Surfer Nat Young ended his first article for Tracks, excoriating the established Church, with a reckless sentence that echoes through the exhibition Arcadia: ‘By simply surfing we are supporting the revolution.’

Young’s rallying cry – still seeming, somehow, as plausible as it’s preposterous – allows considerable leeway in interpretation. Freedom of interpretation is fundamental to the exhibition Arcadia…

If it’s about anything, Arcadia is about how it feels to be lean, male, strong, untrammelled and irresponsible: to be a slacker with immense discretionary energy. Almost all the people represented are handsome youths. Indeed, the exhibition is a tribute to the physical bravery, beauty and ebullience of many young men – which is unusual in a show that isn’t about war (although it’s true that conscription shadowed many of the individuals pictured, and many whole bodies like theirs ended up punctured and ripped up in Vietnam). Through photographs, film and text, their free-spirited, passive-revolutionary character shines.

Nicholas Harding’s intricate recent drawings of the trees, rocks and water of the north coast of New South Wales are the surprise inclusion in this exhibition… encouraged by the resemblance of Nat Young’s hair, in Falzon’s photograph, to fibrous vegetation, the selection of Harding drawings emphasises the texture of the photographs and harmonises with their vigorous, yet gentle, sensibility.

Sarah Engledow
Historian/curator
National Portrait Gallery

 

… it is the culture of surfing, particularly in the early 1970s when it was in its golden age as a way of life, that is celebrated in a particularly engaging exhibition at Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery…

The show … is almost entirely based on the photographs of John Witzig, [co]-founder of surfing magazine Tracks, reproduced on a large scale and pinned to the walls in a deliberately casual manner. The pictures are full of spontaneous energy and life and accompanied by some of the best explanatory labels I can recall seeing in an exhibition — well-informed, intimately attuned to the ­images, erudite when appropriate, witty and above all warm and personal in tone.

There is a pervasive feeling of youthful happiness, innocence and joy, occasionally punctuated by pensiveness…

In [one] picture we watch two boys, again shirtless, picking their way across stepping stones in swampy terrain. Arms in the air, they reach out to keep their balance. So that the image evokes at once the lightness and vitality of their young bodies and somehow also the precariousness of our balance in this world.

Christopher Allen
The Weekend Australian
20 September 2014

 

A beautiful exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery explores the marvellous moment when surfing took on cult status as a symbol of social alternatives. Called Arcadia: Sound of the sea, the collection of photographs and film put together by the National Portrait Gallery documents an idealistic lifestyle built around tall waves.

The boys had it all:  a tranquil spirit, fabulous vigour, endless opportunity, cheap land and petrol, intellectual and physical talent and even commercial enterprise and savvy.  Most of all, they had an image of integrity, a winsome and innocent belief that values could be redefined and society reoriented toward sustainability.

Robert Nelson
The Age
13 January, 2015