Jennifer Cochrane shares her memories and thoughts on exhibiting at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe.
Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe has come to be a significant event in my art practice. From the excitement of participating in the first show to the many times exhibiting since, it has given me countless opportunities and wonderful experiences. So when I was asked if I would contribute an artist’s perspective to the catalogue for the 10th anniversary, I stepped out of my comfort zone, shielded my eyes from the brightness of the spotlight, and said “yes”. The following words represent just one insight amongst the similar and contrasting views of the hundreds of Western Australian artists who have exhibited since 2005.
From the call for entries in August the preceding year to the opening of the exhibition seven months later, the journey of participating in Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe is a rollercoaster ride. The initial excitement of being successful is often followed by “how am I going to make this?”, but all that unfolds over the next seven months is part of the many rewarding experiences of exhibiting in Sculpture by the Sea. For me, the most important of these experiences is the opportunity to exhibit in a public space, a work that represents an ongoing commitment to my art practice, free from any project restraints.
Fast forward through the process of making the work (frustration, technical dilemmas, oscillating between everything going to plan and “there isn’t enough time” and tedious repetition in the workshop) to the installation. This is an exciting time as the reality of the sculpture and exhibition sinks in. I enjoy the interaction with the public throughout the exhibition either through direct conversations or listening nearby the sculpture. It is a very diverse audience, ranging from those seeking out the sculptures to those seeking out the shade they provide, and many variations in between. There are always unexpected interpretations of the work. Of course you have to be able to handle the extremes. My all time favourite is a mother saying to her daughter, “ooh look, Daddy could have brought his rusty old rubbish from the farm for the exhibition!”
During the exhibition, introductions to the other artists, supporters and arts professionals, create lasting relationships and networks from near and afar. The contact with artists is particularly valuable, as it provides insight into their thought processes, ways of producing works, use of materials and approach to the site. These discussions are diverse and vary in levels of intensity. Some of the more memorable conversations have been with international artists where there is a moment of connection and understanding despite the language barrier.
From the first exhibition to the tenth, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe has created much more than an opportunity to exhibit. This is evident when driving through Cottesloe, with the many acquisitions by the Council dotted throughout the town. There are a growing number of private collectors, and whether it is a small, inside piece or a large outdoor work it is always a thrill to sell a sculpture and know that it is part of a collection. The exhibition has raised the profile of sculpture and sculptors, such that increasing numbers of WA artists exhibit beside national and international sculptors in interstate and international exhibitions of Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi and the City of Aarhus in Denmark.
Finally I would like to acknowledge the commitment of the Sculpture by the Sea team to sculpture and congratulate them on their tenth Cottesloe exhibition.
Congratulations and thank you!