Sculptors defy lockdown for sandy show

This year's Swell festival is showcasing the work of some locked down artists in absentia.
This year's Swell festival is showcasing the work of some locked down artists in absentia.

One of Australia's biggest outdoor art shows has managed to defy COVID-19 despite the enforced absence of some star exhibitors.

With more than 60 large-scale contemporary works on show, Swell Sculpture Festival has transformed a one kilometre stretch of Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast into an outdoor gallery over the past week.

And although some talented Queensland artists have been able to attend in person, others locked down interstate have had to rely on the kindness of colleagues to display entries.

Jasmine Mansbridge, whose installations have elsewhere been exhibited by the National Gallery of Victoria, had to send her 150kg, 2x2 metre sculpture Five Point Portal flat-packed rather than deliver it herself.

Despite being shut out of Queensland, the Melbourne mother of five says she's grateful to have a remote creative outlet.

Heartbroken that Sydney's Vivid festival was cancelled in May, NSW artists Zara Pasfield and Renzo B. Larriviere were also determined to showcase their talents at Swell.

Stuck in lockdown, the duo had to lean on Gold Coast locals to set up their series of huge iridescent bubbles, which are lit from within and continually set to change colour.

Australian-Columbian artist Emma Anna was another forced to exhibit from afar. Her Scrabble-based Wordplay series has been on show without her while she handles more than 18 months of COVID restrictions.

Festival director and curator Natasha Edwards says her team was forced to make major changes during the planning of the festival but things came together better than ever.

"It has been a roller-coaster ride this year and the whole world has felt the stress of the pandemic," she said.

"We've come to realise in times like these getting outdoors and creating and enjoying art is more important than ever."

Artists at this year's festival are in the running to share $24,000 prize money, with the major winner taking home $15,000.

With 40 per cent of the work on show exhibited by emerging exhibitors, $125,000 in artist subsidies is also on offer to help deliver sculptures.

"Swell is one of the great events on our annual calendar and it is wonderful to see it going ahead this year despite everything going on in the world," Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said.

Swell closes on Monday.

Australian Associated Press