Allthatglitters: Contemporary Visions of the Gold Coast / Allthatglitters: 50 Years of Gold Coast Kitsch and Memory

7 February - 21 March 2004 The Gold Coast City Regional Art Gallery 14 February - 9 May 2004


As Dame Joan loves the opera, as Rove McManus loves being on television, so the Gold Coast loves being the Gold Coast. And any opportunity or reason to celebrate itself will be gladly embraced. For many, this place is Party Central. It continues to grow at an astonishing rate, and is now the county's sixth largest city, growing at the rate of 12,000 people per year. Change occurs at a rapid pace. The Coast now is very different to the Coast of the fifties when people decided that the beaches and the surrounding hinterland made it a pretty good place to live. Because of its spectacular growth, every decade tells a new story.

The Gold Coast quickly became Australia's most popular holiday destination, leading to an enormous development in tourism, and a consequent burgeoning of Gold Coast souvenirs and memorabilia, much of it kitsch and vulgar. On the credit side, the beaches, the outdoor life, and the beauty of the surrounding environs have inspired generations of artists. Many artists moved to the Coast including Albert Tucker, Lloyd Rees and Fred Williams, each of whom is featured in allthatglitters.

The Gold Coast City Art Gallery recently mounted allthatglitters, a celebration of fifty years of Gold Coast life, consisting of two parts. The first, contemporary visions of the Gold Coast, included paintings, photographs, ceramics and sculpture. The second part was a collection of kitsch and memorabilia.

The memorabilia consisted of all those items that one expects to find in tourism destinations, such as tea towels, tin trays, ash trays, postcards, miniature surf boards, and snow domes, although there are no extant records of snow actually having fallen on the Gold Coast, and TAA posters showing giddy carefree life in the sun set against a background of one of the Coast's first high rises; all six storeys. Visitors to the Gallery loved it.

The other section was a more serious look at the art that the Coast had inspired. Winner of the 1990 Wynne Prize, The Rainforest by William Robinson, one of the Collection's most important works, is a magnificent piece showing the Springbrook rainforest from different perspectives. Many visitors to the Coast see only the glitter strip of Surfers Paradise and the theme parks. Robinson's work reminds us that there is much more to experience. It provides a lovely academic contrast to Hinterland by Veda Arrowsmith, one of the Coast's most respected senior artists, which is a contemporary vision of the hinterland painted almost thirty years ago.

Exorcism X111: The chaos of memory by Luke Roberts depicts the sign of the Pink Poodle Motel, one of the Coast's earlier hay-day icons. Silhouetted against a dramatic red and black sky that would not be out of place in one of Peter Booth's apocalyptic paintings, we see here Ruskin's theory of the pathetic fallacy, when wild Nature reflects the emotions of the human condition. The merest mention of the Pink Poodle usually invited a bit of a knowing wink wink nudge nudge, and suggested that something quite illicit, but quite good fun, was going on. However, its reputation probably far exceeded its reality.

Other outstanding works included Breeze-block board by sculptor Mike Taylor. A surfboard seemingly made from concrete building blocks brought together the twin ubiquitous elements of the local landscape; surfing and breeze blocks. Delirium, a photograph by Mari Hirata showed a row of white high heeled shoes stretching from one side of the photograph to the other. The wonderful contradiction of this image was that they were on the beach facing the incoming surf. Compelling, serious and yet amusing, this image brought to mind 'the white shoe brigade', as the developers of the 80s and 90s were known - a highly pejorative and critical term. At the same time, the shoes suggested that they might just dance off into the approaching waves. The theme was superbly maintained by all artists, including Ian Smith and Robert Brownhall, both of whom are interested in depicting the high-rise buildings which are unique in this particular urban landscape. Local artist Scott Redford always enjoys sharing with us his ironic view of the Coast. Also included were works by Joe Furlonger, Mal Leckie, Lauri Paul, Madeline Hodge Bigumbul, Donna Marcus, Betty Quelhurst, Elizabeth Tanke, Ian Tremewen, among others.

The public were delighted with what they saw. They enjoyed seeing what the Coast had been both then and now. The memorabilia show was met with guffaws and outright laughter. The visions were always interesting; some nostalgic, some showing us things as they are. We look forward to seeing what the next decade will bring, both visions and memories.

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