Marine debris sculptures explore environmental anxieties

Research by an Australian team of scientists has found that discarded plastics now contaminate the diets of 90 per cent of marine bird species.

Robyn Glade-Wright and Barbara Dover will explore the impacts of this coastal and marine plastic pollution in a new exhibition opening this Friday (January 24) at Artspace Mackay.

The environmentally-themed Queensland touring exhibition is titled “Disquiet: Ecological Anxieties and Transformations”.  It runs in Gallery 3 until April 19.

Cr Fran Mann said the Cairns-based artists used discarded plastic and other marine debris washed ashore along the Queensland coast to create large-scale sculptures.

“Their work highlights the global issue of ocean pollution,” Cr Mann said.

“When people think of tropical Queensland, they imagine pristine landscapes with stretches of golden sand edged by blue water,” she said.

“However, this exhibition challenges this image by bringing attention to that fact that many coasts are now seriously affected by pollution.”

Disquiet also examines the anxieties surrounding human generated pressures on the marine environment.

The artists said every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment.

“That this plastic is found everywhere from deep ocean floors to high mountain ranges, gives us rise to feelings of anxiety, anguish and grief,” they said.

Through their work, the artists ask us to consider the fact that plastic never disappears; it simply breaks up into microplastics, forming an underwater “smog” affecting everything from plankton to human aquaculture.

Robyn Glade-Wright is Associate Professor in the College of Arts, James Cook University (JCU), and Barbara Dover is a practicing artist with a PhD from JCU.

The artists will be holding a free artist talk at Artspace this Thursday at 6pm.  All are welcome.

This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.