Sculpture by the Sea: Our Top Five Picks

By Cottesloe Art Activations, Sculpture by the Sea is an incredible, iconic annual exhibition of sculptures consisting of 73 artists from all around the world – put on full display at Cottesloe beach. Mathew Bell set out to pick his top five favourites.


B.Jane Cowie, Swirling Surround, 2018, Sculpture by the Sea, stainless steel and art glass.

B.Jane Cowie’s Swirling Surround brings a Surreal school of sunlit fish to our shorefront sights as this significant Sculpture by the Sea displays a repetitive rhythm. The smooth, scaled sea creatures swim beyond the sand, above our stance and surface into the sky.

B.Jane’s artwork is about moving together as one and forming elaborate motions. However, Swirling Surround reminds me of the quick paced decision making of today’s society. Swim with the crowd for safety or stray and be singled out for better or worse.

The glistening glasses in the afternoon sun, as well as the analogous colour combinations, bring a toy texture to my attention. Much like those playful ice blocks I’d freeze and throw in an Esky, I’m left with this cool, refreshing thought that is slowly thawed in the shade of this sun-soaked sculpture.


Elyssa Sykes-Smith, Layered Potential, 2018, Sculpture by the Sea, perspex, polycarbonate, timber, stainless steel cable.

Elyssa Sykes-Smith’s Layered Potential is poised between two prominent pine trees, the placid Perspex and transparent polymers produce a panoramic process of concept and conclusion. Seen during sunset, the sight specific installation of ideas is brought to life when contrasting with the solid silhouettes of surrounding spectators and a mellow sea breeze that beckons a cold beer of achievement.

Elyssa Sykes-Smith’s artwork examines opportunity, space and psychology. Layered Potential unravels a discussion of organic and expressive shapes juxtaposed with geometric logic and understanding. From breaking down the artist statements, it appears that whilst creating and conceiving her process, Elyssa constructed and explored her abstract sculpture intentionally unaware of its completed outcome.

The calming, cool and complimentary colour tones that lie within this piece’s simple shapes and cloud kin imagery make my aching feet pause for a relaxing breathe of awe. The dynamic horizontal layout of this piece requests nothing more than a comfortable moment of contempt.


Danger Dave and Christian Ranger, Damien Hurst Looking for Sharks, 2018, Sculpture by the Sea, PVC tarpaulin, ripstop nylon.

Danger Dave and Christian Ranger’s Damien Hurst Looking for Sharks, dives into a playfully-sinister side of Sculpture by the Sea. This over exaggerated pop art reference to Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living is an eye-catching, crowd-coaxing, turn of tide for the ever-current contemplation of death.

With the light-hearted plastic sculpture being large enough to consume the 4.6-meter tiger shark this artwork is attributing, the silly sand snorkeler seems more surprised than distressed. The cartoon expression and pastel scuba gear promote a fun, cheeky poke at an ancient, formidable and terrifying subject.

This artwork provides more interest than shade. The photo realistic skin wrinkles in the wind and the expressive beach ball sized blow-up eyes, shoo audiences that land on the nose like a Little Peter Rabbit song. The only element missing in this artwork is a horrific sunburn, because that is one of the most frightening aspects of beach.


Hamish Mcmillan, Converge, 2018, Sculpture by the Sea, salvaged timber, steel, repurposed rubber boots, life ring.

Hamish Mcmillan’s Converge fits well with contemporary issues. The artwork is ever-changing, whether manipulated by human interaction or stolen by the ocean, these boots step into a rising discussion of climate change.  The graveyard of empty gumboots tread lightly around an out of reach solution, this last-resort life ring won’t save a single soul until these shoes are swept up and washed out.

Not only is the metaphor in Converge clever and powerful, the design is intriguing too. The selection of boots suggests being caught in a rift around the centre; they swirl in an eerie, upright position, knowing of their fate. The kid-sized kicks add a splash of colour, while the adult-sized wade in with heavy direction.

The artwork appears ominous. The empty boots arranged around an altar on the beach seemed symbolic for something gone horribly wrong. However, my mind didn’t stride into this specific topic until reading the artist’s fascinating, thought-provoking statement.


Karl De Waal, Get a Haircut, Get a Job, 2018, Sculpture by the Sea, mobile solar powered electronic message board.

Karl De Waal’s Get a Haircut, Get a Job was my favourite Sculpture by the Sea for 2018. Hidden in plain sight by the road, this Pop Art mobile message board parodies the mundane slogans we pass by in our daily commutes. With an instantaneous juxtaposition of the expected, ‘construction work ahead’ signage and the nostalgic recognition of the slogans, this piece alerts us to the catchphrases we see and hear that affect our daily decision making.

Every 20 seconds or so, the artwork flicks through slogans such as “RING YOUR MOTHER”, ‘CLEAN YOUR ROOM”, and “HAVEN’T YOU GOT IT YET?”. The giant roadworks sign is Contemporary Pop Art at its finest. People didn’t think twice about Campbell’s soup until it was repeated, reproduced and re-installed into an artform. Now seeing this artwork, I’ve driven through every time I’ve been told to “LOOK ON THE BRIGHTSIDE”.

Bonus Sculptures!
For the sunburnt, sand-scorn spectators, a pop-up gallery is installed across the street as part of Sculpture by the Sea. This section contains high-quality small sculptures in an intricate air-conditioned environment. The Artworks inside range from a delicate, fluffy feather sphere to cheeky, cartoon ceramics. In here, the scaled down sculptures are split amongst political, design, environmental and social issues.

Naidee Changmoh, My Little Babies, 2017, Sculpture by the Sea, Jingdezhen’s porcelain.

Sculpture by the Sea is featured from the sea wall of Cottesloe Beach, and runs from March 2 – 19 this year.

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