Friday 23 September 2016


The 2016 catalogue of the Swell Sculpture Festival held at Currumbin Beach, Queensland, Australia has been published here to illustrate the review and commentary of this event: see
This allows all sculptures to be illustrated and all texts associated with each work to be included in order to cover the broad scope of this outdoor exhibition as compactly and completely as possible.
The SWELL LIST 2016 below gives a brief commentary on each work.


Note: The # tag represents those artists who exhibited in 2013: see -
The * tag represents artists who exhibited in 2014: see -
The ^ tag represents artists who exhibited in 2015: see -

There are 14 out of 48, nearly one third, (c.f. 19 out of the 55, nearly one third in 2015, and 21 out of 66 in 2014), who have submitted again this year. As was said in 2014: 'It is this core of repeated style, even materials, that gives the 2015 festival a feeling of the familiar that somewhat stifles one’s enthusiasm for creativity, its discovery; its experience - surprise and intrigue. One sees only variations of more of the same.' No more, or any different words, need to be said in 2016.

Comments have been jotted down on each work by way of a general overview, and to assist in the reassessment of the works with time. One's opinions do change, but they need substance to ponder, to assess and to challenge ideas and thoughts, to give something tangible to stimulate debate. First thoughts can be wrong: well, different to later ones; challenged by them, perhaps.

*#^01 Christopher Trotter Wheelie Hi Vis’ An Industrial Life Saver
An interesting, subtle change in Trotter’s work. This simple ‘lifebuoy’ presence ironically made of massive pipe connections, quaintly plays with perceptions while carrying ambivalent messages that concern.

02 Erica Gray Venemous Blue
A big bundle of markings on baggy forms that remind of the octopus, but seem struggle to maintain this identity. The sculpture seems happy to remain a deflated bundle of octopus-like markings ready to be revitalised: was it ever inflated?

03 Tom Emmett Hang Ten [Love Isn’t Only A Feeling]
Is this a bubble blower? One is reminded of the ring that delights children as it is dipped into detergent and blown; but the delight here is minimised, stylised. The reference to landscape is tenuous, even if it the view through the loop that holds a strange ‘dental’ quality about it.

04 Lisa Sorbie Martin Stillness In Time
This is an interesting piece, nicely made and detailed. It gives beautiful shadows. The text seems to read more into the work than one can appreciate or experience. Is it too hopeful?

05 Andrew Cullen & Kara Vaughan Anti-dote
Wiry little creatures! Quaintly art? - but not pompous.

06 Clayton Thompson Project Bread
It is always difficult to manage a political statement with artworks that manipulate form and beauty, but this is a good effort touching somewhat on Babylon. It is sad that this wonderful idea demeans itself with its title and references. It touches on Borobudur, and on the pyramids at Giza with its presence and qualities, and other really strong geometrical ideas. It is ingenious in its structure and assemblage. I see it as a possible winner, but it seems to have denied itself this outcome with its enigmatic ‘Bread’ politics. It is one of the few sculptures that has a role in the landscape while maintaining an intimacy and intrigue in its detail.

07 Joe Stark Swell’s Pumping
Jokey art stays more jokey than art. It is always difficult to overcome the pun. This work struggles with this problem.

^08 Ben Carroll Nothnig But Time
This work reminds one of the carved aboriginal poles at Kangaroo Point. Each work operates on a different level. Here, the tiny pieces make the wholes that stand with a delightful authority in the esplanade, as though made for it. The Gold Coast City Council should purchase this and leave it here. It is a very alluring work.

09 Pamela Lee Brenner & Johannes Muljana Bubble [Fountain Of Zero]
This piece seems to have been inspired by the famous Kings Cross fountain that has been so successful as a civic landmark. The artwork is nicely made but gets messy in the centre. It is not clear whether the bulbs should have been in or out. The light catches the cut plastic bottles very nicely.

10 Emma Anna AWES_ME
Plays on words, like puns, rarely transform themselves into quality art. This piece suffers from this game, but remains interesting because of its reference to another game, with its pieces displayed with this change in scale. Unfortunately the familiar feel of the pieces, their smooth precision, is lost up close when one discovers the parts made of roughly cast concrete.

11 Vanessa Stanley Into The Daylight
A lovely surprising play of light that surprises, but unfortunately it is somewhat like a circus fair game: the mirror maze. It is difficult to take playful art seriously.

12 Sara Irannejad Multiverse
This delightful work intrigues. The stumps puzzle from the distance, but the decoration on the surfaces of the cuts is beautiful. One can sense the cultural references here: aboriginal trees; Islamic decoration and markings. Maybe it should have been called Markings after Dag Hammarskjöld little book and the United Nations reference that it holds.

13 Antone Bruinsma Beach Blossom
Stone blossoms are always difficult to handle. The stone here is very beautiful, nicely worked and finished. Unfortunately, it is the flower that jars awkwardly both as a mass and a colour.

*#^14 Greg Quinton Look From The Other Side
This piece has an inherent problem. It uses the fair game model of ‘put your face here on the fat lady,’ e.g., and asks one to try to put oneself into the position of a refugee child - ‘look form the other side,’ but what at? It is not funny; nor is it artful: just extremely awkward. Its prettiness also belies, belittles its serious intent.

15 Clare Urquhart Affordable Housing Initiative
Did this artist run out of time, or ideas? This seemingly shabby, ad hoc outcome challenges one, not on the basis of its title and any concerns that might come from this subject, but with its apparent slap-happy quality that chucks a few blue tarps around on a couple of sticks, stencils them and gives it a title and an ‘arty’ price because of its unique claim to be ‘ART.’

16 Lynne Adams Save Our Seabed
This work is playfully creative and inventive. Its political/environmental message can be sustained with this diversity of plastic that keeps the interest and intrigue alive. The colour and forms seem to overcome the weight of the issue with their presence.

^17 Dave Hickson Pigeons For Peace
The wooden image in the catalogue is far more attractive than the metal forms one sees on the grass. One has to struggle to see the ‘bird’ qualities in this welded weight. Wood appears to have a greater affinity with the idea.

18 Holly Pepper Mourning The Reef
Sadness does not rise in the native experience of this piece that is neat and precise, catching the light with interesting flickers. One needs to understand the text to understand the theme of the work and its issues. The piece has a lovely, beachy translucence.

19 B J Price The Alpha Turtle
A big one! It is impressive. One does wonder about such quality outcomes as this being on the merry-go-round of exhibitions. Was it invited? Did it come as an exhibition piece or as part of the festival seeking a prize? It is a very nice work with wonderful patterns. One is still struggling to understand the artist’s message in the pattern that is apparently there; but it is nicely made and decorated: rather spectacular.

^20 Tessa Bergan The Wash
Puns do no hold power in art: artists should recognise this. Puns can exist but never as the core of a work – c.f. Antonio Gaudi’s works. Art needs other roots. That this punning seeks greater depth than wash of water on the beach – first fleet and wash away sins - only makes one cringe more. Why do artists do this? What/where is the search for beauty/wonder?

21 Nick Warfield Gangarru
This is an astonishing work. It reminds one of an early Chris Trotter in wood. The sculpture has all of the rigour and energy of the animal in the choice of the parts that have a dual presence – furniture and kangaroo.

*#^22 Daniel Clemmett Jobs, Growth And The Anthropocene
Gosh, the technique is always taking over from the message in this artist’s work, as one recalls that of other years. One is puzzled by the words and the image. The work seems to lack coherence. It appears to be a struggle for meaning in an ad hoc idea.

^23 Rebecca Cunningham Resonance
Brassy! A playful piece of ‘science.’ Some visitors tried it out with mixed results. As a sculpture, one is left looking and wondering – art or gadget?

*^24 Giuseppa Filardo Finders Keepers
Lost? Yes. Found? No – but one might guess the idea. The big black ‘diamond’ that has been made so roughly changes ideas and feelings about this piece; but the work does have a lovely presence as pearls - too big to lose?

25 Katie & Derek Hooper With You
Is over-size a good enough variation to claim ‘art’? The text talks about its title, about ‘togetherness,’ but do two big chairs carry this sense? Maybe tiny might have been a better, but less impressive way to touch tenderness.

^26 Wayne Markwort Lobster Claw Hand Boy
One struggles to see quality here. There is something awkward in this work. Why lobster claws? Has the artist a problem with hands? A ‘confused, detached and mutated figure’? Has the theme been chosen to reflect the quality of the work, or vice versa?

*^27 Dion Parker I Was Here
A pissing dog is playful, especially when under the ‘NO DOG’ sign. The work has a sweet, compact and iconic identity that gives it some special substance as an object.

28 Shelly Kelly Monacle
This simple piece struggles to overcome its ordinariness in expressing what it is. The price-tag seems to hint at some mystery as ‘art’ that one can never really touch or feel.

29 Karl de Waal The Lost Art Of The 20th Century
?? What’s lost? Perhaps one’s tolerance is tested rather than lost. It is really difficult to stretch the experience beyond a few old boxes t’art’ed up. The tension leaves one not questioning the contents of the boxes, but the content as art.

*#^30 Mike Van Dam Life Is A Masquerade
One is familiar with the chain technique that seems to take over and reference other expressions of other years. These masks struggle to hold authority, although the decorated form has a Venetian strength and identity that works well.

31 Kirsten Baade Swirls
One is reminded of Jean Nouvel’s Arab Institute wall in Paris. This wall uses the camera iris as sun control. This artwork on the beachfront adds colour and little vistas. It is beautifully made and works well. The colour and movement intrigue, opening up changing glimpses through little portholes.

32 James Worth Seafaring Voyager
An interesting piece of metal work that looks like a twin seat. The words seem to unnecessarily force an idea.

33 Liesa Russell Cocoons
A beautifully made work with naturalistic references that do not seem to challenge one to go beyond the material and the technique.

34 Alex Polo & Michael Dowling Danicing In The Sun
The cut-out technique has become so familiar that one is left a little unsurprised, while always being impressed at how well it works. One has seen it all before. Peter Cole used this idea in the EXPO held in Brisbane in 1988. His work was relocated to the Kangaroo Point Boardwalk along the Brisbane River some years after the EXPO. This new artwork gives new stances on the beach. It photographs well. It is a clever re-interpretation of the planar silhouette model, with angles and folds in the steel sheet that creates interesting and changes perceptions.

35 Indra Stephenson Mermaid
A very strange and enigmatic object – the reversal of the mermaid? It looks poorly made and seems somewhat drab.

36 Greg Windsor Lighfbooat
A wooden mass is supposed to ask the question: ‘What does it mean to value?’ One still does not know. The mystery apparently remains in the artist’s head.

*#^37 Scott Maxwell Club House
Again, this work has the problem of art puns. It was suggested before the title was known that it might be ‘Tee House.’ Indeed it could be so; but what does one make of this beyond the play on words and ideas - seeing golf clubs as a shed?

^38 Kris Martin Earth Being
The Buddha eyes suggest something else than enclosure. A technically beautiful thing that is ‘eye-catching.’

39 Lauren Gray & Steven Hing Message In A Bottle
A lovely piece of decorative bottle tops. The message seems more about beauty and colour than environment.

*#^40 Monte Lupo Sandy The Dog Walker
This work feels like garden gnomes, plaster-cast clichés. One grimaces at the dogs, their naive forms. The work is neither playful nor serious; until a dog arrives and tries to join the troupe!

41 Matthew Bird From Creek To Coast
Nice birds; not a really good seat. One could feel threatened. It generates recollections of the rise of the Third Reich: its re-birth?

42 Village Bike Gold Coast (Inc) Wind In The Wheelos
This is a delightful piece of machinery doing more than it seems to be engaged in. It attracts the eye with its ‘bikey’ detailing. A simple joy.

43 Alicia Lane Rainforest Remnants
These pieces are very pretty. They have a lovely quality of seed pods. The copper is appropriate and works well with the expression and their location. It will weather nicely.

44 Potts & Jim Blower The Rusty Plank
Rusty planks stay rusty planks. One struggles to get joy from this large, rusty piece. The Beach Boys pun creates a struggle.

45 Tim Elliot & Kate Millington Kingfisher
A big bird, but a sentinel? Kingfishers are not beach birds. It is a beautifully made work.

46 Georgia Morgan Flow Of The Seafaring
An artful work that seems to leave one appreciating the effort without knowing the reason why, or its emotional references. John Betjeman once commented on his poems being put to dance and music, saying: “I don’t know if it adds anything, but I appreciate the effort.”

47 Oatricia Hoffie & David Sawtell Kyoto Photocol Revenant
A lovely set of quirky silhouettes that appear to have very little to do with climate change.

48 Glenn Barry & Neville Torrisheba Bujerum Means Spirit In Yugembeh Language
Netting dreams – are the artists dreaming? It is a great disappointment that the hill, its prominence, has not been enhanced as an icon. One can talk about things being subtle, discovered, etc., but it would have been wonderful to have had a landmark for the festival. The event seems to lack presence this year.



What more can one say? It is again the time of the year when the annual sculpture festival at Currumbin, Queensland, Australia is held – SWELL 2016. A commentary has been written on the festival for the last three years – see: ; ; and There is little more that one can add without repeating these views because this festival seems to be happy to use the same model each year – the same strategies, in the same places, in the same positions, with the same plan, the same graphics, and the same signs, the same Green area, the same shelters; indeed, with many of the same artists. There is clearly a ‘recipe’ that is used for this event. Why? Why is the festival not accepted as an annual challenge, an ever-new quest, never to be repeated? Why is it, to use the SWELL analogy, happy to tread water?

SWELL needs difference, variance to add life and enthusiasm to the occasion, rather than presenting the familiar and friendly face of the formula each year. Such an approach might be easy and safe, keeping everyone relaxed and comfortable, but it does sap some energy from the content, the outcomes, because one is constantly reminded of what has happened in the past and relates the current experience to this. That the organisers actually use images of other years in their promotional material, and display ‘old’ artworks in the ‘smalls’ gallery, only ensures that previous times and themes are recalled, rejuvenated.#

SWELL 2016 catalogue: MUM from 2015

SWELL 2016 catalogue: CHAINS 2013

For example, this year, in 2016, one notes how the southern end of the site is rather empty, a circumstance made more obvious by the prominence of the rock being decorated with a work having no matching presence or identity. This elephantine outcrop is simply layered with a net and a metaphoric rationale that tells of ‘catching the dreams and also holding the stories together.’ The text, the intent, is richer than the work that sadly smudges, smothers the slope. Looking at the catalogue one sees that there are only 48 entries this year, and soon realises that the publication itself looks different; but it is still somewhat the same. This time the catalogue is larger: instead of having one work/artist per page in the handy pocket-sized format of previous years, the 2016 publication has used a folded A4 format, A5, for the booklet, placing two artists on each page, spread over 12 double pages interspersed with the same site map, and squeezed in between copious advertisements and credits: all for the same $5.00.

One can add no more comment about this publication because it, too, is basically the graphic format seen in previous years. The artists' explanations offer the same self-conscious blurbs that usually emphasise a trite quality, or a pretentious aloofness; and sometimes nothing at all. There is in these texts something like a latent superiority, an assumed genius, that is frequently further highlighted in the pricing of the works. One has seen it all before. Will it ever change? Does a work have to carry an outrageous price-tag in order to be considered ‘art’? This approach makes it hard for the lay person to accept art as a serious pursuit. Is this the new source of awe, amazement, that the work itself might be struggling to capture? There is no work on display about which, as Martin Lings said of Islamic art: "One cannot marvel enough." There are many works that one can query and criticise, and puzzle over, not on the basis of "I know what I like," but by using the simple rigour of testing theories and analysing ideas as experienced, as felt, to realistically see and assess what is there/not there against what is being claimed: frequently things are otherwise. Superficial exaggeration of assumed intents is a common featured foible in the artists’ writings, frequently made cryptically obvious in the exotic titles of the works.

SWELL 2016 felt rather flat. One usually tests the sense of place with a preliminary drive-through. This year the initial approach revealed very little but traffic chaos. Where were the prominent sculptures? One was not amazed; the eye was never startled or intrigued: one was not encouraged to stop and stare, or even to pause. When one did eventually find a space to park the car and walk along the esplanade, the sculptures were quickly discovered to be various and sundry in their qualities, all set, spread and sprawled out as usual along the grass and beach, between trees, shrubs, bins, paths and drains, with the same identifying plaques and the usual 'KEEP OFF . . .' signs. It seems that many parents cannot read; or is this the new relaxed, ‘informed/tolerant’ method of raising children? One dare not get involved in commenting on a child climbing or otherwise physically engaging with a work, for this is the era of the selfie: everyone is right and has a right to self-expression.

A few weeks ago, at an art gallery event in a small, regional country area, a young lady was snapping away with her camera in a room that had signs everywhere declaring: 'NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED.' When she was told about these notices, after having been caught taking a photograph, she turned abruptly, snarled explicitly that she knew what she was doing, etc', etc., claiming that she had a right to do it, mocked the complainant with a scowling attribution of ignorance, and turned away with an expressive display of insult. She did not take any more photos! This is the era of roaring road-rage; anything-rage. The individual is always correct; one cannot be corrected except by the rager. So the children are left to do whatever. One merely turns a blind eye to this rude parental negligence.

Each piece of sculpture tried to do something different, but few works surprised or delighted. Some were expressive of a task; others grappled hopelessly with an ‘intellectual’ idea; some were interested only in technique and skill; other were, at best, explained as being ‘experimental;’ some seemed to be merely hopeful indulgences. Frequently one was left struggling to be polite with even a glimpse of enacted admiration: only occasionally did a work gleam a little, catch the eye differently. One was generally left numbed: more 'ART'? The ‘ART’ was the same; the esplanade was the same; the Small Gallery was the same; the support house was the same: one could see 'art' when it was merely street furniture, a bike, a stake, a sign, a bin just as in previous years, the same: one had seen it all before.

That some artists had been at SWELL before in other years meant that one could recogise the style: chains; old metal parts; spot welded coloured steel pieces; polished stone; old bikes; timber pieces; etc. It was this recognition that complicated the experience. SWELL needs to do more to engage people differently, each year. It is really not good enough to keep repeating the same everything year after year. This is supposed to be a creative exhibition; a festival: well, an exhibition of creativity – excitement; ART; ideas. Sadly it is becoming just the annual SWELL event, where we see the same things again and again, as old props. What other art festival employs these static tactics? If the SWELL management cannot or will not accept the challenge to be creative each year, then it needs to go. It needs to pass on the quest to those who will take the work on and present a truly exciting, new SWELL each year: a truly ‘swell’ SWELL.

One always has to overcome complacency. SWELL has become self-satisfied; contented; lazy; almost careless: certainly, it seems, heedless of the visitors understanding and experience. That the visitors come, might only be that Queensland does not have a surplus of such events; that the money still pours in might keep folk happy, satisfied: but is SWELL merely turning into an event for sponsors to advertise? Is success just a mathematical calculation? SWELL must keep its vision alive and alert – every year. The organisers expect the artists to be vibrant and creatively challenging, so why should they themselves not set an example? All that is on offer is the familiar format for the expected ‘brilliant pieces’ of sculpture to be slotted into. The strategy has become too transparent. It needs rigour and renewal.

Try new ways of exhibiting; new lighting; new graphics; different spaces; new places; try organising different ways of access (parking is a serious problem); try to constantly surprise; try setting the example for all. Dragging along the baggage of the past might make folk feel safe, laid-back and snug, but it places a shroud around what should be a bright and open re-engagement. One can only hope SWELL 2017 will accept the challenge: not surprisingly, it is already advertising for sponsorships! Why not spend more time on ideas, possibilities, new ways of engaging with the artists, the public, and the place – Currumbin Beach and its esplanade?

One has to ask why, when this is an annual event, the Gold Coast City Council does nothing to improve the infrastructure in this foreshore. It is really as ‘crappy,’ bland and ordinary, as most places along the Gold Coast are. Knowing that it has this event every year, much more could be done to improve the experience of place: better planting, better lighting; better access; better signage; etc. That the beautiful old banksia trees are dying, or getting damaged, vandalised, and are being replaced with boring new gardens complete with concrete edge-stripping and quirky border plants, is astonishing. What landscaper has done this quaint, ‘blob’ planting that gives little thought to the whole?

Remnant artwork from 2013?

SWELL needs to aim to become the best festival in the world, not the same old SWELL at Currumbin each year that is repeatedly declared locally to be so ‘successful.’ Take the challenge on! Do not shirk it again and again as in the past. Currumbin, Queensland, can be better than this. Currently SWELL seems to be resting on its laurels, doing the same, and getting the same response from the same people for the same show. It needs a new energy with new ambitions to do more and better, always.

# This year Ivan Lovett’s the wire animal was missed: that special skill in creating such realism in expression with simple, ordinary chicken wire is unforgettable. Remembering this quality and noticing its absence just shows how the past can interfere with the present when things are repeated. One is constantly reminded of other times, other events, other experiences, other works - seeking them, comparing them - when surely the essence is to be in the present: NOW – its WOW!



For the SWELL CATALOGUE 2016 and the SWELL LIST 2016, see: