Skating on Thin Ice

The Gallery, St Kilda Town Hall 7th June - 5th July 2017

The City of Port Phillip is one of the few municipalities of Greater Melbourne to have a sea frontier. It is here where the city intersects with the natural world that we witness man’s impact on the environment. 

This body of work originates from walking my dog Charlotte on the St Kilda beach each morning before the cleaning ploughs have swept it. There are always heaps of fish shaped plastic sushi soya bottles littering the sand, like schools of miniature beached whales.

Their incongruent presences made me consider their derisive inclusion into our food chain and natural world. I wondered if they ever made it as far north as the Artic Circle. When I began these paintings of polar bears finding soya bottles I had difficulty sourcing suitable references to draw the bears correctly. I began collecting figurines of polar bears. I found a staggering disparity in how their anatomy was represented.

To find out what they really looked like I became a polar bear tourist. I went to Sea World on the Gold Coast where I found polar bears accommodated in air-conditioned comfort digs with a large swimming pool. I went to Singapore and visited the zoo there. “ How incredible” I thought, “The only polar bears I can find live in air-conditioned units in the tropics!”

I went to Berlin. At least it snowed there. I found Knut, a mega celebrity in the polar bear world whose mother rejected him at birth, leaving zoo staff to raise him. He seemed agitated and shook his head from side to side as if perpetually gesturing the word “No”. The crowd laughed. On 19 March 2011, aged four, Knut collapsed and died in his enclosure.

Along our watery border we  witness the interaction of urbanisation on the ocean. From this frontier ocean currents collect, dispatch, disperse and deposit litter worldwide. Plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide, including man. Creatures such as polar bears seem exotic, foreign and irrelevant to life here, only to sighted in a National Geographic in a doctor’s waiting room, or as ornamental figurines, or visited shacked up in air-conditioned comfort on the Gold Coast. But objects we dwellers of the metropolis nonchalantly dispose of greatly effect their survival. Everything is interdependent. Everything is interlinked. These paintings contemplate on how what we do in our small nook of the globe impacts and connect with a vaster world.