Two metres above the ivory sands of Cottesloe beach, a fire-engine red glider is poised to plummet into the Indian ocean.
The lacquered glider is the creation of Gingin artist Geoff Overheu, a fine art alumnus who has transformed a disused 1950s glider into an iconic artwork for this year’s Sculptures by the Sea exhibition.
“A lot of my work is around the ending of something. I’m seeing a quantum change in modernism, and maybe the ending of modernism with what’s happening around the world at the moment.
“This was a really interesting object that, for me, personifies modernism – not dissimilar to cars and shopping trolleys – and allowed me to make a comment about that.”
The disfigured glider, titled Final Approach, is a collaborative effort between Overheu and 45 members of the Beverley Soaring Society, which Overheu joined in 2012. Overheu and his fellow pilots pooled together their various talents, including engineering, graphic design, computing, metalwork and carpentry, to deconstruct and reimagine an old L13 Blanik glider.
“It was the first time I’ve ever worked collaboratively and all these guys are pilots (there’s no other artist among them), but they brought a lot of skills with them, so it made my job a lot easier,” Overheu says of the team effort that produced Final Approach.
“We reckon it’s taken about a thousand hours to put together, but it was great fun because we would all work away, and there were some pretty bizarre ideas, but we had fun trying to disseminate those.”
Overheu took up gliding as an outlet from his full-time job as an artist.
“I was up in my studio full-time, working seven days a week, but you start to get an imbalance, you go a bit crazy, and so the gliding is the perfect foil for me,” Overheu explains.
“Most things within art is subjective, whereas gliding and aviation are primarily objective.
“You don’t have a motor in a glider – the only abstract part is when you’ve got to imagine where a thermal is. There’s this massive force of energy that’s keeping you aloft and you’ve got to try and stay in it.
“I spend a couple of days flying if I can, and then five days in the studio.”
Final Approach is Overheu’s second contribution to Sculptures by the Sea, and his myriad other artworks, which include paintings, sculptures, photography and films, have been exhibited throughout Australia and the world.
In 2014 and 2015, Overheu showcased exhibitions in Beijing that used his invention of a quick-drying oil-based paint.
“For the last 12 years I’ve been trying to make an oil paint that can go on as a thick impasto that will dry out. Because if you put oil paint on very heavily, it never dries out,” Overheu explains.
“When I was in China years ago, I had access to a lot of cheap material, and ended up finally cracking it, and creating ‘sculptural oil paint’. You can put it on very thickly and it dries out over a four or five-day period.”
A former cattle farmer, Overheu is modest about his success, saying making and creating is just something he’s always done.
“I made a lot of stuff for farming. I was also in the Middle East for quite some time, and when I had time off I used to paint and draw and things like that,” he says.
“I love the process of making artwork; that’s what gets me up at the studio every day. Success is fleeting. Art in itself, if it’s not the process or the making you enjoy, then most probably don’t do it, because it’s certainly not for the money or the fame. I’ve just been lucky most probably.”
Whether he’s inventing new paints or reconstructing gliders, Overheu says he always aims to be generous with the viewer of his artworks, and create objects that invite interpretation.
“I really believe in the idea of generosity to the viewer, so I try and make artwork that allows the viewer to make their own kind of translation and that really interests me. That’s at the foremost of a lot of what I do.”
You can make up your own mind about Final Approach, which will be at Cottesloe beach as part of Sculptures by the Sea until 19 March.
Name: Geoff Overheu
Studied: Bachelor Arts (Art)