One thing standing out like a giant penguin at Rockingham’s Castaways 2021 beach sculpture exhibition is the lack of people discussing “the juxtaposition of …” well … anything.
There are plenty of people engaged with the artworks, more humanly than academically.
Inquisitive children ask “What are they?” To which their slightly frayed minders seem to quite often respond “Get away from there!” Let’s face it, half of parenting is finding interesting ways to entertain children and then panicking about potential problems.
Perhaps for this reason one of the most popular works at the annual beach show was Fremantle sculptor Greg James’s pair of large chooks Dot 2 and Ron 2. People of all ages gathered round chatting in human ‘bok bok’ language, patting the chickens and engaging with them.
Likewise a penguin, an emu, a fish and a tall pirate, amongst others, all of whom remained stoic under relentless posing for smart phones.
In the warm beach environment there were sounds from some of the artworks – wind-driven rustle of plastic strands on a rainbow-coloured archway; quiet turning of thongs and flippers fashioned into a windmill.
Castaways is in its teens, having started in 2008 with the intention of increasing awareness of the environment and the flotsam and jetsam washed onto beaches.
As well as professional artists – from emerging to established – Castaways has a schools’ section also displaying striking pieces, including what appeared to be an homage to Shaun the Sheep; mermaids; masks and a glow in the dark, solar-powered garden.
Found objects are the heart of the art. The combination of natural and built environments at the foreshore ‘gallery’ draws other elements into the beachscape: moored boats, Garden Island bridge, a naval base and massive blue grain silo forming an industrial link.
While hundreds of people view the sculptures others swim, fish, build sandcastles or dig for treasure after a beep from their metal detector. Couples stroll blissfully hand in hand amidst dogs and babies in prams, toddlers on shoulders, kids doing parkour, skateboarders and rollerbladers, a wedding, even a young mermaid in the shallows.
People with real responses, like “How much?!”, sputtered incredulously at one price tag, followed by the kind of thoughtful look that may hint a new career path is being considered.
Story © Danielle Berryman 2021 : Photography © Roger Garwood 2021