Prickles the Unhuggable Bear by Dion Parker and Andrew Cullen

Swell Sculpture Festival hits Gold Coast


The annual Swell Sculpture Festival is back on the Gold Coast on September 13, turning Currumbin Beach into a very unique outdoor art gallery.

Prickles the Unhuggable Bear by Dion Parker and Andrew Cullen
Prickles the Unhuggable Bear by Dion Parker and Andrew Cullen drew attention at the 2018 Swell Sculpture Festival. Photo: Leximagery


Family friendly and free, the Swell Sculpture Festival gives artists of all levels, from beginners to professionals, the chance to show off their sculpturing prowess.

The festival, which is in its 17th year, will feature more than 55 sculptures this year.

Swell Sculpture Festival executive director Dee Steinfort said the festival gave artists a chance to tell their stories.

“Swell connects people, art and place, providing a platform for artists to tell their stories through sculptures,” Ms Steinfort said.

She said Swell was different to most art exhibitions not only because it was held outdoors, but because the backdrop of Currumbin Beach meant artists could display sculptures all shapes and sizes.

The natural background of the exhibition also means visitors are free to explore the art at any time of the day or night, as well as in any sort of weather.

Swell festival at night
Nighttime and shadows allow visitors to experience the sculptures at Swell from different perspectives. Photo: Rowly Emmet


“The light is always changing and the elements of nature play a valuable part, allowing the artworks to be viewed in many different aesthetic perspectives,” Ms Steinfort said.

The Swell Sculpture Festival is designed to appeal to all ages, with the addition of Swell Kids Elements, a fun and interactive sculpture park for kids, and a number of weekend workshops and activities especifically for children.

Ms Steinfort said she believed values such as collaboration and responsiveness could be shared with the young generation through all sorts of art.

“We believe it is and always will be very important to introduce and encourage young generations to experience art,” she said.

The festival exhibits work by artists at all stages of their career, from emerging to professional.

People interested in displaying their sculptures as a part of the festival simply apply through the festival website (

Works are then selected by an invited volunteer curatorial panel.

One of this year’s artists is emerging sculptor Shannon Hobbs, who will launch his latest work at Swell 2019.

Dingo sculpture Swell 2018
Sculptures of animals will become a part of the beach scenery at Currumbin thanks to the Swell Sculpture Festival. Photo: Rowly Emmet


Mr Hobbs makes all sorts of metal sculptures and the one he will be displaying at this year’s festival is called Wesley the Whale.

“I am very excited, it is a giant show,” Mr Hobbs said.

“I suppose you would say I am an emerging artist, I have only been full time since last October,” he said.

The sculpture is a five-meter-long whale build from metal and steel.

Mr Hobbs said it took him months to create the sculpture.

He said he designed the whale on a computer, then had the pieces of material cut, and brought to his home, where he put it all together.

“It is quite a big whale,” Mr Hobbs said.

“This is my first time taking a sculpture out there [to the festival],” he said.

Besides the providing the opportunity to exhibit sculptures on a larger scale, the Swell Sculpture Festival also allows artists to connect with one another, comment and see each other’s work.

A number of awards will be given to sculptures entered into the festival, including the Swell Sculpture Aware for $15,000, the Environmental Awareness Award ($3000), the People’s Choice Award ($3000), the Kids’ Choice Award ($3000), the Emerging Artist Award ($1500) and the Artist Peer Award ($1000).

Antone Bruinsma The Three Graces
Antone Bruinsma exhibited his marble piece, The Three Graces, at last year’s Swell Sculpture Festival. Photo: Rowly Emmet


Festival visitors are also welcome to try out sculpting, with a range of workshops on offer including a four-hour limestone carving masterclasses with sculptor Antone Bruinsma, and a range of workshops for children.

Mr Bruinsma, who mainly works with various kinds of stone and natural material, has exhibited at Swell 13 times.

The limestone used in the class is light and easily carved Mt Gambier limestone.

“It is a material that we don’t see up here so often due to transport situations, […] it will respond really well to natural forms,” he said.

Mr Bruinsma said he was proud to see how many tourist, locals and people from interstate visit the Swell Sculpture Festival every year.

“There are not many opportunities to exhibit sculptures in Australia, especially in Queensland, so when you have an exciting venue like Currumbin Beach at the Gold Coast, it is like heaven to sculptors,” he said.

“The interest has grown and grown.”

The Swell Sculpture Festival now delights 265,000 visitors annually and has become known as Queensland’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition.

The Swell Sculpture Festival runs from September 13 to 22 at Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast.

For more information about the festival, visit

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