WAVES

22 Nov — 15 Dec 2017

Lauren Berkowitz Fergus Binns Kristina Davidson Ara Dolatian Ria Green Virginia Overell André Piguet Unknown Artist



Photo credit: André Piguet.

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Waves

 

Water is part of an integrated, continuous whole.[1] This is true for the world in which we live and for biological systems. We can’t live without water, and yet there are many troubles that come to the fore when engaging with water as a subject of artistic enquiry. In Staying with the Trouble – Making Kin in the Chthulucene Donna J. Haraway outlines a theory about ecological connectivity, arguing for a re-evaluation of our approach to troubled times. Rather than working toward an idealised utopian future or view devastation as too far gone, she suggests that we focus on the uncomfortable present to find solutions: “Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places.”[2] The curatorial parameters of Waves stems from an interest in Haraway’s proposal. The exhibition presents various artistic interpretations of humanity’s relationship to and reliance on the expansive subject of water.

Suspended from the roof is Liquid a site-specific sculptural installation by Lauren Berkowitz constructed in the gallery for Waves. Lauren’s work often includes repurposed natural and found materials that become imbued with a poetic resonance through her delicate but vigorous installations. For this exhibition, a variety of plastic bottles collected over the past two months float in space, strung up in a tiered linear bunch that creates a cascading form. The voluminous piece with various shapes of bulbous and blue translucent forms appears to replicate a natural flow of water streams. Liquid rhythmically conjures notions of plastic waste and its detrimental effect on our ecosystem. 8 million metric tonnes of plastic entered the oceans in 2010 and nearly 3 millions tonnes of that plastic was used to bottle water. [3] The work simultaneously raises the problem of access to clean drinking water. Lauren has given these discarded bottles a new life, and in doing so encourages us to re-evaluate our material consumption and consider the environments that surround us.

Fergus Binns’ conceptual painting practice cross-examines aspects of Australian identity, politics and the environment. Fergus draws on multiple references from the media, popular culture, personal and social history, post-colonial Australian art and Australiana iconography, to create narratives within his paintings that interrogate Australian identity. The three paintings in Waves depict ocean and coastline scenery as the basis upon which his narratives are built. The paintings combine idyllic landscapes with frightening, absurd and mysterious imagery. His focus on the Australian coastline is particularly pertinent within the notion of national cultural identity. Fergus’ paintings bring issues of humanity, human rights and inequality to the fore. His paintings illuminate present situations of neglect that the Australian people urgently need to address.

Disconnect is a site-specific installation by Kristina Davidson that emerges from the floor and corner of the office gallery. A large interconnected web of grey plastic bags has been composed into an organic form that appears to pervade and undulate through the space. Replicating a fluid surface, like that of an ocean or sea, it immediately elicits a concern about the longevity of plastic and its environmental impact. Kristina studied printmaking, however her practice has expanded to include material and sculptural investigations, where the conceptual basis is rooted in a concern for the environment. While the detrimental effects of plastic in our oceans and water systems is recognised, understanding the longevity of plastic is a reason to develop this knowledge further. There are reports of large areas of the ocean containing rubbish islands, where waste clings together in forms that span so far and wide that it looks like landmass.[4] Plastic takes a thousand years to break down and is digested by or entangles marine life living in oceans and waterways. This consumption and subsequent environmental damage is tied to larger industrious political and economic systems. Kristina’s sculpture oscillates between repelling and fascinating, where the multitude of single plastic bags is so pervasive that it is troublesome.

 

Clouds of mist permeate from within Ara Dolatian’s interconnected biomorphic sculptures. To control and contain the distribution of water between two systems, Ara has constructed self-perpetuating environments that interlink water from the natural world with industrial processes in a symbiotic relationship. The audience is protected from contaminating the interior self-sufficient environment, yet the interior environment and its function are also visible to us through the translucent plastic form. We can see the porous and borderless mist seeping out of gaps in the translucent forms, and the water transferring from one form to the other through an array of tubes and pumps, powered by electricity. Propped up but sitting precariously on the wooden tripod, their organic form and function appears as if landing within the gallery from another time or world. The connectivity of these environments expresses a system of interdependent processes, between the natural world and industrial worlds, a symbiosis between a living and non-living ecologies. The water flows between the forms, which activate the work, but it would fail to do so if it didn’t rely on electricity to power the pump. In this way, Ara’s work occupies a precarious middle ground between the natural and non-natural worlds. This is a space where there is reliance on industrial processes, but an awareness of the need to build sustainable and mutually beneficial inter-relational systems.

Poetic and fluid interpretations of expansive landscapes form the basis of Ria Green’s work. Her work for Waves employs multiple art forms including photography, painting and sculpture, and materials including glass, porcelain and oil paint, in a combined effort to mediate on the poetic rhythm and uncontrollable force of the ocean. Ria’s reduced scale renders the ocean-space quiet and contemplative, and a paired back deep blue palette allows the atmosphere to sits somewhere between the melancholic and the stimulating. A pairing included in Waves sees two glass panes side by side – a semi-transparant image of an ocean expanse on glass and an expressive abstract oil painting also on glass. The materiality evokes a correlation between the surface and depth of the ocean, and our ability to see-through shallow water or stare into the depths of darkness. Alongside this pairing sits a sturdy but delicate porcelain frame holding an image and painting on glass. The artist’s hand is left within the surface of the porcelain, acting as a gentle protective mechanism around the image. Ria’s work fluidly oscillates between real and imagined depictions of the ocean, a temporal reminder of the power of the unknown and of human memory in constructing experience.

Beneath the windows sit Virginia Overell’s works installed for the duration of the previous exhibition at the gallery, everything spring, and for this exhibition, Waves. Skyscraper windows skew and reflect a cloudy sky on the left side and the ocean on the right side, almost as if a future warning of a sunken world. This carrying over from one exhibition to the next provides a fluid durational dialogue to enter these works, passing through two contexts that are conceptually tied to her practice. Propped with the windows open, the inverted canopy on both sides is exposed to the exterior environment elements, and as such is open to changes overtime depending on weather conditions outside of the artist and gallery’s control. Virginia’s art practice investigates oceanic environments and is specifically engaged with oceanic research from various perspectives including geological, scientific, economic, social, cultural and political. For Waves, Virginia has added to the existing structures by placing a selection of imagery that she has collected overtime throughout her research. An array of images ranges from satellite imagery, mapping, movie scenes, and images of the world and ocean spaces – evidence of the multifaceted ways in which humans interact with water. Her work rigorously negotiates the vast unknown-ness of the world’s ocean-spaces,[5] often drawing attention to problematic situations where humans have attempted to understand, measure or attribute ownership to water, which is ultimately an uncontrollable element.

André Piguet’s drawings reference water with a largely abstract sensibility. His practice often negotiates humanity’s understanding of the world from the perspective of space, which decrees that the Earth sits on a blip in the expanse of the universe. This conceptual basis renders his work with an abstract and sci-fi aesthetic, often experimenting with forms that are futurist or otherworldly in appearance. For Waves, André exhibits a number of drawings from an ongoing series. Some are drawn from his imagination and memory, and others skew found imagery from historical geography books by building up lines in various directional movements with black Posca. Often distorting the perspective of the image underneath, or abstractly referencing elements from the Earth, André renders the elemental subjects in an abstract way and, in doing so, removes total clarity. When considered in the context of understanding oceans, it is interesting to consider that the ocean has been more neglected than land in geological studies. Western knowledge and values of measuring and predicting the behavior of ocean often attempts to force some control over oceans when there is still study necessary. [6] The drawings conjure notions of speculation and experimentation, and of potential when we consider different perspectives or experiment with new ways of seeing and creating images.

The painting that sits on the office wall was found serendipitously in the nearby Princes Park last month. Left abandoned in the outdoor public space, it has been damaged by what can only be assumed as weather conditions. The canvas has been bent out of shape and the paint is flaking off to reveal a stark white canvas surface, reminiscent of the effects of coral bleaching. Of the remaining painting is brightly hued depiction of underwater marine life, with the works DEAD clearly above it. Princes Park recently held a protest against the proposed Adani Coal Mine in Queensland, which scientists argue will threaten to make environmental conditions worse by increasing fossil fuels and damaging the increasingly fragile Great Barrier Reef.[7]

Charlotte Cornish

[1] Joy A. Palmer Cooper, D.E. Cooper, Key Thinkers on the Environment, Routledge, New York, 2018. 20.

[2] Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Duke Press University, Durham and London, 2016, 1.

[3] ABC, ULR: http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-explained/8301316

[4] BBC World, ULR http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-41866046/the-giant-mass-of-plastic-waste-taking-over-the-caribbean

[5] Philip E. Steinberg, The Professional Geographer, “Navigating to Multiple Horizons: Toward a Geography of Ocean-Space,” Routledge, London, 2010.

[6] Kimberly Peters, Future Promises for Contemporary Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2010

[7] Anna Krien, The Quarterly Essay, “The Long Goodbye: Coal, Coral and Australia’s Climate Deadlock”, Issue 66, 2017.