This post is on the work of Brisbane based artist Sharon Lee whose exhibition can be seen this month at Logan Art Gallery. I was excited to read recently that last year's UN International Year of Biodiversity has now been extended to the entire decade ... 2010 started slowly in regard to Biodiversity ... but it certainly picked up speed and much has been brought to public awareness.
Here is an artist who, if you are lucky enough to get to see her show, is translating personal experience from the land and its flora and fauna into her work to increase awareness and help people think more deeply on why our natural heritage is so critically important!
A.D 68 Pliny the Elder (A.D 23-79) was then, criticizing mans abuse;
…it is true that the Earth bought forth poisons – but who discovered them except man? Birds of the air and wild beasts are content merely to avoid them and know well enough how to watch out for them. It is true that even animals know how to prepare their weapons to inflict injury, yet which of them, except Man, dips it’s weapon in poison? As for us, we even poison arrows and we did to the destructive power of iron itself. Is it not unusual for us to poison rivers and the very elements of which the world is made; even the air itself, in which all things live, we corrupt till it injures and destroys. . . .
( The Natural history of Pliny the Elder, trans. H. Rackham 1956 )
I've noticed in the presence of good art, literature, or music we attend to it; we do not 'consume', we yield to it. We open ourselves to its suggestion. We give of our understanding and receive understanding in return.
Why then do we not treat our native flora and fauna as if ‘good art’, to be treated with respect and nurturing?
|"When we move in who moves out"|
Sharon: Biodiversity is extremely complex. Dynamic and varied like no other feature of the Earth. Its innumerable plants, animals and microbes physically and chemically unite the atmosphere (the mixture of gases around the Earth), geosphere (the solid part of the Earth), and hydrosphere (the Earth's water, ice and water vapor) into one environmental system which makes it possible for millions of species, including people, to exist.
|"Biodiversity is a slippery subject"|
|"above and below"|
At any one minute there are a million and one happenings making up the pattern of our existence. Not all are within our awareness, not all affect us individually, and not all are our sole responsibility; however, each action we take and each mark we make does help in the wholeness of our world.
Over the last 10 years, I have travelled weekly to a parcel of land, nestled in the beautiful Valley of the Lakes, 90 minutes outside of Brisbane.
Each week I am mortified to see the numerous casualties strewn along the length of the road. Be they a result of careless drivers, cleared land, drought, or other anomalies’; they all represent waste & loss
I was going to call this exhibition ‘road pizza’. I intended to find a way to portray the carnage with a body of work full to the brim of shock factor. In my anger, I wanted to assault the sensibilities, in the expectation of making each individual more aware of their actions. However, upon reflection I had to acknowledge that not all that view this work are responsible for the loss I see. I did not want to leave the viewer feeling pessimistic and revolted, rather I wished to encourage them to explore and celebrate that with which we are blessed, the phenomenal Australian animal, and plant life, we share this continent with. . . . in the hope that by making people more conscious of what we have, they will take more care to maintain it’s well being.
In Beauty of patterns lost, I hope to generate a slight uneasy murmur into the viewers acceptance of things not quite right. Upon first glance, I hope there is an appreciation of the work as an aesthetic pleasure. Paintings full of bright colours, beautiful patterns, in the easily recognizable styalised forms of animals and plants. However, I hope by reading the title of each work along with its brief statement people will be compelled to look again. . . . . Nothing is as it should be! Hopefully the beauty in each pattern will be appreciated and a conscious acknowledgement that it’s loss would be regrettable will be apparent, resulting in making people think of how they can avoid being responsible for such loss in the future. This is also why I chose to do the works in a larger format, to dissuade them from appearing cute or kitsch.
Throughout history we seem to ping pong from arrogant unawareness to perceptive regret only to plunder back into ignorance when it suites our purpose.
We take, use, poison and discard without rationalization. We build roads without maintaining the animals natural thoroughfares, we plunder land for its wealth and leave it scared and wasted, we pollute as we create and destroy to consume.
Morally there is something distasteful about this gluttony of rampant consumerism. It is a version of the utmost instinctive drive to eat or use as much as we can, with the dim sense that if we eat more or have more, we are more. This instinct may have promoted survival in the age of cave dwellers but it leads to self-destruction in a world limited by its size and dependency on natural resources.
We may lay the blame for our ignorance and irresponsibility on the current cacophony of information overload; on occasion, it is nice to be blissfully unacquainted with all the facts, but how do we not recognize our errors and learn our lesson when it is one that has been lamented for so long.
I'll be back with the title of this work above. You can visit Sharon's blog here... and the gallery site here.
Also in the gallery is the exhibition Talking Tapa: Pasifika Bark Cloth in Queensland. If you can get along there I've heard great things about the Library as well... sounds like a good place to visit while this heat is on! My warm thanks to the delightful Sharon for the to-ing and fro-ing to get this material together!
|Tapa cloth work|
... photos from the land from Sharon