Wednesday, February 28, 2024

With Nature

Exhibition Review: Visual Art | Brian Rope

With Nature | Bridget Baskerville, Megan Cope, Wendy Dawes, Marley Dawson, Sammy Hawker, Annika Romeyn (curated by Alexander Boynes)

CCAS Lakeside | 10 February - 6 April 2024

With Nature is about environmental changes happening because of us. Six contemporary Australian artists address the issues, aligning the materials they employ in their studios to convey their messages.

The landscape has influenced their work outcomes, revealing our impacts on Earth’s transformation. Humans have the ability to collaborate, but we need to explore our frequent failure to do so with respect to nature. These artists, working in photography, drawing, sculpture and textiles, ask “how can we collaborate with our natural environment to better understand how to live a sustainable future on this planet?”

Kamberri/Canberra-based Sammy Hawker is showing a number of her marvellous salt works here. These photographs (created across the Yuin Nation on Walbunja & Djiringanj Country) explore repeated motifs presented by salt in the ocean. Her experimental technique challenges traditional approaches to film development and cultivates a deeper connection between art and nature. She allows the environment to shape the outcome saying, “the crosses and fractals feel like signs of sentience, marks of the deeper frequency” and “Earth’s oceans were created from forms of water that came from outer space - a combination of icy comets and grains of solar dust. It feels the oceans hold material memory of this interstellar resonance.”

Murramarang NP #1, 2020 – Pigment inkjet print 110 x 110 cm © Sammy Hawker

Emerging artist Bridget Baskerville has previously explored the effect of extractive industries on waterways around her Kandos hometown. Dead River (2023) shown here originated from a 2023 residency in Queenstown, Lutruwita/Tasmania when she explored how the Queen River, one of Australia's most polluted waterways, interacted with immersed copper plates. A 2-channel video shows her work in progress, and a superb set of corroded copper plates created by an etching process in the water, reveal bright orange rust patterns. The plates indicate the impact of extractive industries on water systems.

Dead River, (detail) 2023, corroded copper plates,
2 channel video, dimensions variable © Bridget Baskerville

 Annika Romeyn, another Kamberri/Canberra-based artist contributes more corrosion/rust in a very different artwork. This artist combines watercolour, drawing and printmaking processes to create intricate and immersive works on paper looking to convey a restorative experience of being in nature, focussing on the threshold of rock and water. Wana Karnu (2024) is a spectacular multi-panel rust and ink drawing which captures her experience of walking gravelly ridges in Mutawintji National Park at sunset. The work reveals rich colours of iron oxide and 'rock rust' formed when iron, oxygen and water interact.

Wana Karnu (detail) - rust and ink, 2024 on Rives BFK 300gsm paper
© Annika Romeyn

Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, from Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island, is known for her site-specific sculptural installations, public art, and paintings. She blended art and conservation with Indigenous history and practice in her impressive large-scale midden installation Whispers at the entrance to the Sydney Opera House in 2023. Comprising a 14m wall and 200 timber Kinyingarra Guwinyanba poles covered in Kinyingarra (oyster) shells, it emphasised the resilience, and historic erasure, of First Nations custodianship, culture and Country at the world-renowned site. Here again we are asked to consider the role of art in bringing about cultural and ecological change. A single channel video reveals the landscape of country. It is well worth watching. It clearly reveals what we all should be looking for and seeing wherever in this land we live or visit.

'Kinyingarra Guwinyanba' 2022, Burogari (Cyprus Pine), Kinyinyarra (Sydney Rock Oyster) shell and stainless-steel trace wire Photo by Cian Sanders © Megan Cope

Wendy Dawes has created a remarkable perpetual motion machine, using an overhead projector with a deconstructed monitor to show, on a screen, permanent marker drawings on transparency film. A meter measuring power consumption during the exhibition acknowledges the artist's personal use of resources and highlights the need for more renewable energy sources.

'Perpetual Motion Machine' (work in progress), 2024 © Wendy Dawes

Using chemistry, mechanics and construction techniques, Marley Dawson creates sculptures and installations that highlight some outlandish aspects of our world and ourselves. He is dedicated to pushing the limits of what is considered to be art and encouraging dialogue about the wonders of our environment and ourselves. One of his contributions to this exhibition is a stunning and high-quality artwork constructed from brass, steel and timber and utilising electrics to produce a mesmerising hum from brass pieces vibrating against each other.

Hum (Louis + Morris), 2022, brass, steel, timber, electrics, 184 x 71 x 6cm – Marley Dawson

Concluding his curator’s essay, Alexander Boynes writes “Together, these six artists demonstrate art's ability to prompt introspection, foster conversation, and inspire action in addressing environmental challenges.”

This review is also available on the author's blog here.