Harbinger, the exhibition curated by Nicola Dickson and currently showing at the Mildura Art Centre, has been in gestation for two and a half years – a period of time that’s been beset by unprecedented calamity; the fires of the 19/20 Black Summer, the now ubiquitous Covid pandemic, the ever worsening continuum of global natural disasters, several tangos with mortality (…and, god forbid, we mustn’t forget the gruesome political distraction of bloody Donald Trump.)
It’s certainly been swings and roundabouts and a seemingly endless string of relentless handicaps (not least being the on-off-on-again lockdowns in Mildura itself ) But all of that notwithstanding, and regardless of the associated nail biting, it’s been wonderful to be included in such good company (Di Fogwell, Steven Holland, Tiff Cole, Reuben Lewis and, of course, Nicky herself.) And in the current social climate it’s a privilege, let’s face it, to be able to show anywhere at all!
So we’d been quietly beavering away, in the solitude of our studios, whenever we’d been able. But hadn’t during that time posted even an inkling of the work in progress…mainly because we didn’t want to mozz the outcome.
Nicky had first pitched us the show in 2019, and what could we possibly not love about it! For one, it showcased birds; an enduring preoccupation of ours. For two, it interrogated the loss of habitat due to encroaching industrial/creeping domestic development. For three, it equated the destruction of the environment with the distress and endangerment of birds and exposed the clear, present and accelerating danger of Climate Change. Ticked all our boxes.
The imperilment of birds is a complex, multi-layered dilemma, though the cause and effect is a simple enough equation. In taking over their habitats (a harsh enough impingement), we have compounded the destruction with intensive industries that ramp up pollution and ruination in a ripple effect that has burgeoned into the perfect storm of Climate Change. Extreme weather, drought and fire events have become our new compounded normal.
Living in the splendid climes of the Far South Coast of NSW, we’re quite besotted by birds of every feather; whether in their wild habitats or in their imposed urban adaptations. They are bright, intelligent, sociable creatures – full of purpose and existential imperative – and vulnerable to the progressive plunder and degradation of the planet by that higher, entitled order, the homo sapien. The very existence of birds is now literally on the line; we haven’t just trampled across their delicate ecosystems, we’ve brought upon them the mother of all catastrophes, looming extinction. It’s been an insidious evolution, but when we get to the stage of people asking ‘where have all the sparrows gone?’, then it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a tipping point.
Artist statement: Ginger
In our small corner of paradise, a diverse agricultural and bush environment caught between heavily forested mountains and the ocean, it’s not hard to see the cause and effect of ‘civilisation’ on our rich avian wild life. I’ve witnessed firsthand the degradation of the forests brought about by clear-felled logging; the rubbish left, banked-up, to fuel ever more intensive fire storms. The habitat of the Barking Owl has been cleared for Big Agriculture, serious conservation efforts are in place for the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, the Regent Honeyeater has been pushed to the brink by the creep of urban and industrial development – all common scenarios that are echoed across the nation. We reap what we sow.
As Ye Reap will continue to be a work in progress; the disastrous management of the Nuclear (Fukushima) and Fossil Fuel industries, for instance, are just two of an ongoing parade of medallions already on my drawing board. Spare a thought for the birds.
The finished work: Ginger Bottari, As ye reap, saw pierced brushed titanium and copper, vintage scythe
Images: Brenton McGeachie (medallions/studio snaps) and Robert Klarich (MAC gallery snaps)
Artist statement: Megxx
Living in the hinterland of the Far South Coast of NSW, wild birds are our constant companions. They hang around us when we’re in the garden, often wandering into our studios. Some are permanent fixtures in our lives while some swing through for a few weeks on their seasonal transit, regular as clockwork. So we’re acutely aware when there’s a shift in the natural order of things.
The Jaded Passeridae (a play on monumental masonry) alludes to the relatively recent universal query, ‘where have all the sparrows gone’…when we suddenly realised that our very own cheeky garden flock, in residence for 40 years, was indeed missing in action.
Against All Odds (scorched earth: burnt offering from the fire ground) conjures the New Year of 2020 which found us in the eye of the fire storms, stalked for 40 days by the Mother of All Conflagrations. It was terrifying, not least for the critters. Much of that time was spent in the thrall of the Bushfire Apps, glued to the relentless advance of those dreadful ‘hotspots’. Yet, finally, in the midst of the loss there emerges sweet and delicate survival.
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat: end play follows the fortunes of Edward Lear’s beloved children’s poem − though not, alas, to the anticipated Happy Ever Afters. Instead, the moon-struck couple meet a watery end; caught haplessly adrift (shades of sea-level rising and doomed Kiribati) on the crown of a drowning palm tree.
There’s little charm, for sure, to be found in Climate Change.
The finished work:
Image credits: Brenton McGeachie (studio snaps) and Robert Klarich (MAC gallery snaps)
For the many of us who were prevented from visiting Mildura in the flesh (courtesy of lockdowns and border closures) the virtual tour below, narrated by Nicky Dickson, is a cracker substitute…
More Mildura Arts Centre visuals here
Special thanks to Studio Bitch and the support crew:
…and Old Mate (in memoriam)
Please note: we will be putting together a more fulsome post of the exhibition – featuring all the works in the show – for Glass Central Canberra a wee bit down the track. n(Ed)