What a fully sick honour it was to be invited to open ‘The Green Cathedral – a celebration of the history and culture of surfing on the South Coast’. And on a very auspicious day too, when the official waiting period began in Hawaii for the Pipeline Masters where the world title will be decided.
I have a confession to make: I heart surf art. I do. Not that bland, crap stuff but quality work that captures the unique, free spirit of surfing, be it the exquisite shimmering joy of Nell’s ‘Unlimited Radiance’ (which she probably doesn’t even categorise as surf art but it just is), or anarchic outbursts of localism like Paul Ryan’s bright pink spray-painted words; “fuck off back to Thirroul ya blow in”. Even kitsch air- brushed sunsets on the side of purple panel vans turn me on.
Four years ago, I was able to indulge my passion in this sort of art by curating a show at the Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery called ‘Wax On – from Cronulla to Palm Beach and Beyond.’ That ‘beyond’ bit gave me the artistic licence to go basically anywhere I desired. I found myself reading a copy of that retro, south-coast, soul surf magazine, ‘Southern Soul’. And in it, I saw some amazing photos of these massive stick waves made by this freak surfer dude who lived down near Bermagui.
Peter ‘Beetle’ Collins was his name and I tracked him down to see if he could make one in the grounds of the gallery. But he couldn’t wrap his mind around how to do it – he’d been constructing them out in the landscape on the property where he worked and hadn’t imagined relocating them anywhere else. So we hung some cool photos of the stick waves on the walls of the gallery and they were pretty much best in show. Anyway, a few years later he figured out how to transport them and got a crane in to install a wicked barrel outside the Museum of Sydney for the ‘Surf City’ exhibition. It was unreal! Kids would skate in and get shacked. And now, he’s perfected the art with a monster at the Gong Gallery for visitors to pull in to.
It’s so awesome that my amazing friend, Milly Hyde, the chief sea hag herself, has made all this happen. Technically Milly is the Technical Officer at the Wollongong Art Gallery. She installs shows and makes them look sublime, not only there, but at the MCA, at Object Gallery – she even installed ‘Wax On’, giving it that certain je ne c’est quoi Huey ju-ju. Now she’s fully rockin the Gong with even more magic surf karma as the curator of ‘The Green Cathedral.’
I met Milly through the Bondi Girls Surf Riders, a swellegent club of excellent surfie chicks who celebrate the fact that they “go out anyway”, whatever the conditions. Milly was the champ of the club, she won heaps of cool trophies and even hosted us all for surf weekends at her idyllic farm down at Kiama. She certainly knows her surfing. And she knows her art. But she’s got some weird ideas. She told me that ‘Wax On’ was all about her and her show is all about me. I don’t get it because tragically, I’ve never been in the Green Cathedral. I’ve been in the Green Shorey and the Green Close Out, but the Cathedral, to me, is a mythical place, a bit like the Emerald City. Anyway, as an honorary Shire Chick and a humble fish faced moll, I am stoked to the maximus to have my portrait hanging in the show.
There’s a cult being initiated in the Green Cathedral and wild card Ozzie Wright has made the sacrificial altar with a work that he modestly reckons is the first ever surf painting- 4 panels of inter-galactic excellence that transports viewers to another dimension with its alien surf witches chowing down on severed arms on some anonymous cosmic beach.
South Australia’s legendary surfer/artist Gerry Wedd has contributed some custom-made porcelain thongs in honour of local masters and mistresses like World Champs Terry Richardson and Pam Burridge, who was, for all us vintage sea hag’s, the ultimate hero. And Mambo Man, Reg Mobassa is honoured in the show too.
There’s an audio enhancement by Chicks on Speed with haunting punk lyrics about “skin cancer lips” and The Stoked’ will put you off exotic boat surf trips for life, with Barrell Brain. And that’s just the Contemporary Show!
The Gong Gallery’s first ever surf photography show is on display in another huge room with stunning images including John Frank’s 1.5 m wave and great pics of local Grommits enjoying a teenage rampage.
But the magnitude of local excitement about celebrating surfing in this region could not to be constrained within the walls of this gallery. There are extra-curricular workshops on subjects like how to decorate your board to help you surf even better, and how to style with a go pro.
Chris Andersons 1000 snapped boards project is a cutting edge eco concept where he’s collecting and recycling 1000 broken boards and making art out of them, like the surfboard tombstones you see outside as you enter the gallery.
Other activities include a massive swap meet with stalls, food, a talk about the history of surfing in the Illawarra, a Q and A session with 6 generations of unreal, internationally-known, local, surf photographers, all on the microphone, showing slides and reminiscing about going over the falls at pipe, and mad inventions they’ve made like remote-controlled camera housing on drones which are on display.
So much stoke! All the way through to Feb 14 – Valentine’s Day!
So feel the love! You’re not going to be able to resist full immersion, that’s right, you’re going to get baptised right here in The Green Cathedral!
Hallelujah brothers and sisters!