By John Stringer, January 2005
Sculpture is an exciting, pro-active and engaging medium, unique in its ability to transcend the protective indoor spaces usually required by the fine arts. Unlike painting, drawing or photography, sculpture belongs in the challenging realm of three-dimensional space and live action where it can interact directly either with nature or the built environment. Despite the comparatively small population of our State, Western Australia is unusually rich in sculptural talent. Distant from the confusing and frequently negative competitive pressures, which characterise larger cities, artists here are relatively free to pursue their individual goals. Western Australian sculptors have an impressive record both for originality and technical accomplishment. Isolation however impacts negatively upon their prospects for national exposure; Perth is under-resourced with art galleries and sculpture parks and distant from the nation’s major exhibiting facilities. Sculpture by nature is frequently difficult to transport, complicated to install and demanding on space. This year’s outdoor exhibition at Cottesloe consequently is a significant event. It provides an opportunity that is both welcome for our specialised creative sector and timely for our eager general viewing public.
Sculpture by the Sea is a prominent public event – one of the most popular and well-attended fixtures in the annual Australian exhibitions calendar. In less than a decade it has become a major and eagerly awaited public attraction, of special appeal to families and outdoor enthusiasts. Since it initially premiered at Bondi in 1997, Sculpture by the Sea has returned to champion local talent at yearly intervals. Additionally though, it has become famous for attracting leading sculptors not merely Australia-wide, but also for introducing major figures from overseas. In line with these principles, this year’s mix at Cottesloe is dominated by pieces actually fabricated in Western Australia.
Especially relevant therefore is the maintenance of a nucleus of talented outsiders including prominent artists from interstate and international guests unfamiliar to our community.
Pertinently though, this is not the first time that Sculpture by the Sea has been seen in Western Australia, for only one year after its initial gestation in Bondi, an expanded Sculpture by the Sea took place during 1998 at five different scenic locales scattered across the continent. Attuned to the unique topography, ecology and beauty of the Australian coastline, the ingenious and enterprising founding Director David Handley selected stunning environments for this unique opportunity. Simultaneous presentations at Albany, Darwin, Noosa and the Tasman Peninsular were enabled by one-off financial assistance from the Olympic Arts Festival. Seven years after Albany, the project now makes a welcome and triumphant return to Western Australia. The superb maritime venue of Cottesloe is a worthy counterpoint both to Albany and the famed precinct of Bondi for the expansion of this wonderful tradition.
Enlightened funding from Allens Arthur Robinson is the catalyst, which has enabled Sculpture by the Sea to return to Western Australia this year. All partners in the event are to be congratulated – the artists for their splendid contributions, the funding agencies for their support and the town of Cottesloe for its foresight in hosting the event. Above all however, we are again in debt to David Handley and his dedicated team. Over an eight-year period they have maintained high standards of artistic and professional excellence, brought thrilling experiences to thousands of people and contributed to the growing sophistication of artistic appreciation and enjoyment in Australia. On behalf of my fellow jurors Helen Carroll and Belinda Cobby who contributed their expertise to the process of selection, I thank David and his colleagues for their notable achievement and their generosity in bringing this splendid event to our community. It has been an immense pleasure to work with you all.