Review: Sculpture at Scenic World 2019

Mariam Arcilla

Transplanted under the canopy of the glorious Blue Mountains rainforest is a plethora of public artworks that intrigue and captivate the senses — with visual trickery in between.
Review: Sculpture at Scenic World 2019

Elin & Keino, Blue blue mountains, installation view Sculpture at Scenic World 2019, Image by Keith Maxwell

Orange filters framing a mountain-lined sky. A slinky track of fluorescent tubes that sweep through the evergreen. Streams of soft plastic gushing down boulders. These are some of the memorable works showing at Sculpture at Scenic World until 12 May 2019.

Entering its eighth iteration, the public art exhibition once again transforms the Jurassic rainforest into a temporary outdoor gallery featuring works from twenty-seven Australian and international artists. What distinguishes this from traditional exhibitions, is that it starts and ends with a steep ride. I begin by plunging down—via aerial cable car— into the shadowy mouth of Jamison Valley. Encircled by bird calls, misty daylight and eucalyptus whiffs, I meander through the 2.4 kilometre boardwalk, passing artworks of assorted sizes and shapes that appear in synergy with their adopted gallery space.

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Devoid of traditional walls and floor-beds, these sculptures and installations are free to unfurl, suspend and stagger over bedrocks; some stretch over trees and lock arms with water vines. It’s evident—from the meticulous installing of art within a fiercely-preserved forest and the placing of exhibition signs alongside plaques on native plants— that great care is taken to ensure this world-heritage site is not disturbed during the month-long show.

During the exhibition tour, Scenic World curator Justin Morrissey tells me he “stumbled into a world of suspension and rigging” when he took on this role five years ago, having previously worked at Sculpture by the Sea. Guided by a zero percent ecological footprint, his team employs tree climbers and arborists, rather than gallery installers, to build out the program.

A common thread among many of the twenty-five works on show, is a statement on modern-day environmental factors, such as mass consumerism and ecological threats, held in tandem with the artists’ ode to nature’s immaculate beauty.

To drive the message home, most artists have constructed sculptures and installations out of reclaimed pieces, like textiles, honey drums, rusted wires, and plastic. Others have retreated to nature to source organic materials, such as eucalyptus leaves and sheep fleece.

Elizabeth West, Cascade, installation view Sculpture at Scenic World 2019, Image by Keith Maxwell

Among the highlights are Elizabeth West’s Cascade, featuring metres of low-density polyethylene salvaged from commercial shops, which the artist has layered over a descent of rocks. Formed to mimic a natural waterfall, this deceivingly simple work reminds us of the wealth of plastic consumed globally every day, and its alarming effect on waterways and oceans.

Operating similarly is Jan Cleveringa’s The Corporate Snake, a lament on mass electronic waste, expressed through a chunky path of 25,000 fluorescent light tubes that slither through the woodland. It’s disconcerting to see product waste at this grand scale, especially after learning, via Cleveringa’s statement, that all of these reclaimed lights, discarded by corporate businesses, are fully-functional.

It’s a wake-up call on how far we have far to go with energy conservation in this highly-consumptive age.

Jan Cleveringa, The Corporate Snake, installation view Sculpture at Scenic World 2019, Image by Keith Maxwell

Nadia Odlum’s As the world moves, I move the world, is the most mesmeric installation in this show. Here, Odlum presents a suite of mirror-polished steel fences lined with a Fanta-orange band—they remind me of giant Stanley knives piercing out of a box.

Slanted at 90 degrees, the panels reflect back distorted fragments of my face, and all of a sudden I have three eyes—no, half an eye. Is that even me, or the lady behind me?

Nadia Odlum, As the world moves I move the world. Image by Keith Maxwell

I’m not alone in this: a group of wren birds keep flying around the mirrors. Their curiosity remind me of an article I once read, about birds not being able to recognise themselves when faced with a mirror. Instead, they mistake their reflection for an intruder, and spend ages flying around to shoo away ‘the other bird.’  

This is not a Still Life, Corrie Furner’s icy-neon textwork illuminated onto a school of ferns, is also an optically-elusive works that hits the mark. Inspired by the slow-gaze and detailed observations of 16th century still life paintings, the work is best viewed under a dimming sun, where shadows grow thick around the trees. Meditative, and at times, dizzying, the text causes my eyes to ping-pong between a still and flickering tone that cleverly quarrels with natural daylight.

Corrie Furner This is not a Still Life, installation view Sculpture at Scenic World 2019, Image by Keith Maxwell

Similarly, Elin & Keino’s Blue blue mountains (pictured top) triumphs in its use of colour saturation to cast tricks on the eye. Splashing the walkway with amber-orange light is a pair of coloured perspex sheets, suspended over eucalyptus trees, with perforated viewing holes that cause the Blue Mountains to appear bluer than usual.

Over 100,000 people flocked to Scenic World during last year’s show, and no doubt visitation will swell again this autumn. It seems that eight years of showcasing public art in an unorthodox terrain, has equipped the organisers with executing the tricky balance of satisfying a high tourist demand, while respecting the gobsmackingly pristine rainforest that Katoomba is known for, the world over.

               

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars

Sculpture at Scenic World 2019

Scenic World, Katoomba

12 April – 12 May 2019

For more information, visit www.sculptureatscenicworld.com.au

       

The writer was a guest of Scenic World.

                   

About the author

Mariam Arcilla is a Sydney-based writer and artsworker working across art, design and fashion. Formerly from the Gold Coast, she used to direct a gallery, artist-run initiative and a creative precinct, and nowadays she works with artists and institutions to produce content and programs that brightens the connections between people and their cities. Mariam has written for VAULT, Running Dog, Art Collector, Design Online and Runway, and has also collaborated on projects with Home of the Arts, Museum of Brisbane, Institute of Modern Art, and Art Month Sydney. You can connect with her on Instagram @marzigold or via her https://www.mariamarcilla.com