WA artist Toby Bell exhibited a masterful three-metre tall tortured soul in Sculpture by the Sea 2012 but that didn’t automatically secure him a spot in this year’s highly-competitive 9th annual exhibition at Cottesloe Beach from March 8-25.
Like the other 70-plus sculptors from Perth, interstate and overseas, he needed to prove both skill and imagination to a discerning panel of judges to qualify this year as well.
“To apply, you come up with an idea and make a smaller version of the sculpture you intend to produce, then submit the concept as well as photos of the work for assessment,” Toby, also a part-time GP, explained.
“It’s nice to get in a second time and offer something different to the year before. In 2012 the emotion was more about struggle and energy contained whereas this year it’s about harmony and beauty.”
His intriguing new piece called Portal, acts as gateway transporting onlookers into a spiritual realm.
It includes three two-metre tall male figures, which form a circle, in the centre of which the audience member sits and becomes part of the structure.
“The men are on elbows and knees in a bowing, downwards posture and they face inwards so they focus on you,” Toby said.
“Because they sit by the sea, the morning and evening light comes through so the onlooker, I hope, picks up the energy and the piece becomes a sort of meditation portal.”
It’s obvious Toby’s frame of mind has changed since creating his imposing Shakespearean Caliban, a symbol of unrest. “By some sort of strange magic, once I’d made him I had resolved the turmoil I was feeling and since that time I have been living free,” he said.
“I come from a world steeped in science and I’m an artist so there was always conflict between those two worlds. I’ve managed to balance them now and there’s an amazing feeling of resolution so this work is about the connection with soul and a love of life.”