Be seduced by Vera Moller’s underwater world

Immersive exhibition A Thousand Tides captures the imagination of adults and children at Bunjil Place Gallery.
Be seduced by Vera Moller’s underwater world

Vera Möller, cajalia 2019 (detail). Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photography: Mark Ashkanasy. Image supplied.

ADVERTISEMENT

Western Port is a large tidal bay in Southern Victoria that opens into the Bass Strait. The entire area is home to a plethora of sea life and is protected as part of the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere Reserve. 

Bringing this important ecosystem to the city is the latest work by artist Vera Möller. Commissioned exclusively for the Bunjil Place Gallery, A Thousand Tides features captivating paintings, works on paper and sculptures of imaginary underwater spaces and species inspired by the coastal environment of Western Port.

‘The aim of this show is to encourage the discovery of the significance of this particularly amazing biosphere that is Western Port Bay and to recognise it as a space for creative exploration and a realm that is worthy of everyone’s imagination and protection,’ said Möller.

‘I wanted to bring to the visitor’s attention a locality and it’s natural phenomena that perhaps they hadn’t discovered yet,’ she continued.

The exhibition is part of the ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 festival. The artist has created a dense overlay of work, including paintings, small works on paper, a plethora of individual objects as well as a very large wall drawing measuring over six meters. Around 5,000 objects are installed throughout the exhibition in various formations and one display on a very low large plinth intends to give the impression of a fictional submarine sponge garden.

‘I’ve tried to get the audience to shift their focus onto this incredible world that is underwater. The aim with it is to try to seduce them into looking at these really very crazy forms and otherworldly visual phenomena like bioluminescence, phosphorescence, opalescence, to get them to take an interest in it.' 

‘Once you start to look more closely at these forms you might feel compelled to learn a bit more about it and perhaps develop a degree of empathy for an environment that needs our protection. I would like to make visitors curious,’ Möller explained.

Another work set apart in its own space is inspired by the mangrove swamps around Western Port. Lit with ultraviolet light to reveal thousands of illuminated tendrils, the otherworldly quality transports audiences and encourages them to contemplate this unique but relatively obscure environment. 

One for the kids

The educational impact of the exhibition is a major boon for children this school holidays. Designed to inspire learning, works are installed at a lower height to create better access for families to explore the beautiful fauna, flora and terrain located on the coast of Western Port Bay as represented by Möller.

The Underwater Creatures Lab also offers a hands-on experience for families, one where children and adults can create their own sea creatures out of plasticine. 

‘The Underwater Creatures Lab has been a great collaborative effort with all of the gallery staff including the wonderful staff looking after the education program at Bunjil Place.’

‘The kids can look at the field guide and then behind secret doors hidden in the Gallery walls. Behind the doors they can find invertebrates and pick up a bit knowledge while they play. They can then go to the lab table and make their own sea slug. They absolutely love it — and so do the parents,’ said Möller.

An Education Resource crafted for teachers in the context of curriculum is also available.

Other experiences for visitors include:

A Thousand Tides at Bunjil Place Gallery is on Saturday 9 March to Sunday 9 June 2019. Entry is free. For more information, visit bunjilplace.com.au

Brooke Boland

Thursday 11 April, 2019

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW.