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How young Sunshine Coast artists see beauty, whimsy in a fractured world

A newly opened showcase by young artists living on the Sunshine Coast filled the Gibsons Public Art Gallery with so many original works that it required a six-member crew to hang more than 170 items. 
Many participants in the Shout Out exhibition attended the show’s opening on March 16.

A newly opened showcase by young artists living on the Sunshine Coast filled the Gibsons Public Art Gallery with so many original works that it required a six-member crew to hang more than 170 items. 

“Shout Out is one of our favourite exhibits,” said gallery vice-president Carol Carr-Andersson. Carr-Andersson officiated at the official opening of the annual event on March 16, which attracted dozens of artists and family members. “This year we have over 100 young artists participating,” she continued. “We think this might be a record, and tops anything they have done in the past.” 

Contributors to the exhibition range from two-year-old Finn Hoag (whose work Too Much Blue was fashioned from acrylic and yarn) to 17-year-old Salma Star Atoui. Atoui’s gouache painting Sons of Hrôôvitnir was inspired by the wolf giants of Norse mythology.  

As in previous Shout Out exhibitions, the biosphere remains a dominant theme. Students from Cedar Grove Elementary contributed a series of mixed-media animal portraits, rendered in warm-hued pastels. “I have always liked sloths and I chose it because I’m basically a sloth in the morning — except for weekends,” explained Henrik, a Grade 5 artist. Thirteen-year-old Syd Smith used alcohol-based markers to depict a jaunty hen (“a happy chicken frolicking,” according to Smith).  

Existential concerns extend beyond physical consequences of the climate crisis. In Humanity’s Mess, Sky Buckhershler, 11, splattered ink and watercolours to illustrate a landscape saturated with manufactured goods and discordant noise. “I ended up doodling a bunch of stuff that was human,” said Buckhershler. “And then the idea became that all the mess that humanity has created is leaking outside of humanity.” 

A sculpture by Phoenix Rody, also 11, explores a similar subject. In Blind Baby Seal Surrounded by Trash, the plaintive pinniped surfaces amid a vortex of styrofoam residue, an aluminium can tab and plastic waste. Ora Hunter’s The No Longer Flying Butterflies (fashioned by the 12-year-old using cedar and wool), is a meditation on impermanence. “I do a lot of needle felting,” said Hunter. “Moths and butterflies can be colourful or not colourful. There’s a lot of different things you can do with them.” 

A pair of painted mushroom studies (Frog and Mushroom and Three Mushrooms) by Zoe Schule, 12, isolate their subjects at the summit of a gently-curved hilltop, giving bright-hued fungi pride of place. “I just started painting a lot of mushrooms and I got obsessed,” said Schule. “They started to grow on me.” 

In many works, creature comforts balance overtones of vague unease. In the clay sculpture Tornado Bunker by Sawyer Battié, 11, the subterranean shelter is brightened by the presence of amenities like food, books and games. Upon close inspection, the crimson-stained edifice French Revolution Guillotine by Acesea Jem Rome Enga, 14, reveals that its mottled scaffold is formed from popsicle sticks. 

Pop culture influences are subtly filtered through the lens of Generation Alpha. Ten-year-old Jorge Alexander Torres Rivera participated in the show for the first time by contributing two mixed-media portraits of well-known turtle martial artists. “I draw a lot of art inspired by comics,” said Rivera. Nine-year-old Wren Lepore’s ink portrait of Beyoncé includes her anthemic exhortation: “Okay ladies, let’s get in formation.” A fanciful album cover for the band Weezer inserts the artist himself (Rowan Rody, 14) into the group. “In my own mind, I did piano work for their album,” explained Rody, “and they forgot to put me in.” 

The thin line between accident and serendipity is expressed in Oops!, an illustration by Leo Harding, age seven. “This is about a rock climber,” wrote Harding in his artist’s statement, “who doesn’t know the difference between a mountain and a volcano.” 

The Shout Out exhibition, which includes some artworks for sale, remains at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until March 31.