Sculpture at Bathers invigorated by funding now on show

LYN DI CIERO

Sculpture at Bathers artist Valerie Schönjahn with Artistic Director/Lead Curator Sandra Murray and her work Parasite, 2022, timber and handmade porcelain, 150 x 200 x 150cm, $5,000.

What a difference funding makes. Sculpture at Bathers has opened at Bathers Beach in Fremantle invigorated by almost $300,000 in funding through the Federal Government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand Fund (RISE), which supports artists and organisations affected by COVID-19. For an event previously relying heavily on the goodwill of volunteers and artists to bring it to fruition, the thrilling injection of funds has allowed Sculpture at Bathers, now in its fifth iteration, to begin to evolve in new directions. S@B Artistic Director/Lead Curator Sandra Murray says the funding has made a huge difference. “We’ve been able to have three professional paid staff through the RISE funding, which is the first time that’s happened, as well as pay artists a fee for the first time. Because I’m employed, I had the time to concentrate on a curatorial rationale for the show. There was an open call out to all WA artists, but then there was quite a rigorous selection process. So it has pushed up the level of the whole exhibition.”
 
Volunteers are still vital to the exhibition, which continues its founding premise of revealing the works Western Australian artists to the public. “We still need volunteers a hundred percent,” says Murray. “and professionals like Stephen Castledine, who is a graphic designer, have come on board and is being paid by a DLGSE grant for his work.” 
 
The benefits of the windfall, with Sculpture at Bathers the largest recipient of RISE funding in the state of only four successful applicants in WA, has stretched the not-for-profit organisation into new territory. Murray says there’s a move towards 21st century digitisation with works now available for sale online. “The funds paid for the creation of a new website which went live early December, and for the first time we’ve got everything for sale online, so we have e-commerce now like everyone else. It’s also paying for digital productions. We have new videos being made right now, interviews with artists and myself and Tony Jones, which will be going up next week.”
 
The exhibition itself has expanded past Bathers Beach, with satellite venues at Victoria Quay and the Republic of Fremantle on Pakenham Street, and funding has allowed the presentation of GLOW, an enhanced lighting installation running every night from 6pm until 11pm, when the site takes on a whole new atmosphere.
 
“We’ve really shaken up our public programs too,” says Murray, “offering different tours, both free and paid, and workshops for children which are free. We’re really trying to broaden our reach and attract a wider section of the community.”
 
For first time S@B exhibitor and emerging artist Valerie Schönjahn, the experience has been enlightening. “The opportunity for a local emerging artist like myself to meet, network and form relationships with more established artists during the exhibition has been a wonderful and important experience,” she says. “I usually work in ceramics which are quite small, so for me the big thing was jumping the scale up to about two metres.”
 
Schönjahn’s work, Parasite, explores the unexpected connections between timber and porcelain, with branches  of a locally grown Pohutukawa tree preserved using the Japanese tradition of Shou Sugi Ban, combined with handmade ‘shoots’ of porcelain. “The size is easy for me to handle,” she says, “but I have been hemmed in by scale. After talking to the Install Manager Sam Hopkins, I realise I can go bigger. It’s exciting, and potentially not as difficult as I’d imagined. It’s really given me confidence too, so I will be applying for Sculpture by the Sea Cottesloe next year.”
For Schönjahn the experience was also enhanced by the beauty of the site. “It was also an amazing opportunity to show my work locally at this beautiful location.” Murray says it’s unique “It has such a big, beautiful, communal friendly feeling with the beach, cafes, the boardwalk and the bush. It’s just such a picturesque setting by the Indian Ocean. And then there’s the history of Walyalup/Fremantle, with so so many layers of cultural heritage, so I think we’re quite singular in where we are placed.”
 
While RISE funding was initially believed to be a one off opportunity, applications suddenly became available again. “We  have reaplied,” says Murray. “We’re waiting to hear like I think 99% of Australian arts organisations. It’s the final round and they’re actually late announcing it. Everyone in WA I’ve talked to has applied for it, and look, if we were successful we’d be set for the next exhibition. If not, we’ll definitely be looking elsewhere.”  
 
Sculpture at Bathers is on show until 7 March. 

Balancing Act, 2022, corten steel, gabion basket plinth and local moss rock by Sam Hopkins.

Kala Pani Trojan Horse, 2022, fibreglass, steel, stoneware clay, repurposed objects, gold leaf and paint by Audrey Fernandes-Satar and Arif Satar. 

Seedpod 01, 2019-21, acrylic, plywood, ABS plastic components, stainless steel fasteners and LED light by Rick Vermey. 

Tidal shift, 2022, painted steel by Steve Tepper. 

Key change for Lucy, 2022, bronze and stainless steel fixing by Greg James.  

All that we will remember, 2022, glass aquarium, timber, sand, dead coral, rocks and found wood by Stephanie Reisch and Bernard Taylor.

Photos Lyn DiCiero.

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