Surfing the Bombora, 2013

100 x 74 cm
edition of 30
$2,000, unframed
$2,800, framed

Surfing the Bombora puts sporting culture firmly within its sights. In this image, Hanks focuses his critical gaze on macho surfing culture—we see a wooden and graceless Cook, improbably staying upright on his board as he surfs a bombora, accompanied by the ubiquitous cane toad.

Bombora is originally an Indigenous term for large sea waves which break over a submerged reef or sand bar, but it has been subsumed into contemporary surfing language and abbreviated as ‘bommie’. Because of the obvious danger, riding a ‘bommie’ confers immediate hero status on the surfer. And right on cue there is a bevy of Hawaiian maidens watching this hero admiringly from the shore.

Surfer Cook has absorbed the ethos of macho surfing culture—he puts surfing before all and neglects his duty to record the transit of Venus, happening above in a murderous-looking sky. And in an instant, he becomes an exhibitionist, showing off in front of the beach maidens and drinkers on the pub verandah. He’s also neglecting Botticelli’s Venus, as she waits patiently for him in his transit-of-Venus tent.

Other details lurk, waiting to be discovered: Brett Whiteley’s famous matchstick sculptures in the background; Ned Kelly, mingling on the verandah; and Cook is (impossibly) wearing the beautifully embroidered, but unfinished, waistcoat his wife Elizabeth was making for him at the time of his death. Incommensurable notions clash, but despite this, Hanks’ witty critique of the privileging of sport over art and the problematic relationship between sport and alcohol in Australian culture is clear.