Current Issue #488

The art of submersion

Steph Fuller
Edwina Cooper, Landwreck, 2020, installation view, praxis ARTSPACE

A new exhibition at praxis ARTSPACE, available to view both physically and online, shows how artists respond to a theme of water.

The sails fall untested
as the boatman’s hand
slides from his Shallop’s back
his mind eclipsed
by his sirens dooming gift.
He whispers in a stranger’s voice.
He does whisper
for the sea understands
that there is a fool
in us all.

The final verse of Mark Niehus’s poem, Lorelei, perfectly encapsulates the sentiment of the group exhibition Submerge at praxis ARTSPACE. Niehus presents his poem handwritten on a pianola scroll as well as through a digital format, adding to the long tradition of artists responding to the German version of the siren myth. The poem features alongside works by Edwina Cooper, Catherine Fitz-Gerald and Bridgette Minuzzo.

Through a variety of media the artists explore our relationship to water and consider the broader notion of how people are connected to one another and to the environment.

“Apart from the obvious connection of water, the artists are also connected through their consideration of our environment – not just in terms of environmental issues but in the way that we engage with the environment,” explains Gabi Lane, assistant curator at praxis ARTSPACE.

Catherine Fitz-Gerald, Gnamma 3, 2019, oil on aluminium, 30 x 20cm

As a sailor, Cooper is interested in our connection to the ocean and how we navigate and use the ocean. She explores this through her practice. She presents an installation work – a replica of a shipwreck – as well as a series of drawings on marine ply. Through her work, Cooper is looking at the loss of purpose and the decay of the boat when it’s removed from its intended environment, commenting on the fact that we navigate the seas often through man-made means.

Minuzzo, on the other hand, is looking at submersion and being completely engulfed by your environment. She presents a slow motion video work along with some earlier paintings where she is trying to recreate the feeling you get when  you lie under water and allow yourself to be taken by the currents. Minuzzo’s work is particularly poignant during this time when, as a result of restrictions and lockdown, our yearning to be submerged once again in a pool, a lake, or an ocean is even greater.

The focus of Fitz-Gerald’s landscape paintings is the impact of water and drought on the harsh Australian landscape. This series of paintings on different metals is presented on semi-raised plinths so the audience is looking down on them. Her ambiguous, highly textured landscapes explore ideas around water consumption, degradation and other environmental issues affecting the Australian landscape.

Bridegette Minuzzo, Under The Swell: Stillness, 2018, 300 x 200mm

With restrictions lifting in South Australia, Submerge has been installed physically and is open by appointment but praxis will continue to push the online platform. Lane explains:

“People are engaging with exhibitions online and not physically going to the gallery, and I think that will persist for some time. We have to make sure our online and our physical presentations complement one another. They are two different experiences but we are trying to bridge the gap between those experiences as much as possible.”

Until 16 July

Jane Llewellyn

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