Center for Art + Environment Blog

June 23, 2015   |   William L. Fox

Climarte, Melbourne, May 3-7, 2015

Australia 2015

Dale Cox, Tract 17, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Dale Cox, Tract 17, acrylic on canvas, 2013

Flying into Australia just in time to help moderate a “Climate Art Slam” is one way to deal with jet lag. You just jump over it. Modeled after the Anthropocene Slam at the University of Wisconsin last year, Australian artist Mandy Martin and historian of science Libby Robin decided to host a similar “cabinet of curiosities” during the Melbourne’s “Art + Climate = Change Festival.” Climarte, the sponsoring organization of the festival, is the brainchild of former gallerist Guy Abrahams.

Guy kindly tips his hat to our Art + Environment conferences, which he’s been attending since 2012, as an inspiration, but his event involved more than 25 exhibitions at most of the important visual arts venues in Melbourne, as well as dozens of public performances, lectures, and public information interventions. Terrific exhibitions by photographer Rosemary Laing, painter John Wolseley, and the Arnhem Land Aboriginal artists John Mawurndjul and Gulumu Yunupingu were among them.

Rosemary Laing, The Paper, Tuesday, 2013. A large photograph from Laing’s Weathering series of newspapers spread out in the forest and rained upon was showing at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Rosemary Laing, The Paper, Tuesday, 2013. A large photograph from Laing’s Weathering series of newspapers spread out in the forest and rained upon was showing at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Libby and I were joined by one of the leading climate change policy experts in Australia, Peter Christoff, and we led a rousing hour during which artists presented their climate-related work at Australian Galleries, and we responded. Australian Galleries is one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious galleries in the country, and it was an extraordinary commitment by the owner, Stuart Purves, to dedicate a major space to the exhibition, which included noted artists such as Janet Laurence, John Wolseley, and David Buckland from the UK.

One particular artist I spoke enthusiastically about was painter Dale Cox, who showed a two-piece work, one object a toy truck hauling away a painted forest, the other a painting of a gum forest burning above a cut-away exposed strata of geology, a series of “Tract” paintings for which he’s noted (the one shown here at the top is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney’s major art museum).

Dale Cox, Logging Truck V, 2013, plastic toy truck, acrylic on wood, cord.

Dale Cox, Logging Truck V, 2013, plastic toy truck, acrylic on wood, cord.

David Buckland, founder of the largest and longest-running art and climate project in the world, Cape Farewell, and I gave keynote lectures during the next two evenings, and toured many of the exhibitions, including the largest gathering to-date of David’s own photographs from the Cape Farewell expeditions to Svalbard in the Arctic, language pieces projected onto icebergs.

David Buckland projection and photograph from his exhibition at the Melbourne School of Design. Buckland’s projections onto icebergs floating in the fjords of Svalbard include his famous image of the words “Burning Ice” on the book of the same title. The volume documents early expeditions in the history of what is now 15 years of climate-related art projects sponsored by David’s Cape Farewell organization in the UK.

David Buckland projection and photograph from his exhibition at the Melbourne School of Design. Buckland’s projections onto icebergs floating in the fjords of Svalbard include his famous image of the words “Burning Ice” on the book of the same title. The volume documents early expeditions in the history of what is now 15 years of climate-related art projects sponsored by David’s Cape Farewell organization in the UK.

People are asking Guy to hold the event again next year, but he’s wisely planning it to be a biennial event. The next one will be, we hope, held in 2017, the same year as the fourth Art + Environment Conference here in Reno. Guy and I plan to be crisscrossing the skies to attend the events.