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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Swell sculpture festival drew record numbers

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Daniel Clemmet's 'Keeping up with the Kalashnikov' sculpture was a big hit at the Swell festival.
Daniel Clemmet’s ‘Keeping up with the Kalashnikov’ sculpture was a big hit at the Swell festival.

Maleika Halpin

Record numbers hit this year’s Currumbin’s Swell Sculpture Festival which closed at the weekend.

The event, in 14th year and the biggest to date. attracted some 65 different international, local and community artists including the controversial winner of the 2014 Swell Sculpture Festival Award, ‘Keeping up with the Kalashnikovs’, by northern NSW artist Daniel Clemmet.

The six-metre AK-47 replica, constructed entirely from recycled steel, was a social and political comment toward ‘first world problems,’ the modern day celebrity family ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, and 1956 Russian war mogul and AK-47 creator, Mikhail Kalashnikov.

‘The piece is a by-product of watching too much TV, a cross between reality television and the news and the disparity that exists between the two,’ Clemmet told Echonetdaily.

‘ I was expecting a little bit of controversy, but no one is more surprised than me. Not only did I win the work, but it works, for the simple fact that I have people complaining about it,’ he said.

Event curator Natasha Edwards said well over 215,000 people had attended the event by midweek, massively exceeding the total numbers for last year’s festival.

‘This year, our emphasis to engage with the entire family community has really contributed to such huge crowds,’ Ms Edwards said.

Crowd favourites included the winner of the Kids Choice Award, UK artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrallas, whose green, inflatable, octopus tentacles sculpture stood 10 metres high from the top of the Elephant Rock lookout for the duration of the festival.

Ivan Lovatt's 'Wolf' winner of People's Choice Award.
Ivan Lovatt’s ‘Wolf’ winner of People’s Choice Award.

Where some artworks, like the winner of the People’s Choice Award, Ivan Lovatt’s ‘Wolf,’ were constructed entirely out of galvanised chicken wire, others such as Michael Van Dam’s ‘Intervention’, the winner of the Environmental Awareness Award,took over 600 man hours to construct, having hand-made each individual stainless steel link.

Other entrants, such as Belgian Georges Cuvillier, took nine days to construct his one-off, monumental, bamboo structure on site, which stood 11 metres high and 40 metres wide.

‘I never construct the same thing twice, it’s important for me to keep evolving but remain working within my chosen medium of Bamboo; I find it both flexible and malleable to many different ideas and concepts,’ Cuvillier said.

The seaside festival was smooth sailing for the entire 12 days, and not even a downpour, which rained out the closing act The Samba Blisters, could dampen the spirits of the festivals overwhelming success.

‘We’re already looking forward to next year’s event,’ Ms Edwards said.

‘We receive about a hundred entrants every year, and nothing compares to the excitement and challenge of helping to curate those final contributing artists.’

Pack down of the 2014 swell sculpture festival ends today with all sculptures deconstrucedt and removed from the outdoor gallery.

Of the 65, none have been successful in finding a new home yet, however profiting artists are asking anything from $1,500 to $200,000, with more success at the Swell Smalls gallery, which sold 60 per cent of the artist’s miniature works at the onsite indoor gallery.

Gold Coast City Council have been a huge contributor to post festival artist support, having bought many sculptures from previous years, which now reside in landscapes around the coast.


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