Artists ponder plastic problem

Two weeks self portrait by Ona Janzen

Two weeks self portrait by Ona Janzen

Reliquary to Detritus by Victoria Bramwell Davis. Image by Ben Pearse

Reliquary to Detritus by Victoria Bramwell Davis. Image by Ben Pearse

Keep cups, reusable shopping bags and recycling are great, but is there more we could be doing? Platform Gallery’s latest exhibition, Uncovering Argentina, asked 11 local and interstate artists to respond to the environmental disaster of plastic.

“The title of this exhibition comes from the fact that humankind has produced enough plastic to completely cover the country of Argentina,” says curator Kelly Heylen. “It’s a shocking statistic. So many artists’ work is environmentally focused, and I thought if I brought those artists together in a group show, maybe we can contribute to the conversation about next steps.

Plastic Soup sculpture by Claire Brooks. Image by Bianca Hoffrichter

Plastic Soup sculpture by Claire Brooks. Image by Bianca Hoffrichter

“The artists have responded to the theme in a variety of ways – for some, the outlook is bleak, but for others it offers up hope.”

Katoomba artist Heidi Axelsen is one such artist whose work offers hope.

“What if we shed seeds wherever we travelled and plants sprouted in our tracks?” she said. This is the basis for her work Shed, which features fennel seeds and dirt embedded in a dress made from biodegradable plastic.

Blackheath photographer Ona Janzen used her exhibition piece to make a statement about consumption, covering herself with two weeks’ worth of single-use plastic generated by her household.

“I shoot portraits, so I thought I’d try covering myself with plastic for a self-portrait,” Janzen said. “It was really gross actually – the poor Earth!”

The artworks in the exhibition deal with issues from plastic in the ocean, to plastic’s inability to degrade, to the horrifying statistic that only 8 per cent of plastic produced is ever recycled. Some artworks incorporate plastic into them, such as Adelaide jeweller Claire Brooks’ ‘plastic soup’ range of sculpture, rings and brooches. Brooks combs the beach for hours for micro-plastics, which she then encases in steel and sterling silver, creating beautiful but poignant work.

“The artwork is both thought-provoking and aesthetically beautiful, and my hope is that it will prompt people to stop and think. Who better than artists to comment on one of the most pressing issues of our time?” said Heylen.

Uncovering Argentina is at Platform Gallery in Civic Place, Katoomba, until December 4.