We are each five very individual artists, united in this exhibition by the theme of biomimicry. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to design challenges by emulating the patterns and strategies employed in the natural environment. It is a practice more commonly associated with industrial and fashion design, for those unfamiliar with the concept. You might see dresses grown like leaves, buildings like micro-organisms and surfboards with shark fins. Starting out on this journey, I must say that this expectation was hard to overcome. As artists, however, we aren’t product designers in the traditional sense. Rather than taking the mathematical principles of the natural world, we have borrowed the imagery, forms and feelings that the natural world evokes. What we seek to create is something more than the resultant object- artists must innovative in the mind and heart as much as in the physical world. To this end, we have each examined our own relationship between the natural world and our practice, the resultant works acting as the translation of this relationship for you, the viewer.
As you enter the exhibition you are immersed at once in a world of liquid. Alexandra Frasersmith’s frozen pools of blue invite your gaze into their depths, seeking the whorls and bubbles representative of the passage of water and ice. For Frasersmith, the works she has created for Bio Mimic are captured memories, an attempt to arrest the fluid element in a state of constant flux. In doing so, Frasersmith articulates a relationship of opposites. There is a dissonance here, of boiling turbulence in a frozen state. We see both the fluid heat of the liquid state, and the steadfast strength of the solid state, both of which a glass artist must master for success. Frasersmith talks about her works as an extension of her journey in life, representative of a crossroads- to stay, in one iteration of her selfhood, as the person that society expects her to be, reflected against the promise of a different iteration of selfhood, boundless and free to explore her potential. Frasersmith uses traditional lost wax casting in achieving her forms, a process that invites surprises and delight, a giving over to fate. The shimmering jewel-like pools that are the result perfectly trap the movement of water, capturing the ambiguous and visceral forms nature presents.
In a contrast of stillness, Angela Bakker’s serene waterways linger deeper in the exhibition space. Her works are immersive, evoking rivers, streams, ponds and lakes- the many places where water flows and pools, where life grows, and where liquid colours are created. Bakker’s raised brass vessels have been patinated in lingering greens, blues and blacks, reminiscent of the depths of shadowed waterways. The gold of the brass shimmers alongside the deeper colours, an illusion of sunlight, to draw the eye across Bakker’s worked surfaces. The delicate balance of Bakker’s vessels recalls the organic balance of river stones, or the shells of shallow pools, carved into the landscape by time and the slow, steady rise and fall of the water. As always, Bakker’s works are a call to reflect, to meditate in their organic simplicity, to come away becalmed and at peace. In achieving her forms, Bakker has called upon a range of raising stakes, in traditional metal, wood and found objects. Raising is it itself a process of time and pressure, requiring a patience that few possess. Especially when using such experimental forms there is an invitation for unexpected shapes to emerge. The result is one of organic asymmetry, of beauty to be found in the imperfect, of a willingness to be driven by the Process. I see in this a parallel between the object/maker relationship, and the landscapes that Bakker has been drawn to, which are shaped by the chance shifting of the wind and waterways that are contained in them.
It is fitting that Sarah Murphy’s works rise from between these pools of water, as she has drawn upon the underwater world of coral reefs as her inspiration. Murphy investigates the curling fronds and bulbous appendages of the reef in her works, a collection suitably titled Still Life. The jewel-tones of reclaimed glass froth beside skeletal metal silhouette, the overlapping forms concealing and revealing each other as you move through them. For Murphy, Still Life speaks of entropy and grief. It is well known that Australia’s reefs are under great threat and may well struggle for survival in the near future. Our coral reefs are so sensitive that even the slightest variation in the ocean temperature for a relatively short period of time will cause the symbiotic relationship of the coral and the algae, zooxanthellae, to breakdown, threatening the very existence of an otherwise healthy and thriving ecosystem. Murphy’s Still Life body of work explores the vulnerability and fragile nature of the coral. Her glass sculptures are as fragile as the coral, yet they sit atop steel vessels that will remain still and lifeless long after the glass is broken. Grown from recycled bottle glass, Murphy has reclaimed the waste and rubbish that threatens the existence of the coral reefs, turning it instead into a call to action. You are invited to walk among the cresting fronds, to swim through them as though you were part of this fragile ecosystem, and to ask as Murphy has, “will we ultimately be left with a similar lifeless depiction of a world that once danced and thrived on the ocean floor?”
Rising out of the watery works that border them, as though hanging from the boughs of trees, Tara Bromham’s sensitive embroideries belie the many hours of intricate labour that went into their creation. She uses materials, processes and subjects that express her relationship with the landscape. Bark, leaves, flowers and berries, collected by the artist from the Canberra landscape, are used to create hand-made botanical dyes, designed to ‘mimic’ the colours provided by the subject. These dyes imbue life in the natural fibres and fabrics that form the foundation of Bromham's art. From this foundation, Bromham has created her Bio Mimic body of work, consisting of hand-embroidered, botanical studies of seedpods. Bromham's work is an exploration of human connection to the natural world. Bromham was drawn to the protective and transformational potential of the natural objects she has examined. The pods both encapsulate the developing seeds, protecting them from pests and pathogens, and contain their own promise of life, growth and renewal. The subjects draw visual parallels between seedpods and parts of the human body, especially the female reproductive organs, becoming an analogy of the womb and its power to conceive, shelter and birth new life. Flowers and seeds are representative of the cycle of botanical life, fertility symbols that evoke the feminine experience. The choice of subject speaks of the artist’s own feelings and fears about fertility, some years after having successfully recovered from cancer treatment. The botanical studies, as meditative foci of intricate details, afford the artist the space to contemplate the fragility of seeds and the precious gift of new life.
Sprouting from opposite, my own works emerge as growths on the bank of the exhibition. In Bio Mimic I have explored the pattern and interruption of fungi forms, which erupt and adhere to their host in a balanced dance of compliment and corruption. Fungi operates on a fine edge between parasite and symbiote, living and growing inside and around other organic forms. The delicate gills that radiate out, the cups and crowns that sprout and distort their host, speak to me of the human urge to adorn. In their earliest iterations, human adornment involved knotted beads of stones, seeds, flowers, coral, and – of course – fungi. These bright flashes of colour are the jewels of nature, and the legacy of this relationship is their enduring presence in art. Fungi, especially, speaks to me of how art manifests. Somewhere between symbiote and leech, art is insistent. It creeps and grows, sometimes gentle and others times obsessive. Fungi and art often defy order, refusing standardisation, urging the viewer to recognise beauty in the chaotic. In this exhibition, I have explored a series of machined templates, each an example of human standardisation- a perfect egg-shaped plane. Each has been interrupted by the sudden fruiting of fungi representations. The resultant micro-sculptures invite closer inspection, drawing the viewer to peer into the crevasses of the fruiting bodies, to seek understanding and recognition in the interpreted forms, and see as I do the aesthetic beauty of these natural decomposers.
In a way, each of the artists urge the viewer in this way. To seek, explore and search for detail among the works. In doing so, you the viewer will take on the shape of the artist, walking the path each of us has walked, treading through the exhibition as though setting out into the landscapes we have paced before you.
In its most pared back definition, Bio Mimic is a reflection of the natural, an attempt to rationalise organic growth, and to apply what you learn. Our hope is that the exhibition will be a space in which you discover the same lessons we each have learned, and take away from the works that dawning sense of wonder that nature so easily evokes.