2006 Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essay: Icarus and Sculpture by the Sea

Posted: November 2, 2006 / Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essays, Essays

Bjorn Godwin, ‘Pavilion the Daily Double’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2006. Photo Jamie Williams.

By David Handley

Icarus flew well and his fearlessness grew. He began to think he was quite good at flying. What was this business about charting a middle path, avoiding getting too close to the sun or the sea? Why settle for mediocrity when he, Icarus, could soar? *

Ten years of Sculpture by the Sea! Ten years since we started from ridiculously humble beginnings with an idea and volunteers working out of my lounge room. Like Icarus, on the most fragile of foundations (and thanks to nearly one thousand artists and the support of too many people, organisations and companies to thank here) we have soared higher than we would have ever expected possible. But unlike the man in the myth those of us close to Sculpture by the Sea are keenly aware of just how close we have come each year to being unstuck and crashing into the sea. For what most people do not realize is just how hard it is to raise the funds to stage each exhibition – and this holds equally true for each artist as well as our organisation.

So in our 10th anniversary year it seemed fitting to celebrate Sculpture by the Sea with ’Icarus’ by Guy Warren, a work that all of Sydney could see soaring high up in the sky but which, like the exhibition each year, disappears almost as quickly as it arrives. Maybe this high in the sky celebration is something the mythological Icarus would have done, but unlike Icarus this is not unabashed hubris, rather it is a signal that without more support we cannot promise Sculpture by the Sea will not disappear altogether.

Mankind sometimes evolves, sometimes disappears, sometimes mankind simply moves on. The original inhabitants of Bondi, so named for the sound of crashing waves, clearly enjoyed the coastal walk. There is a midden of shells left over from centuries or more of beach side snacks under the stairs leading up to the Tama Surf Life Saving Club; there are carvings in the rocks at the end of Notts Avenue and a giant shark carving just off the walk on the south side of the Marks Park. Tamarama Wonderland, a giant amusement park that dominated the beach at the start of the twentieth century and the earlier aquarium on the site of the surf club, were dominant features on the Sydney landscape for many years. Now both are gone without a trace except for few archival photos, a street name and the occasional rusting remnants of metal poles.

Our organisation has set the goal of securing the future of Sculpture by the Sea, so that for many more years, if not decades, Sydney will be able to enjoy the annual spring time transformation of the coastal walk by artists from around the world. We aim to do this by establishing a capital fund and enlisting the increased support of Government and philanthropic foundations to match the strong support we have from the corporate sector.

For now we are very excited to present our 10th annual exhibition, which we hope you enjoy, remembering how lucky we are to live in a country where the pursuit of our own goals, happiness and art is possible.

*’Greek Myths’, S. Kirk, published by Chronicle Books LLC, 2005.

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