbearable, I admit defeat with a vow to attempt to return to Bondi Sculptures by the Sea the following day. As if the clouds heard my plea, I was able to walk the cliff-side the following (and last) day of the exhibition in sun and a light breeze.
Surrounded by my fellow patrons of the arts, amateur photographers and active-wear athletes we stood gaping in awe at ‘Hamlet’s Lament’ by Stephen Harrison, a curious fusion of horse and man, but not in the manner of centaurs but more in the manner of millennial obsession with plastic masks, clutching a skull while sitting on his throne of brick and stone.
Not to be missed was Mike Van Dams ‘Intervention’ comprised of a chain-linked hand guiding a humpback whale delicately in its hand out to sea. Venturing around the headland crowded with sculptures and Sydney’s iconic ‘The Grounds’ coffee in everyone’s hand, one sculpture first catches your ear, a low whistling like those heard in the mountain ranges of the world, then eyes curiously search for the source, a collaboration between Arissara Reed and Davin Nurimba named ‘Acoustic Chamber’.
Bondi Sculptures by the Sea is truly an enrapturing experience despite the rain and necessary multiple attempts, certainly one not to be missed among Sydney’s numerous high culture festivals that run throughout the year.