Lianne Edwards: Sea Change

The works in this exhibition reflect my concerns regarding our changing seas as here in the South Pacific we are not exempt from the changes taking place globally through climate change, pollution and ocean acidification amongst many other things.

  • Opening Date: Tuesday, 29 September 2015
  • Closing Date: Sunday, 18 October 2015
  • Opening Time: Tues to Fri 11-5pm, Sat 11-4pm

Sea Change

"The oceans are changing faster than at almost any time in Earth's history and we are the agents of that transformation" Professor Callum Roberts, The Ocean of Life (2013)

The works in this exhibition reflect my concerns regarding our changing seas as here in the South Pacific we are not exempt from the changes taking place globally through climate change, pollution and ocean acidification amongst many other things.


Wayfinding Series  - 16 Sentinels

Ancient navigators used environmental clues to navigate their way across vast expanses of ocean; the process was termed 'Wayfinding'.  The stars, wind, currents, wave patterns and presence of seabirds and sea creatures were all 'signs' that helped these master mariners navigate.  No one 'sign' was infallible; you had to use many 'signs' to find your way.

In the Wayfinding series I allude to the ancient art of 'wayfinding' as a metaphor for a means of finding our way forward through these often predicted, sometimes unexpected, both insidious and rapid changes taking place in the marine environment.  Much of how we find our way forward will be based upon the acquisition of knowledge.   As Mau Piailug, Micronesian navigator said:

"To navigate, you must be brave and you must remember".

Compasses based upon star and wind position and direction were often used to navigate; these compasses variously had 16 or 32 points or quadrants representing different 'signs'.  In the Wayfinding series I locate 16 points around the boundaries of the South Pacific including the Tasman and Coral Seas.

The preparation for this work began over two years ago when fresh swordfish bills arrived on my doorstep.  The bills, usually discarded, are from a population that ranges across the South Pacific Ocean. Swordfish (Xiphias gladius), some weighing more than 300kg, are caught off Westland, South Island through the quota system and also as by-catch from the tuna industry.  The more I read about swordfish, the more I regarded them as a 'sentinel species':  a species that feeds high in the food chain whose presence and health can indicate the health of the system they live within.  The works that developed from these swordfish became my 'Sentinels' of the South Pacific Ocean.

All the materials used in the Sentinels have a maritime focus and allude to our historical association with the sea.  Totara, a preferred wood for making waka, and brass, a traditional maritime material, join the swordfish bills.  The markings are variously inked and scribed, akin to traditional scrimshaw a practice developed by sailors on whaling ships.  The patterns and points mimic those found on maps and compasses.

The Hearing Bones

'The Hearing Bones' work is comprised of fish otoliths that have been carefully dissected from fish carcasses (Hoki Macruronus novaezelandiae). Otolith, variously called hearing bones, ear stones, ear bones are found in pairs (in various forms) in all vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals - including humans, and birds), they help with sound, gravity, balance and movement.

Otolith record traces of existence, for in the natural course of things they become part of the microfossils on the seafloor. Scientifically they are examined in order to help manage fisheries as they record time/age much as the rings of a tree do.  With this work I wanted to re-value a waste product of the fishing industry, in doing so recording the existence of the 380 odd hoki used to make the work.

Stamp Works

I have used postage stamps featuring images of natural creatures in my artwork for several years.  For me they encapsulate a metaphor for how humans over the years have viewed 'nature'. Many of the world's environmental problems have stemmed from the longstanding attitude that humans have dominion over nature.  On postage stamps images of natural creatures are placed within a human framework and given a fairly minimal value.

Recent stamp works feature fan corals in order to highlight the importance of coral reefs many of which are under threat.  Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea; they support vast numbers of marine animals. They also provide countless benefits to humans.   As well as supporting fisheries they provide coastal protection, contribute compounds for medical use and are valued for tourism and recreation.

Our relationship with the sea is complex.  On the one hand we appreciate its beauty, wildness and vastness; on the other hand we want to utilise its resources.  The challenge is to find a way forward to a future where human activities don't undermine the integrity of marine ecosystems.  "It is immensely important to protect ocean life, even if only for the most selfish of reasons. The oceans make up over 95% of the living space on this planet.  That means that they are overwhelmingly important in keeping our world habitable.  We ignore this simple fact at our peril." Professor Callum Roberts, The Ocean of Life (2013)



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