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Dean Cogle: a retrospective exhibition

Samantha Morris | May 2019

As the city mourns one of its “stalwart” artists the creative community is coming together to celebrate his 40 years of artistic output with a retrospective exhibition at HOTA – Home of the Arts.

Dean Cogle made a phenomenal impression on the city’s cultural landscape. Passing away, with his family by his side last night (9 May), he worked as an artist on the Gold Coast for some 40 years, moving here in 1979 to take on airbrushing work at Hot Stuff Surfboards.

Since that time, Dean had a hand in graphic design, art directing, illustration and print production. He’s painted silos and naked bodies alike, designed advertisements, hung exhibitions, founded art prizes and produced murals as well as marketing material.

He worked with companies such as The Playroom, Mt Woodgee, Brothers Nielsen and Town and Country Surf and airbrushed surfboards for the likes of Rabbit and Kong. He was commissioned by many corporations – large and small – to create pieces of art that hang in foyers and lobbies. For years, he ran his own gallery in Koala Park called ‘Departure Lounge’

But what Dean Cogle will be best remembered for (at least artistically), is his depictions of the city’s drive-by icons. Motor inns, businesses, motels and the once ubiquitous fibro beach shacks that dotted the Gold Coast’s shores all influenced Dean’s art in recent decades.

Dean’s art is the focus of an exhibition at HOTA – taking over the Gallery foyer, and its last before it launches the new gallery space in 2020-21. The exhibition is a retrospective look at 40 years of Dean’s work including paintings, designs and illustrations capturing the Gold Coast’s iconic lifestyle. The exhibition opens 11 May and runs through until 30 June.

Diana Warnes is the Head of Curatorial Projects at HOTA – Home of the Arts, and she describes Dean as a “stalwart” of the local scene.

While his art is highly regarded by local collectors and Dean’s peers, it has also resonated with a very large number of people.

“Dean has a photo realist style that people respond to easily,” Diana explained.

“I think it triggers memories for a lot of people. It draws from perhaps a childhood experience of living on the coast, or visiting the coast. This is a style of architecture that’s very specific to an era and I think it triggers memory and nostalgia.”

“These are iconic buildings on the Gold Coast that people feel connected with, walked past, lived in… people can identify and relate to them.”

And it’s not just the architectural detail of Dean’s work that sees it connect with such a wide audience. Diana points out venetian blinds in one of his artworks. In others there are breezeblocks and electric cables. Dean’s ability to capture both the mundane, common features of the city as well as it’s brash and bold icons is unique.

Philip Follent knew Dean Cogle for 20 – 25 years. Philip was the City’s inaugural architect. He’s the co-chair of Gold Coast Open House and President of SWELL Sculpture Festival. If anyone understands the nostalgic value of architecture, it’s Philip.

He met Dean after an art show in Coolangatta where he’d bought one of his paintings.

“I had to collect it from his unpretentious digs nestled in a lush setting right off a busy road,” Philip explained. “He seemed to have created a ‘Gauganishly’ idyllic oasis to nurture a creative but unpretentious lifestyle.”

Philip said Dean’s eye for the architectural essence of building form, character and colour enabled him to portray beach shacks, 50s motels and signage with a freshness they would only have enjoyed when new.

“His caricature depiction of the built environment gave a legitimacy to the Gold Coast’s quintessential holiday history in the same way that Geoffrey Smart made us look at the latent visual poetics of industrial and transport infrastructure,” Philip said.

“It is a skill to convey through the flatness of two-dimensional depiction and solid colour, the richness of a subject.”

“Though Dean is adept at subtle, tonal and figurative representation, the disciplined, drafted precision is evident in much of his work. Thus, the three dimensionality is conveyed through sharp shadow and perspective.”

“These qualities of sharpness and reliable accuracy make Dean’s work attractive to architects, and to patrons wanting illustration of buildings that are neither photographic nor sketch but rather represent a genre of minimally abstracted subjects where clever licence of colour choice….bold interpretations and stretched limits of the greens and blues of foliage mark an individuality of style.”

“The work resonates with a broad audience because it brings to life images of times and places with which we are familiar and to which we adhere our memories and specific detail.”

Dean’s focus on the city’s unique 50s, 60s and 70s history is an invaluable documentation and legitimising of the modest yet unashamedly Gold Coast heritage of holiday-making… colourful and bold. And this timely retrospective exhibition is a wonderful celebration of his life’s work.

Dean Cogle: Beyond Nostalgia is a free exhibition on display in HOTA Foyer Gallery from 11 May – 30 Jun 2019.

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