Lookout for me
Perched on the shores of Tamarama Beach a new structure catches the eye.
It’s a structure inspired by the lifeguard viewing towers of a previous era, positioned in the centre of the soft yellow sand as it approaches the shore, overlooking the beach beyond.
Hundreds of people can be seen passing by each day, stopping to gaze and ponder the meaning within the sculpture that was created by surf lifesaver and renowned artist Linton Meagher as a part of the Sculpture By the Sea exhibit.
Two central themes weave together in a tapestry of perfect unison with the Surf Life Saving movement – volunteerism and connectiveness.
The tower is constructed from wood and topped a single red chair, but it’s the small red and yellow flags that that line its sides, waving ever so slightly in the offshore breeze that have an unmissable story to share.
It’s a work of a collective, brought together by a community of volunteers who have helped to share a piece of themselves through the flags that share more than just the iconic colours of Surf Life Saving.
On first inspection, its apparent that this towering presence of bright red and golden yellow, perched on the sand and looking out across the breaking waves of Tamarama Beach is a reflection of the tireless work of volunteer lifesavers, looking out for others in the water in an effort to save lives.
But as you get close enough to embrace the detail you will begin to notice that each hand sewn, crocketed or embroidered flag carries another deeper meaning.
Each is unique in its design, and is marked with the hand-written name or initials of its creator, along with the name of a beach that carries a special meaning to them.
Hand drawn or painted onto the flags by school students from grades three and four are sets of eyes, gazing out over the beach with an intergenerational message of service;
“They are looking out over the surf, looking out for swimmers, looking for sharks. Then there is that whole other meaning which is looking out for others in the community, particularly the elderly who tend to be marginalised and disconnected” explained artist Linton Meagher.
It’s a collective work of art that tells the story of the innate desire within us to be a part of something bigger than our own story, to contribute to community.
It’s that notion of looking out for others across seas, communities and generations that inspired the work according to artist Linton Meagher.
SLSA is one of the biggest intergenerational organisations in the country by membership. With grandparents, parents and kids volunteering side by side as members of their clubs it’s yet another beautiful synergy within the broader message of connectiveness that pervades Meagher’s work.
One source of inspiration, Meagher tells, was watching news coverage of the rescued koalas from the 2015 bushfires. An exhausted volunteer at the wildlife rescue organisation asked if people could help by sending knitted mittens for the koalas’ burnt paws.
The collective response was so overwhelming that five days later that Meagher spotted the very same volunteer on the news again saying they had received more than 30,000 mittens from around the globe – more than enough to cover the 30 injured koalas in their care.
“So you have all of the people who want to get involved [in something]. It’s about tapping into that desire.” Linton explained.
“There is an innate desire for connectiveness that people have, and lookout for me is a work that taps into that. This community project and artwork which has parallels with SLSA such as volunteerism and the sense of connection through the surf community”
In producing the sculpture for this year’s event, Meagher engaged with elderly communities stretching from Neutral Bay through to Ballina.
A number of knitters had their own connection to the SLS movement such as volunteering during the second world war.
At 102 years old Nancy Kimber is the oldest serving contributor to the project, and grew up around the Bronte and Tamarama area and has fond memories of attending surf carnivals back with her husband Colin, a well-regarded lifesaver at Coogee Beach SLSC.
Key contributors to the project include the Beehive collective in East Sydney, Crowley Nursing in Ballina, and the Bougainvillea Retirement Village in Neutral Bay.
As for Linton – he’s back on patrol this year, looking out for beachgoers and the community for another summer season.
You can see the installation at Tamarama Beach from now until November 5 as part of the Sculpture By The Sea event stretching from Bondi Beach, along the famous coastal walk.
To find out more about the project and read biographies of the contributors visit www.lookout-for-me.com