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Swell times ahead for sculpture festival, even without the artists


The artists may not be able to come, but their creativity will aim to make its own monumental statement when SWELL sculpture festival opens at Currumbin beach on the Gold Coast on Friday.

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While the southern Gold Coast has become a flashpoint for bitter border lockdown protests and businesses have borne the crippling brunt of lockdowns and restrictions either side of the Queensland entry line, the festival featuring 65 large-scale contemporary sculptures is a welcome return of life to the zone.

The outdoor sculpture exhibition transforms the 1km stretch of Currumbin beach into an outdoor art gallery from 10 to 19 September.

It is the second consecutive year one of the largest sculpture exhibitions in the country has overcome state border closures, pandemic restrictions, and the nation-wide cancellation of reams of outdoor events to go ahead.

SWELL artist director and curator Natasha Edwards said the executive team had made constant changes in the planning to hold the 19th SWELL exhibition as many other arts events crumbled.

“It has been a roller coaster ride this year and the whole world has felt the stress of the pandemic. We’ve come to realise in times like these that getting outdoors, creating, and enjoying art is more important than ever,” Edwards said.

SWELL Sculpture Festival Executive Director Dee Steinfort said organisers had taken a very hands-on roll to get the 2021 festival ready.

“This year we’ve had to install 14 works on behalf of artists who couldn’t make it over the border,” she said.

“A large percentage of those were from the border bubble area. For us as an organisation, and for artists who communicate their installation methods and to freight them all here, it’s been quite an adventure, but we’re doing it.”

Steinfort said artists blocked by pandemic restrictions from being at the festival in person would still participate through online presentations.

“We’ve just stayed true to presenting as many works as we can and supporting artists and showcasing their works,” she said.

“It’s tough for the artists, but it’s the next best thing. At least their works are being exhibited.

“It’s going to be a fantastic exhibition and the artists are proud, they’re really proud that they’ve got their works here and their beautiful sculptures will be on display.”

The festival, which was one of only a handful events that went ahead under strict Covid restrictions last year, is no stranger to adapting.

It attracted record crowds of 97,695 visitors last year, despite strict limits and social distancing edicts in place.

Following that success, SWELL will again run the Fringe Festival of live events including visual arts and literacy masterclasses and live music, as well as the SWELL Smalls Gallery of mini sculptures.

Pop-up exhibitions to connect north, east and western points of the Gold Coast sculptural compass to Currumbin in the south, will again be on offer. westerlySWELL will kick off at Mudgeeraba and Lower Beechmont with a focus on wordplay that includes a scrabble soiree.

At Helensvale, the northlySWELL will feature ‘Homer Homer’, a five-metre-tall inflatable head that combines Homer Simpson and a bust of the ancient Greek author and poet, Homer.

easterlySWELL at Chevron Island Park will host interactive large-scale “bubble-tecture” installations of iridescent inflatable bubbles that you can walk into and be immersed in a soothing soundscape.


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