It is not often seaweed is thought of as floating in vast underwater forests. An upcoming exhibition at Manly Art Gallery and Museum (MAG&M), Seaweed Arboretum, sections of the Gallery will be transformed so visitors can feel immersed in the wonders of seaweed.
Seaweed Arboretum by artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford is a unique exhibition which celebrates the extraordinary world of hidden underwater forests. It is part of Manly’s Seaweed Forests Festival – a unique collaboration between the artists and Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS).
The month-long Festival brings together science, art and community in a series of talks, artwork, underwater tours, music and food in celebration of the lush underwater ecosystems that line the Sydney coastline and Australia’s Great Southern Reef.
Mayor Michael Regan said MAG&M’s exhibition is a series of botanical art installations devoted to the seaweed forests of Australia’s Great Southern Reef. “It’s a fascinating look at seaweed and its amazing shapes and forms, floating in the gallery as if it was in-situ on the Reef,” he said.
Preparation for the exhibition began after coastal storms, when the seaweeds were collected from shorelines in Sydney, the NSW South Coast and South Australia. Artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford said the installations reflect an amazing process of transformation from deep ocean seabed to the terra firma of an art gallery.
“The seaweeds are sculpted while they are still wet,” they said. “To create the pressed seaweeds, their moisture is slowly extracted between sheets of paper in large-scale presses. The suspended seaweeds swell to three times their final size when rehydrated for sculpting.”
“As they dry, the seaweeds are gently coaxed into forms that are suggested by the seaweeds themselves. These artworks are the outcome of a ‘dialogue’ between ourselves and the seaweeds in the process of making.”
“In the exhibition, there is an aerial ‘forest’ of giant sculpted bull-kelp suspended from the ceiling in a darkened gallery. A slowly moving light illuminates the seaweeds, and casts shifting shadows on the walls and floor, enveloping the viewer in a rhythmic and meditative experience. This dramatic installation is submersive and atmospheric.”
“In another gallery room, an array of intricate seaweed ‘flora’ pressings cast delicate shadows on gallery walls as a memory of the seaweeds’ aqueous life, and in a third space, an aerial installation of seaweeds gently ‘float’ in currents of air, reminiscent of their suspension underwater,” said Turpin and Crawford.
Manly Art Gallery and Museum, West Esplanade Reserve, Manly
Exhibition: 9 April – 9 May 2021
For more information, visit: www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au for details.
Image: Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford, Large Crayweed from the exhibition, Seaweed Arboretum – courtesy of Manly Art Gallery and Museum