Heartlands, aim and reach …

What have Greenpeace and John Wolseley got in common? They’re both hanging around Fed Square in Melbourne, inside and out, trying to communicate their love of nature. Why?

Do they succeed? Can you share this love or just walk right past?

In their latest campaign, Greenpeace fight to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Last Thursday half a dozen young activists learned basic circus skills and swung themselves over the wall outside at Federation Square to dance/swim in projected animations to a jazzy whale sound track. They encouraged us to end the age of coal and ‘Take another look.’
Greenpeace-Reef-01

It was sold as a ‘spectacular’ and Greenpeace fans were encouraged to book tickets. Spectacular in comparison to what? A basic banner unfurling? Or Legs on the Wall? Not fair? How many people did Greenpeace want at this event? There may have been a hundred and fifty – including innocent bystanders – entertained and encouraged by Rod Quantock. Is that enough to Save the Reef?

Half the reef has died in the last thirty years.

What can Greenpeace, anyone, do to Save the Reef? How can activists grab attention and create action? You could look at some pictures online? Are you moved? Will you act?

In contrast you could wander inside to the NGV at Fed Square and check out Heartlands and Headwaters. This show is supposedly laid out in the shape of a tree, with big works on the walls surrounding the trunk. Well, it’s a nice attempt but there’s no getting away from the white box and clean lines of an urban modern art gallery. (Next time think Herring Island or Heide, perhaps?)

The most dramatic piece for me was ‘Dystopia – the last wetland Gwydir 2184’. In this work, Wolseley attempts to show cotton farms engulfing nature. Dystopeia-01

You can see the dead pelican print (lower right) more closely below.

pelican-print

You can see Wolseley making this work here. And here are the cotton farms:cotton farms

He is trying to get inside nature, show his connections, his own nature. Inside the rythyms and tensions, the cycles and evolution. He is certainly ambitious. The works around the walls are extensive, like this ‘From the edge of the great floodplain Garrangari and Garrangali’ in the Northern Territory.

floodplain

Inside this luminous paper work are smaller collaged worksfloodplain-detail-02

bringing such detail and evoking such life and depth that the piece seems to breathe.

floodplain detail 01

Floodplain took three years to make. In the words on the wall Mr Wolesley describes learning from an elder, also artist, about the use of some of the plants and mentions ‘deep time’ as compared to shallow time where humans are present.

heron-power-station

In ‘Natural History of Swamps III’, a heron examines CO2 at Loy Yang Power Station. Wolesley makes no demands on his audience. We are not expected to sign a petition. We are invited to wonder and perhaps to wander as in ‘Simpson Desert Sandunes moving across the Finke River’ in South Australia. Simpson-desert

You can see the smaller more detailed collages inviting closer examination.audienceHere you get a sense of the attempted tree down the middle of the space.

dancing-paper

These are examples of the paper he rescued from the burnt mallee – some he’d left there for months, one is even marked by roots after a burial. These papers are bent and stiffened by the elements and marked by the charcoal fingers of the scrub. Some are trapped in perspex boxes and turned into precious objects by their presentation. Others, like these, fly loose across the walls like china ducks. Am I influenced by his art? His skill? His humanity? Does his love for Nature get beyond the paper?

If we know not Nature, then how can we protect it? 
Thoreau

If we only see Nature writ large on the wall of a gallery, then how can we love it? Can our love be enough to save Nature?

How can we be moved to change?

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/aEnfy9qfdaU?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

Leave a Reply