SWELL Sculpture Festival winners announced ahead of its final weekend

We celebrate the winners of this year’s SWELL Sculpture Festival as the beloved event draws to a close for another year.

The Gold Coast has come alive with art and colour since 1 September, with Queensland’s biggest outdoor sculpture event SWELL Sculpture Festival taking place across the city. And with only two days left until this mighty celebration of all things outdoor art comes to a close, we thought we’d take a look at this year’s winners and their entries.

Beating out the field of 40+ emerging and accomplished artists to take home the major prize is Gold Coast artist Mari Hirata, who won the Neumann Family SWELL Sculpture Award for her piece ‘Sentinels’, a collection of metallic green pieces attached to Currumbin Rock.

“When I was making my sculpture Sentinels, I was thinking about the idea of ‘opposites’ – natural / artificial, indoor / outdoor, city / country, clean / pollution,” said Mari in her SWELL Kids artist statement.

“I wanted to make something organic looking out of a man-made material. These sculptures make me think of a chrysalis, maybe from outer space.”

Artist statement: Sentinels contemplate the seemingly disparate systems of our urban landscape and the ever-contracting natural environment, allowing for a re-examination of our relationships to nature and perhaps suggest a new kind of hybrid nature in this increasingly industrialised, disposable world. Working predominantly with recycled industrial materials, the installation plays with the idea of juxtaposition by taking an artificial, manufactured ‘body part’ and reconsiders the notions of our health and lifestyle by reinserting it into the natural landscape of Currumbin Beach. Judged by Emeritus Professor Pat Hoffie AM.

The Max Fabre Foundation Environmental Awareness Award was hotly contested with ‘Critically Endangered’ by Gold Coast based, interdisciplinary emerging artist Claudia De Salvo taking out the prize.

“I love the sense of catharsis that comes with developing and pushing my creative process,” says Claudia. “I have experimented with a number of different mediums; found materials, fabric, collage, photography, wire and more. A couple of years ago I discovered ceramics and have since fallen in love with the process. It has allowed me to convey ideas and concepts that I have been developing and carrying with me for years.”

Artist statement: In the wake of the destruction caused by extreme bushfire events are a group of twenty-two critically endangered plant species, their habitats scorched potentially beyond repair. These crematory urns force us to confront the inevitable reality that many of these species face. Each vessel is glazed using local wood ash. Whilst in this instance the ash has been immortalized through the firing process, the reality is that many critically endangered species will simply disappear back into the earth once they’ve been burned. Selected by Leanne Sanderson.

This year’s Jennie Neumann OAM Emerging Artist Award was taken out by Robert Guenther for his evocative nautical sculpture ‘Ragner v Moby’. A first time entrant and sculptor, Robert is an accomplished woodworker and furniture maker.

“My furniture pieces have always been very sculptural, so while it is true this would be my first foray into a sculptural installation, it is something I have been working towards for a very long time,” he says. “Indeed many of my construction techniques are inspired by boat building.”

Artist statement: The ancient Indian parable of the ‘Elephant and Three Blind Men’ still holds true today. Having never experienced an elephant before, each feels a separate part of the animal and each has a different truth. Rather than investigate fully or discuss, they simply accuse the other of lying and hold firmer to their belief. As you walk around Ragnar V Moby, picture how easy it would be to reach a belief, if you were only given part of the picture, especially if the truth is outside your usual realm of thought. Selected by Michelle Neumann, Kathy Conforti, Mark Neumann.

Finally, the 2020 Somerset Storyfest Artist Statement Award went to Hooman Jaffar, Taylah Jardine & Cole Neuper for their piece #Lifebridge.

A collaboration between two Architects and an Electrician/Craftsman. Hooman Jaffar and Taylah Jardine work together at RealSpace Creative – a local Architectural Design Consultancy. Projects range from Interiors to Retail, Hospitality, Custom Residential, Commercial, Childcare and Master Planning. Cole Neuper is a highly skilled Craftsman, with experience in electrical, carpentry and metal work. He runs his own company – Frankly All By Hand.

Artist statement: Our Sculpture celebrates the journey of Life. By inviting visitors to walk across the bridge – we imagine a metaphor of shedding negative thoughts, and using the crossing to channel positive energy. #lifebridge forces us to move forward. The Bridge has one direction, broken into three sections. The contrast of the three sections embodies our metaphor. The first section represents the past, second represents the present, the third symbolizes the future. The structural integrity of the bridge relies on the three sections connecting. One could not exist without the other. Selected by Andrea Lewis.

A huge congratulations to all winners and all entrants on another spectacular event. If you haven’t made it down yet, this weekend is your last chance for 2020. For more information on artists, getting there and what’s on, visit swellsculpture.com.au.

IMAGES (c) PBR Images


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