Contemporary artists can critique society, and raise awareness about current issues in a way that no other medium can. The artists of Umbrella Studio exhibition Mesh are not contrary to this practice. Marion Gaemers, Lynnette Griffiths and Sue Ryan have created a landscape of life from the lifeless – ghost nets. Ghost nets are the deadly inorganic leftovers from the fishing industry. They’re the nets that float around the sea for years trapping and killing marine life. The GhostNets Australia organisation have been working to collect all these nets from the sea, but have recently been denied renewal on their federal funding. So what happens with all these collected nets?
Enter the artists! The life they’ve created in the gallery includes fish, dogs, sea creatures, plants and wearable art – all from ghost nets and other mixed media. The dogs are particularly lifelike – on entering the gallery you might think you’ve walked into a kennel. Some of their eyes have even been made from net and resin, the fibres mimicking the iris. The dogs’ teeth have been cut from old sand-blown thongs – another recycled item from our coast. The dog sculptures are complemented by prints of spirit dogs lining an adjacent section of wall.
An enormous woven fish hangs from the gallery ceiling, stretching right down to the floor. Smaller, more stylistic fish are spotted around the same area, along with coral bommies and sea anemones. A bulky yet hollow crocodile also basks on the wall, threatening those who dare to get too close. Wearable art on display includes two shawls and three large necklaces made from nets, shells, and other washed up bits and pieces. Though they are made from modern items, they resemble something from an old tribal culture long passed.
Complementing the work on show are two looping videos, one containing still shots from the production of the exhibition, and one documenting a workshop with Marion Gaemers on Magnetic Island using nets, with interviews and a time lapse of their finished product. Mesh closes at Umbrella Studio on Sunday 26 May 2013.