Artists’ Reflections on 20 Sculpture by the Sea Exhibitions

Posted: February 29, 2024 / Essays

Jennifer Cochrane, ‘Cube City’, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2013

Jennifer Cochrane (WA)

First exhibited on Cottesloe Beach in 2005 

When considering the 20th exhibition of Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe my thoughts have travelled far and wide trying to find a way to reflect on this significant occasion and put it into a collection of words that make sense and have meaning.  

Looking back through past catalogues of the show I was drawn to David Handley’s Director’s Note for the inaugural exhibition that ended with the line… “We hope the people of WA enjoy Sculpture by the Sea, making it whatever they want it to be.”  I think that this desire is actually the essence of Sculpture by the Sea. 

I liken the exhibition to a bag of mixed lollies, you have the ones that you love, the  not so loved ones and then the ones that you really don’t like but, to your surprise, someone else loves!  It has something for everyone.

In the writing of these words I have gone through a process of rediscovery on a sentimental journey through my experiences of Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe since 2005.  

“I liken the exhibition to a bag of mixed lollies.”

From my participation in the first show and the many times I have exhibited since then Sculpture by the Sea has given so much.
It has connected, strengthened and increased a community of diverse artists on a local, national and international level through a coming together in a public space.  It has created a conversation with the public that a generation has grown up with as a constant in their lives every March at Cottesloe Beach.  

For me, Sculpture by the Sea has enabled the creation of a body of work beyond, but also complementary to, the traditional gallery trajectory of exhibiting.  These works have been shown in Cottesloe, Bondi and Aarhus, Denmark. I have had introductions to patrons and benefactors creating connections into worlds that I would otherwise never have entered.  I have made life-long friends and colleagues with artists, Sculpture by the Sea staff and members of the public. 

I have developed a huge respect and admiration for the site crew for their skill and expertise and have fond memories of the many late night, early morning conversations when the opening night party crowd dwindled and only a few remained.

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe has achieved David Handley’s desire from his inaugural Director’s Note by creating an exhibition that encourages us to ponder how we perceive the world around us, how we interpret it and what we choose to take with us. Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe is now deeply embedded as an annual cultural event in Western Australia.  

Congratulations to David Handley and the Sculpture by the Sea team on the 20th exhibition at Cottesloe and thanks for having me along for the ride.  I look forward to the continuing journey.

Tony Jones OAM, ‘Southern Passage’, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2014. Photo Clyde Yee

Tony Jones OAM (WA)

First exhibited on Cottesloe Beach in 2005 

Not being the best of recordkeepers, I’m reliably informed this is my 14th participation in Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe. I do recall a very early memorable presentation of Sculpture by the Sea in Albany in 1998 that preceded Cottesloe. At that point, I was aware that something special was possible for sculptors as a number of us attended the Albany event and looked forward to whatever may evolve. 

Cottesloe was the inheritor, the next step. I had been teaching sculpture at the Claremont School of Art since 1976 and had subsequently moved to what has been variously known as Central TAFE/ North Metro. This was around 1999, a purpose-built Fine Art School, a school that had all the contrivances / facilities, equipment and staff to deliver a rich and meaningful art education. It wasn’t a complicated model. It had major studies in painting, sculpture, printmaking drawing and ceramics and qualified, professional staff and practising artists to deliver and complement the curriculum.

“I was aware that something special was possible for sculptors.” 

The Sculpture Department had such notable staff as Stuart Elliott, Susan Flavell and Kevin Draper whose teaching skills and professional practice was highly respected and recognised, similarly the painters, printmakers and potters had staff with very credible CVs. Parallel to the art school there had been a series of artist run, artist inspired group exhibitions over the 1980s/90s such as One Minute to Midnight, Against the Grain, Life Size, Artworks, Subplot, Small is Beautiful, Monaro, Dog 1,2,3, The Peace Show, Heavier than Air, an AGWA Survey 100 Years, some done under the banner of East Bloc, some individually curated, some with the support of Gomboc Gallery, and the Sculpture Symposiums. Into this mix in 2005 came Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe.

It had been tough work building audiences and no matter how hard we tried nothing would give Sculpture the exposure that this new regular event, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe was able to achieve. It shone a light on Sculpture, it illuminated the practice, ‘sculpture’ became a word that everyday visitors to the Cottesloe exhibition now added to their vocabulary. People were keen to engage with tangible 3D artworks to see them in a context that in many cases enhanced their understanding and meaning. To see the beach and especially the groyne jam packed with visitors is an unforgettable experience. Some even felt inspired/confident enough to buy works for their homes, their work places and communities, so much so that there is evidence of re-homed sculpture throughout the Perth metropolitan area and beyond.

Sculpture’s time had come by the late nineties. The advent of the highly regarded Public Art/Percent for Art scheme was enabled by the work done in the art schools and by the East Bloc cohort. Later other complementary group opportunities such as Castaways, City of Rockingham in 2008 and Sculpture at Bathers, Fremantle in 2013 began. 

Many more people now know and appreciate Sculpture thanks to a combination of these factors but key to broader appreciation is Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe. 

As a footnote, I would like to add my earliest childhood memory is of the low tide exposed reef at the foot of Dean Street just south of the groyne which may partially account for my affection for Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe and the regular spot I try to score on the “pier” for my sculpture. 

Keizo Ushio, ‘Oushi Zokei 2 Rings’, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2011. Photo K. Castle

Keizo Ushio (Japan) 

First exhibited on Cottesloe Beach in 2005 

When I first visited Perth in 2005, my impression was that it was bright and shining.  Around the end of February, Japan’s climate is such that white snowflakes occasionally flicker under the lead-coloured sky. In comparison, Cottesloe feels like paradise. The sunset over the Indian Ocean at Cottesloe Beach is spectacular. 

In the 20 years since then, I have made it an important point in my creative desire to deliver sculptures that are suitable for the backdrop of such a spectacular view. Fortunately, we were able to hold the sculpture exhibition without interruption during the coronavirus pandemic, and I am confident that this was not only due to the efforts of the organisers, but also to the tireless support of art lovers in Western Australia. The inspiration between local Western Australian sculptors, Australian sculptors, and sculptors from all over the world was wonderful. As proof of this, there are many sculptures installed in public spaces and private gardens in Perth and throughout Western Australia. It seems to be the fruit of people’s efforts towards peace and prosperity. 

“Japan’s climate is such that white snowflakes occasionally flicker under the lead-coloured sky.
In comparison, Cottesloe feels like paradise.”

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