Dynamic duo combine to showcase works at Sculpture by the Sea

Sam Hopkins and Johannes (Harry) Pannekoek
Sam Hopkins and Johannes (Harry) Pannekoek © Credit: Peter Allison

Sculptors Sam Hopkins and Johannes (Harry) Pannekoek have been friends and collaborators on various projects for more than five years, but working towards this month’s Sculpture by the Sea has been something special.

Working from Harry’s Gooseberry Hill studio, the pair spent long hours creating two works sure to delight crowds flocking to the 17th annual exhibition which runs from 5 to 22 March.

Sam’s 260cm x 94cm, work, Coalescence, was six months in the making from development to creation. It explores the process of metal inflation inspired by paths, patterns and forms that elements create in nature, working to form a balanced ecosystem.

However, remove an element and it throws off the balance.

“I am exploring the process of forming steel through inflating,” says Sam. It is a way of sculpting that breathes life into metal and transforms steel from a flat and unpliable state into something soft, fluid and organic.

Coalescense is made up of several components, flowing coherently together. The mirror polished steel surfaces appear in constant flux, enhanced by their interaction with light and movement. Reflecting its natural surroundings, the work will adapt its look depending on the weather and time of day.”

An emerging artist, Sam, 26, of South Perth, grew up in Perth’s Hills, working full-time as a sculptor for the past few years. He has exhibited across Australia, receiving many awards including WA sculpture scholarship at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe last year. His work is showcased in private collections in Perth and the Yarra Valley, Victoria. He welcomes being mentored by Harry.

“Harry is a great mentor and we have a wonderful relationship. It is good for artists to be able to liaise with each other, bounce ideas and have an honest critique,” says Sam.

“You have to be good people and understand each other, Sam learns very quickly so watch this space; he will have some amazing stuff in the next few years,” says Harry.  “Working with Sam and his brother Peter (a master craftsman in metal), revitalises me.”

Harry’s work, a 310cm x 240cm x 320cm work, entitled Tipping Points, looks at how the Earth’s system has valiantly coped with and even overcome stresses from human activities for millennia. Today we are stressing our collective climate and creating feedback loops that push ecosystems to a point of no return.

“The urgency around limiting global warming to well below 2ºC is to avoid reaching these irreversible tipping points.

“I have used stainless steel to represent the feedback loops pushing Earth’s ecosystems to the edge, in an abstract form. These curvilinear loops are precariously balanced on top of a 1.5m Corten steel cube.

“I am drawn to creating unique forms that push engineering and materials to their limit, which can be fun. But because I fabricate my own works, it can also be very challenging on the mind and body.”

As well as the camaraderie and mentoring, Harry says working with heavy metals means it is safer to work together. Sam says assistance is almost always needed for most of what sculptors do. 

Harry received the Aqualand Sculpture award at Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi in 2016 and the Mindarie Boardwalk Sculpture prize in 2008. He is widely represented in public and private collections including the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and Sydney and Crown Towers Perth.

Sam and Harry’s works were transported to Cottesloe by flat-bed trailer. By then, the pair were looking forward to a breather after many months of toil virtually seven days a week.

Sculpture by the Sea of more than 70 works runs at Cottesloe beach 5–22 March.