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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Maximus swept out to sea (Wattamolla)



Shaun Gladwell


1972 -


Shaun Gladwell's video work 'Maximus swept out to sea (Wattamolla)' represents the artist's ongoing engagement with art history, popular culture, national identity and Australian landscape mythology. It witnesses the return of the fictional character Maximus; the artist's biker persona equal parts homage to the Mad Max films of the 1980s, and Sidney Nolan's 'Ned Kelly' series 1946-47. Its mystifying narrative has continuity with that of earlier work 'Approach to Mundi Mundi' 2007, in which Maximus patrolled the outback on his motorcycle performing symbolic acts upon the land.

In 'Maximus swept out to sea (Wattamolla)' our protagonist treads water in a lagoon, brandishing a burning branch for a torch. A superimposed waterfall fades in and then out to the ocean, as the artist's slow-motion camerawork captures the endurance of the body countered by Aristolean elements of fire, earth, air and water. Maximus' journey from desert to coast is analogous with the formation of a national consciousness as well as an antipodean reimagining of the lovelorn captain cursed to roam the seas in Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman (1841).




Media category

Time-based art

Materials used

single channel digital video, colour, silent


1/2 AP


duration: 00:12:33 min, aspect ratio: 16:9, 135.0 x 240.0 cm overall

Signature & date

Signed l.c. certificate of authenticity, black fibre-tipped pen "Shaun Gladwell". Not dated.


Gift of the artist 2014. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Shaun Gladwell

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, Shaun Gladwell: Morning of the earth, 'Shaun Gladwell: Morning of the earth', Melbourne, 2013, n.pag.. viewed 12.03.2014,

Door Floris Don, Der Fliegende Holländer, 'Toelichting: verdoemde kapitein zoekt opofferingsgezinde vrouw', pg. 5-8, Rotterdam, 2013, 8 (colour illus., video still). program

Toby Fehily.,, 'Shaun Gladwell: Morning of the earth', Collingwood, 02 Dec 2013, n.pag. viewed 12.03.2014,

Suzanne Fraser.,, 'Morning of the earth', Melbourne, 11 Dec 2013, n.pag. (colour illus., video still). viewed 12.03.2014,