ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 – Belinda McDowall Reports


Penelope Davis, untitled, 2016 (detail), silicone, nylon thread, plastic, dimensions variable, Image: Simon Strong

Art is at its best this April in Melbourne and surrounds, as CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 gets underway, harnessing the creative power of the arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change. Following on from their inaugural 2015, this festival of exhibitions and events takes place across Melbourne and into regional Victoria from 19 April until 14 May.


John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (film still), 2015, © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery, London

As the world’s populations seemingly draw simultaneously away from each other and draw ever closer, and the environment continues to take a battering from changes in governmental policy and from lack of care, it is heartening to discover that there are clusters of passionate and creative people who understand the importance of acting on climate change, and are busy working away to get the message out there.


Jason deCaires Taylor, Inertia, 2011

As explained by CLIMARTE CEO and co-founder Guy Abrahams, “Now more than ever we need to find new ways to engender hope. We need to find better ways of supporting our common humanity and preserve our global commons by appealing to the angels of our better nature. Culture can’t do this alone, but without culture we can’t create the hope or the way forward. ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 will help us to feel the problems we are facing and to embrace the solutions that are already here.”


Wesley Stacey, Koorie mates in the tea trees, 1980, from the series Koorie set, gelatin silver print; 16.5 x 40.5cm, Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Christine Godden 2012, courtesy of the artist

ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 contains many highlights, and invites numerous day trips around an autumnal Melbourne to the galleries hosting the different exhibitions. A trip to Windsor, just four stops by train from Flinders Street Station, should definitely be on one’s must-do list, to the Mars Gallery. Two exhibitions will be on display at the gallery as part of CLIMARTE, and both are exquisite and challenging.


Penelope Davis, untitled, 2016, silicone, nylon thread, plastic, dimensions variable, Image: Simon Strong

Melbourne born artist Penelope Davis presents a new exhibition of her work, Sea-Change. This exhibition presents a mass of jellyfish, known as a smack of jellyfish, descending from above, a wonderful re-creation of their natural behaviour in their own environment beneath the waves.

From a distance, the works initially appear to be beautiful, delicate representations of jellyfish. However upon closer inspection, the works take on a far more sinister form, as the viewer discovers the jellyfish are hybrids of natural form meeting the detritus of contemporary technologies. The works are silicone moulds cast from objects including industrial devices, electrical equipment and mass produced plastic items, which Davis sews together to form Frankenstein-like jellyfish. Davis has utilised the jellyfish as a motif to examine the effects of global warming, including consumption and environmental degradation. The installation is visually arresting and thought-provoking and beautiful, and very much worth a visit south of the river.


(left image) Joanne Mott, ‘Mad World’, 2016, map pins, timber, metal, acrylic, foam, paper, 60 cm x 30 cm, Image courtesy of the artist and MARS Gallery (right image) Joanne Mott, ‘End of the World as We Know It’, 2016, map pins, timber, metal, acrylic, foam, paper, 60 cm x 30 cm, Image courtesy of the artist and MARS Gallery

Melbourne based, visual artist and sculptor Joanne Mott has produced an exhibition of pin-encrusted globes – Mapped also on display at Mars Gallery. Each globe paints a different story, as the colourful pins illustrate uncertain worlds, each of them different to that which we are familiar, whether the continents are off axis, inside out, out of place or upside down.

The colours of the pins also suggest changes to our earthly home, as heatwaves become a more regular occurrence, and greens and blues become oranges and reds. This exhibition is visually very satisfying, but contains conceptually concerning messages about the state of the world, challenging the viewer to consider a world view beyond our own backyard, and to consider a global consciousness to forge a different path to the one we are seemingly travelling down.


EXIT, 2008-2015, View of the installation EXIT, Collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, © Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mark Hansen, Laura Kurgan and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Robert Gerard Pietrusko and Stewart Smith, Photo © Luc Boegly

ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 exhibitions will take place all around Melbourne, and regional Victoria. The festival hub and a major event is EXIT, but Diller Scofido + Renfro, at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne. This immersive 360-degree installation holds a mirror to a contemporary global concern, visually correlating recent patterns of human movement with global issues of sustainability. Commissioned by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, EXIT was created to quantify, display, and interpret the mass of migrants leaving their home countries for political, economic, and environmental reasons.


Yhonnie Scarce, Hollowing Earth, 2016-17 (detail), Blown and hot formed Uranium glass, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery

Other exhibitions include works by the wonderful Yhonnie Scarce, at Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Healesville. Hollowing Earth is an exhibition of works examine issues related to the mining of uranium on Aboriginal land.

Also on display as part of the festival is Ocean Imaginaries at the RMIT Gallery. This exhibition explores the contradictory nature of the sea, of the traditionally romantic view of sacred mysteries, coupled with the recent slow violence of ocean pollution that presents a risk to both humans and marine creatures. This promises to be a confrontational exhibition, but one worth viewing.


Anne Noble, Dead Bee Portrait #1, 2016

Anne Noble’s ode to the humble bee – No Vertical Song – at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Fitzroy will also be required viewing. This series of portraits of deceased bees, installed as if populating an imaginary museum of the future from a time when the bee no longer exists, is sure to be a melancholy but thought-provoking display.


Wesley Stacey, Burning forest remnant on the Monaro, 1981, Chromogenic Print, 35.5 x 55.0 cm, courtesy of the artist

And Wesley Stacey’s exhibition The Wild Thing, at the Monash Gallery of Art in Wheelers Hill will document some of his many findings from 40 years living of living close to the land, having ‘dropped out’ of urban life in the 1970s.

A public program including a number of talks, workshops and events will also take place during the festival, including a talk by US-based Ed Morris, who will discuss ways in which artists can contribute to social movements to address climate change, and a panel discussion on artists utilising storytelling and mapping to incite social and political change.


Yhonnie Scarce, Hollowing Earth, 2016-17, Blown and hot formed Uranium glass, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery

ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 officially begins on 19 April and runs until 14 May. A couple of the exhibitions, including Hollowing Earth have already begun, and Sea-Change and Mapped open at Mars Gallery on 6 April. The marriage of art and social conscience is a union as old as time, and has been put into play perfectly in Melbourne this Autumn, as a call to action on climate change.

Belinda McDowall, Deputy Editor and Special Feature, Culture Concept Circle, 2017


19 April – 14 May 2017

Penelope Davis: Sea-Change
Joanne Mott: Mapped

Both on display

6 April – 6 May 2017

Mars Gallery,

7 James Street, Windsor, VIC, 3181







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