CONFRONTING THE GLOBAL PLASTIC WASTE CRISIS ONE ARTWORK AT A TIME
Plastic has earned a bad rep for its enduring impact on the environment, but Melbourne-based artist Elizabeth West hopes to raise awareness of our relationship to the material with her Sculpture at Scenic World 2019 installation, Cascade.
As an established installation artist, Elizabeth’s latest creation is a departure from her previous work as a contemporary weaver; a practice she has refined over the past five years as an emerging Australian artist.
Crafted entirely from plastic, Cascade resembles a static waterfall that is carefully placed beneath the canopy of the Jamison Valley, creating an illusion of plastic being carelessly directed into the waterways.
Inspired by the epic scale of the Blue Mountains and the intricate water vines which thrive among the rainforest, Elizabeth’s work also delves deeper into the issue of how people relate to plastic waste which has dominated global headlines in recent years.
“I want to elevate plastic in our psyche as a material; plastic isn’t the problem, it’s our relationship to it. We put aside the idea and abscond our responsibility for its presence, exacerbating our disconnection from the natural world,” Elizabeth explained.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean as plastic pollution each year in Australia, taking hundreds of years to break down – if at all – and wreaking havoc on wildlife in its path. It’s also estimated that only 12% of Australia’s plastic is recycled each year.
“It’s an incredible feat of engineering to make something that lasts forever, but we need to shift our perceptions. As the conversation spreads, we risk the spread of complacency as we get lulled into a false sense of awareness,” she said. “That’s what drives my work – wanting to create opportunities for people to see things in a different way, to plant the seeds for change.”
Building on her breadth of experience as an installation artist, Cascade was a concept that came naturally to 33-year-old Elizabeth, whose Maori heritage has had a significant impact on her lifelong connection with the natural world.
The Blue Mountains’ unique landscape made its mark on Elizabeth during a recent visit, inspiring her to pin pictures of the space on her walls until the idea evolved. But while the concept is firmly placed in her mind, the work itself is yet to come to life in the lead up to Sculpture at Scenic World 2019.
“I’m really drawn to the idea of allowing my work to grow into a site so it mimics the space; the concept comes from the environment, not the other way around, and the work takes on a life of its own in the space,” she said.
Cascade will be on display at Sculpture at Scenic World which will transform the ancient rainforest to an open air gallery from April 12 – May 12, 2019.
Showcasing 26 works from 29 artists along Scenic World’s elevated boardwalk, the exhibition will also feature an extensive public program including an indoor exhibition, Sculpture Otherwise, at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.