This mysterious sand artist is transforming Geelong and Surf Coast beaches into colossal homages to the natural world

This mysterious sand artist is transforming Geelong and Surf Coast beaches into colossal homages to the natural world

Words by Tehya Nicholas

'Banksy of Barwon Heads'

Edward is to Barwon Heads what Banksy is to Bristol – an enigma, an icon, an artist whose work creates as much intrigue as it does awe.

Back in January, the artist known mononymously as Edward rose to international acclaim with his 120-metre-long artwork of a koala clinging to a tree branch etched into the sand. Seen by more than 110 million people online, it shot Edward into the limelight… yet nobody knows his full name.

Unlike most artists, Edward has shielded himself from publicity – though he admits he responds to every DM he receives on Instagram because it feels terrible to “not repay a kindness”. Primarily, however, his focus remains on the art. Cropping up almost always on a Barwon Heads or Geelong beach, his etchings are colossal homages to the natural world and raw human emotion.

“I spend a great deal of my free time walking along beaches and trails, taking photos of flowers, trees, rivers and rock formations which I reduce to simple patterns and then use in my drawings. What keeps me coming back is the thought that I have a short life and I need to make the most of seeing as much of nature as I can while I am alive,” Edward says.

Best understood from the air, his pieces are not dissimilar to the Nazca Lines whose shapes and swirls demand distance. But it’s on the ground that you witness the meticulous level of detail Edward has achieved. His aesthetic is clean and instantly readable – undulating swirls and spirals that weave together to reveal a gigantic cheetah, whale tail or human face.

Each artwork is completed without the aid of drones or technology. Instead Edward works at night, using only the clear picture in his mind and building upon it with circles and mathematical formulas.

“The scale emerges from the time and space I need to transverse the emotional landscape of mind… I tend to experience emotion much like a rogue wave that runs with force along an entire beach crashing into everything in its path, so I need the scale I use to exhaust that intensity.”

Perusing through Edward’s Instagram (where he has over 10 thousand followers at the time of writing) you get a sense that this is a person deeply connected to social and environmental issues. Just recently he transposed a drawing from a Grade 5 student at Surfside Primary School, which encapsulated her feelings about COVID-19. He says it highlights the resilience and strength our youngest locals have shown during society’s toughest times.

“I try to communicate a theme and not an agenda… I feel more comfortable making a visual statement that reflects the polarity and duality in social issues rather than choose a side as an absolute truth, but I am sure that day will come when I will make a stand,” he explains.

Indeed the duality, impermanence and perspective of his chosen medium are a large part of Edward’s growing appeal. Waves lapping against the shore will slowly and certainly erase the etching, leaving behind only photographs to remember them. While the sheer scale of the pieces remind viewers the importance of stepping back, in times when we value community and perspective so much, it seems his work is truly hitting home.

Whoever he is, Edward creates artwork that speak volumes to locals and internationals alike. He says his next piece will address the issue of suicide during this pandemic; sure to be another impactful artwork by one of the most intriguing artists we’ve seen this year.

To keep up with Edward’s works, follow him on Instagram.