Philip Spelman (NSW)
First exhibited on the Bondi coastal walk in 1999
The exhibition ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ stands as one of the most significant contributors to Australian Contemporary art. Within sculpture it is pre-eminent, it has led, and now many exhibitions follow.
Twenty-five years of showcasing emerging, mid-career and leading national and international artists. A commitment to exhibiting and promoting artistic excellence and fostering creativity. Bringing sculpture to the forefront of the dialogue on art in Australia.
Personally I have the opportunity and the pleasure to exhibit in thirty Sculpture by the Sea exhibitions, from Bondi to Cottesloe in Western Australia and Aarhus in Denmark. I have been the recipient of exhibition awards which have enabled travel through Japan, USA, and Europe, visiting artists and museums, and building connections with other artists, curators and collectors.
The exhibition also showcases many of the best international sculptors and to quote sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann OAM “through Sculpture by the Sea, sculpture is the only artform in Australia where major international artists come to Australia at their own cost, to participate in what is regarded as one of the most important sculpture exhibitions in the world. For Australian artists it was always the other way around, no matter the art form, we had to go overseas.”
There are very few conversations about sculpture that do not relate back to Sculpture by the Sea. They have secured the best venues and built an ever-increasing audience, of families and first-timers, into a loyal following that return, embrace and participate, exhibitions that people are drawn to, and artists want to participate in.
Sculpture by the Sea engages and connects artists and community, fostering platforms for dialogue through artist talks and conferences. Connecting school classrooms with onsite education programs, and workshops instilling sculpture-specific visual literacy, integrating creative expression and diverse education principles for life-long knowledge.
Making sculpture is a compulsion, it requires passion and dedication. You need a lot of stuff, and you need a lot of space, it takes both time to make and to understand. It is physical, emotional and at times it can be obsessive.
Most things to do with sculpture are uncommon to other art practice. You will work alongside industry, in foundries and fabrication facilities, your studios are usually cold and cluttered. You will spend inordinate amounts of time at hardware shops trying not to explain what you are making as the discussion is always far too long.
Sculpture sits amongst us as an entity within our space, something we need to make room for and take time to embrace. It’s sometimes hard to make sense of and needs a conversation, it’s often about quite complex stuff like light or shape or forms, and sometimes it’s just direct: it’s environmental or political or social. Artists will always make work and exhibiting is often the result of many unseen works, a collective of experience and perseverance, of experiments with successes and disasters
Making sculpture is expensive. The not for profit organisation behind ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ seeks donors and sponsors who provide both exhibition and direct financial support to artists through generous awards and scholarships. They secure crucial material and installation support which enables artists to be ambitious. In many cases, without this support, the sculptures would simply not be realised. Importantly for the artists, the exhibitions sell sculpture and the organisation has built a strong platform to engage new and long-term national and international collectors of public and private collections.
More than 1,200 artists from around the world have exhibited more than 2,500 sculptures to millions of visitors. Over twenty five years, the exhibitions have changed how people look at sculpture and how we look at art!