Review: Dean Cogle: Beyond Nostalgia, HOTA Gallery (QLD)

The much-loved Gold Coast artist captured the region as many locals see it.
Review: Dean Cogle: Beyond Nostalgia, HOTA Gallery (QLD)

Dean Cogle, The Blue Dolphin Hotel (undated). Acrylic on canvas, collection of Abbey McCulloch. Image supplied by HOTA.

Dean Cogle is a part of the Gold Coast. His paintings hang on gallery walls, offices and homes alike, and his murals and graphic art pieces have enriched businesses up and down South East Queensland for the past four decades. If you have visited the Gold Coast, you have probably seen a logo, a poster, and definitely a subject of his work.


Sadly the artist, in his 60’s, passed away the day the exhibition opened, Thursday, May 11, 2019. Well-loved for his larrikin ways, the exhibition’s official opening on the following Saturday was brim full of Cogle’s tearful family, friends, and associates.

Gallery Director, Tracy Cooper-Lavery, had brought this exhibition forward, working with Cogle himself, as well as family and friends. 

‘We wanted to make sure that we could get this exhibition up to celebrate Dean and his work,’ Cooper-Lavery at the opening. And that she did.

Held in the HOTA foyer, the exhibition coincided with the closing of the main gallery, moving towards its 2021 reinvention as the largest regional gallery in Australia. Although not ideal, the open space will give the maximum exposure to Cogle’s work as punters attend other events at HOTA.

The Gallery has always used the foyer space, often to dramatic effect, and this is definitely one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen here over the years. The paintings, supported by displays of graphic art and advertising work, bounce off the walls, begging you to come over for a closer look.

Architect Philip Follent, spoke emotionally at the Saturday opening, reflecting that ‘Dean’s eye for the essence of a building’s form, character and colour really enabled him to portray beach shacks, 50’s motels and signage with a freshness that would have only been seen when new.’

The architecture fraternity loved Cogle deeply for portraying their work in real, and simultaneously enhanced tones. Everything appears new and unblemished in his eyes.

Cogle managed to capture the Gold Coast as many locals see it: without pretension, or the blemishes, rust and wear that living by the sea entails. His paintings of signage, businesses and homes are crisp and newborn, reflecting real life through a filter. It feels like a sunny morning after a night of rain, everything washed clean. Those familiar with the Gold Coast’s clear winter light will recognise this sensation.

A bit like Jeffrey Smart’s stoner cousin, Cogle’s work isn’t as serious and imposing as Smart’s, but it’s just as attention-grabbing and dynamic. Maybe it’s due to the subject matter: the Blue Dolphin Motel, instead of a Euro motorway!

Cogle’s work smiles. It’s humble, with flat acrylics, and mid-century tones. The sharp shadows, corners and lines highlight extraordinary detail. A simple wall of breezeblocks become a gorgeous maze of byzantine beauty.

This exhibition is inclusive, invites you up for a closer inspection, and highlights the true Gold Coast as many locals see it, and remember it. Take a small holiday within a holiday and spend some time with buildings built for fun.

4 stars out of 5: ★★★★

Dean Cogle: Beyond Nostalgia
11 May-30 June 2019
Foyer Gallery, HOTA, Gold Coast
Free admission

Danielle Dunsmore

Monday 20 May, 2019

About the author

Danielle trained as a journalist at the Gold Coast Sun in the late 80’s writing on arts, music, fashion and general news. Since then her freelance writing has included reviews, architecture, sustainability, and design. Her corporate and business writing covers award submissions, tenders and grant writing, social media, PR and communications.