Written by Justin Morrissey
In 1992, the 2cent piece was removed from circulation from Australian currency. The coin featured a Frill Neck Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii), a reptile endemic to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. The rationale for removing the coin was that it had outgrown its usefulness – the material was now more expensive to produce than the face value of the coin. It was introduced in only 1966, so had a lifespan and a purpose of not more than 27 years. These coins were traded all over Australia, at corner stores and banks in towns and cities they were deposited in amazing volumes. In its first year of production some $150 million worth were created. For generations born post-1992 these coins will have no value and will be resolved as a historical artefact. I feel a little uneasy with this. I liken the story of the 2 cent piece, if I may anthropomorphous the Frill Neck Lizard emblazon on the coin as a symbol for the Australian environment and in particular the environment in which humans trade.
The Great Divide, 2015, is a literal play on words and is set up to explore my current home in the Blue Mountains, which technically speaking is a sedimentary plateau and a part of the Great Dividing Range. The work reconfigures the traditional affluent gilded frame into a mountain landscape and signals the divide between the very wealthy and the average Australian, the cement.
Mules (2014, p.1) refers to the human nature relation thus ”The fundamental threat facing humans today is our inability to live in a non-exploitative relation to the natural world.” In the relatively short settlement of Sydney by european settlers, by 1984, 79.8% of north-western Sydney had been cleared and several significant areas since then destroyed (Antcliffe, 1988). Approximately 1% of Western Sydney is reserved for conservation (Benson, 1991; Cohn & Hastings, 1994). As acclaimed German artist Joseph Beuys commented to Richard De Marko in 1982 in response to his infamous artwork 7000 Oak Trees, “I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time.” As he states the “tree” has always been seen as symbolic of life itself.
The series of works, Copper and Bark Studies #1-7, 2016, seek to find a harmony between the extruded copper; mined, rolled and sold, with bark collected from the forest floor. The bark is soaked for some time in a glass jar until it becomes malleable like the copper and the copper informs upon the bark its shape and form. The bark dries and becomes rigid again.
In Growth Domestic Product, 2016, I weave the copper strips through found bark to create a tartan pattern, perhaps mimicking a clan group of Irish immigrants ancestors past. The title suggests that we overlook the “growth” or decline of nature when we look at our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is an indicator of the “health” of a country’s economy. If it is incline the country is prospering and vice versa. However it only takes into account job creation, industrial production and output such as mining, housing figures where houses are bought or sold. Brewing your own beer and growing your own vegetables doesn’t equate. If we were to include planting trees and cleaning up waterways what would our true ‘Growth Domestic Product’ be?
Cohn, J. & Hastings, S. (1994) The Conservation of Native vegetation Remnants in Southern Hawkesbury City Council Local Government Area. NSWNPWS report to Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Save the Bush Project m208.