Friday, November 22, 2013

Food Chain

 'Food Chain' Nicola Moss ©2013. Polystyrene, polyethylene, fabric, interfacing, thread, found object, disposable soy sauce bottles, synthetic polymer paint on hand cut paper. Courtesy of SGAR.
 'Food Chain' detail, Nicola Moss ©2013.
Food Chain is the third work in my series which features a brain motif, symbolising some of my thoughts on sustainability. (I posted earlier about two works in this series here). This piece brings together several ideas relating to plastic waste and the food chain - our food chain - and those of other species. (Reading 'Plastic - A toxic love story' by Susan Freinkel last year, made me even more aware of the omnipresence of plastic in and around our food stuff).
I began by using some of the disposable plastic materials I encounter with the foods I eat, starting with the black polystyrene used in meat trays. I cut a motif of coral form, a life structure I have seen washed up on many beaches around Moreton Bay. Coral takes a very long time to grow and plastic takes an even longer time to break down. I enjoy eating sushi and began collecting the disposable plastic containers used to provide 'take away' soy sauce - the irony of these bottles being pressed in the shape of fish seemed appropriate for the conflicting thoughts. Plaited grocery shopping bags lead to a found object I picked up on Flinders Beach at North Stradbroke Island. It's the remain of a burst balloon, and unfortunately sea life such as turtles and birds mistake these for food when they are floating in the bay. Looks a little squid like perhaps?
Last year I volunteered in an Earthwatch program called 'Turtles in trouble'. The project collects data which assists with research on the impact of ingestion of marine debris on turtles found in Australia. The morning was spent observing a necropsy of a turtle found dead, to establish the cause of death. Lead scientist Dr Kathy Townsend provided lots of information about turtles as we examined how and what they eat. Turtles can't throw up unwanted items they swallow and are mistaking plastic debris for food, research is showing this is not a random selection.
We spent the afternoon collating data on plastic debris washed up on beaches at North Stradbroke Island. This is when it dawned on me that plastic waste never goes away, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, with some gradually entering the food chain at several levels.
Answers are not easy, but I was very impressed with the practical approach taken by scientist. I think convenience is one of the big hurdles for me to make a positive change and accept less disposable plastic.
'Contact (RE:CON Series)' Nicola Moss ©2013. Synthetic polymer paint, pigmented ink, charcoal frottage, hand cut papers. Courtesy of SGAR.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Citizen science

'Life on the edge - Citizen science (Mangrove watch)' Nicola Moss ©2013. Synthetic polymer paint, natural ochre, charcoal frottage, hand cut papers. Courtesy of SGAR.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity of joining in activities with many volunteers in Redlands. Collecting native seeds for propagation with bush care groups managed by Indigiscapes; sighting and recording bird species with the monthly bird watching group; and learning a little about the Seagrass Watch program in a muddy encounter at Ormiston. Each outing has been a rewarding experience, getting to know a few of the locals, who are happy to share the wealth of knowledge they have about their local environments. It's also rewarding to contribute in a small way to the valuing of environments and the regions rich biodiversity. My first exhibition at Redland Art Gallery, Plant-Life featured several works exploring the activities and sites of mainland bush care groups. In With or without I have turned my attention to the intertidal zones and water ways of the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Mangrove Watch in Moreton Bay is a partnership between the scientific community and community volunteers who undertake training and collect data. The monitoring and collected data from this citizen science program helps with determining change, which is essential for good management of the mangroves environment.

Many of the programs are easy to get involved with, links are attached.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thoughts on the paradox of sustainability

'Grey matter' and 'What does green mean?' both 2013, Nicola Moss. Courtesy of SGAR.

Thinking, thinking, thinking....
When I start thinking about sustainability, what does it mean? how can I achieve it?..or more accurately, contribute towards it in a small way in my day to day living, etc....I basically find the questions keep coming, one leads to another, none of them get an easier either. But I would like to find ways of resolving some of the contradictions I have in my own lifestyle, and so the questions continue.

Don't worry, I do sleep at night. The thoughts are there percolating away in the back of my mind. At all different times and places, like every time I buy some meat from a butcher and wonder why it is so difficult to buy meat without plastic. Or when I consider my love of sushi and the disposable plastic soy sauce bottle ironically made in the shape of a fish. And most annoyingly when I come home with a plastic bag.

I have made a series of works for my show With or without that represent some of these thoughts that are often conflicting in my mind.
I began with the humble plastic grocery bag in a work titled 'Grey matter'. It features one half of a brain filled with plaited shopping bags; on the other side is a paper cut of mangrove tree top. I have plastic bags in my home still! and I value the environment.

I moved from the plastic bag to the green bag in my next work titled 'What does green mean?' There are a lot of thoughts and questions brought together in this work, beginning with the green bag label .."Made in China. 100% Poly Propylene." I started with questions of what happens to green bags when they wear out? Do they go to landfill? How do they break down? etc. There is a paper cut overlay of barnacles which references coastal environments of North Stradbroke Island where I made frottage rubbings of the rock shelf geology. I read about Charles Darwin's travels and visit to Australia, where he collected samples of barnacles from Moreton Bay; and the drag effect barnacles have on shipping resulting in reduced fuel efficiency. On the other side of the brain I thought about being an artist and trying to be sustainable in the materials I use. I don't often work with upcycled/recycled/found objects in my work, it was an area I wanted to contemplate in this series. I chose fish scales as my medium, cleaning, boiling and piercing them to be sewn over the brain motif. As several people who have seen the work commented, they make a seriously beautiful sequin effect. This area of fish scales encloses a delicate paper cut of a chemical compound motif. 'What does green mean?'

There are two more works in this series on show at the exhibition, I'll discuss them shortly. As with most art it's best appreciated in the to speak.
With or without continues at Redland Art Gallery until the 8th December.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts or questions you may have on the paradox of sustainability.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Opening night and floor talks

Partial view of With or without installed at Redland Art Gallery.

I'm exhausted, but in a good way. It's been a weekend of activity with the exhibition opening of With or without on Friday night and artist floor talks today at Redland Art Gallery. Having an opportunity to speak with viewers of the exhibition and hear their thoughts and comments seems to me to be such an integral part of exhibiting and making artwork. What would the artwork be without a viewer? So I have enjoyed many conversations and savoured the feedback from friends and new acquaintances alike.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow exhibiting artists at Cleveland - Russell Craig and Jo D'Hage - for their kind words and support over the weekend.