Ian Swift’s hands were made for sculpting. Even at the tender age of seven, the Blue Mountains-based artist had a curiosity for recycled materials and discarded items that he could transform into something more interesting.

Tiffany Turtabudi

As a young kid I used to collect stuff off the clean ups and build bicycles,” Swift says. “So I’ve been doing construction with found objects for most of my life.”

Despite his early fascination with artistic production, Swift did not seriously pursue his interest in sculpting until his mid-thirties.

Eventually it got to a point where every time I met someone who said so-and-so is an artist, I’d have this funny feeling in my belly telling me that that’s what I should be.”

When he finally began attending classes at a local art school in the early 90s, Swift felt like he had come home. He says that moving from a flat in Bondi to a cosy cottage in Katoomba in 1997 was a similar experience, as he quickly discovered a community of artists who were not only welcoming, but also extremely supportive of one another.

The first thing I noticed when moving up here was that everyone was either a writer or a painter, and so it was wonderful finding all these like minds.”

Since then, Swift’s passion for reconstructing ordinary objects into insightful sculptures has lead him to produce 17 solo exhibitions; with his latest work, Modern Tribal, being showcased in Katoomba’s Lost Bear Gallery from July 12 to 29.

The exhibition features a series of masks assembled from scrap materials that explore the prevalence of body art, binge drinking and risk taking behavior in young people.

I find it ironic that adolescents mark themselves for difference and individualism, and yet they all come out looking the same,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter, the bottom line is that I thought I could make some interesting 3D object that are fun and artistic and reflect on today’s youth culture.”