GASH Surfboards’ 7 Blades exhibition in Torquay was a reminder of why we’ve chosen to revolve our lives around surfing.
Stuck on the wall was a shitty bit of cardboard, scribbled on by one of the most well-respected people in the surf industry, Simon Buttonshaw, who also happened to be one of the show’s exhibiting artists and the man behind the art of GASH. It read:
‘Gash: 7 Blades is an exhibition about the art of surfing. The responsive dance with the sea and the art of both designing and crafting the surfboard. It celebrates the evolution of design, the art of shaping and glassing; so they sing, like a violin. Form follows function. They must actually work. There is no room for the superfluous. It is the heart of the culture. The surfers/shaper is the artist/alchemist that brings it into being. All this is here, a lifetime. In the place where it all happened.’
There’s a bubbling pot of creativity that comes from surfing, and not just the act itself. A culture that’s been developed over the years through surfing that we all know and love. That culture is still, to this day, something that people and brands who don’t surf try to get their hands on and take to the rest of the world, but can’t.
But why? Why can’t they understand it’s an intangible something that can’t just be packaged up and sent out to the masses? Buttonshaw put it pretty simply: ‘Because we surf.’ And it is because we surf that we grew up visiting shaping bays and talking to the masters of this craft: the shapers, the glassers, the painters and the polishers. We spent time in the bay, talking to our shaper about how we might want to surf in a certain type of wave or figure out why our board was pushing too much water in flat spots and not getting enough speed to get through that section. And they listened. It’s a connection that took time to develop, built through a board that sometimes found magic and sometimes didn’t. But it’s the doing of this process that defines how the culture is made. And you simply can’t just box that up and sell it.
And the art. Oh, the art. There has always been a connection across art forms—music, design, writing—with surfing and skateboarding because, in the end, they are creative pursuits. The line you take on a wave, or the way you roll out of a trick is creative. They are all creative acts. So it’s understandable that to create something special, you need both the art and the craft.
When it comes to surfboard shaping, the art isn’t just slapped on the board in the way a modern, commercially driven company might throw a logo on a tee shirt. In this case, the artist is collaborating with the shaper in a way that is non-commercial and from a place of understanding. The art talks to the blades, and as Buttonshaw explains on that shitty bit of cardboard, it sings like a violin.
Every t-shirt sold through Gash: 7 Blades went back into creating the boards that you see on the wall. So, in a way, the people buying the t-shirts created the exhibition. It’s a product of the surfing community and an example of how culture can be regenerated. A band doesn’t sell merch to get rich, they sell it to play the next fucken gig.
So art and Gash: 7 Blades were, of course, always going to be synonymous. And when you create art for the purpose of creativity and not commerce, you get back what you put into it from that community. It is what defines the culture that we consistently get asked to replicate, but know it ultimately defies being neatly packaged up for mass appeal. And that’s why this exhibition speaks to people—our people.
GASH 7 BLADES