Jenni Mazaraki interviews Felicity Gordon.
Photos by Jenni Mazaraki.
Felicity Gordon is currently exhibiting her work as part of the Turbulence: Water and Climate Change exhibition at Hatch Contemporary Artspace in Ivanhoe. Curated by Stephanie Neoh, the exhibition also includes work by sound artist Alice Bennett and the Textile Art Community.
Felicity’s work, Compost House is made from recycled materials including plant material and food scraps in various stages of decomposition. Compost House prompts discussion about sustainability, our dependence on water for survival and the effects of climate change on our environment.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Felicity about her work and the Turbulence exhibition. Thanks so much for sharing Felicity!
J: I’m interested in the way that the work in the exhibition communicates its message. What do you hope the audience will take with them from viewing the work?
F: The Compost House is a four metre long and narrow house structure built within the Hatch Contemporary Art Space. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to enter the work interacting with a space isolated from the rest of the gallery. The ceiling and walls of the house are constructed from double glazed reclaimed wooden window frames. Sixty one different species of plants, including fifty food producing varieties are suspended between planes of glass along with organic material in different stages of decomposition. All the house plants were grown locally in private and community gardens. A soundtrack to the house has been created by sound artist Alice Bennett.
The work is concerned with issues of environment sustainability and food security. By bringing the viewer close to nature it is hoped they will get a sense of not only the incredible beauty of plants but the value of compost and microbiotic rich soils teaming with life. It is this virtuous loop of decay and regrowth that makes sustainable food growing possible. The house has been created as a serene space and I hope it enables a sense of curiosity and wonder at the diversity of organic forms.
When I created the compost windows I inadvertently glazed a couple of maggots into the work. What I thought was a couple ended being a multitude that grew into massive maggots. They rearranged the artwork eating out a whole panel, turned into flies and died. This mesmerizing process was noticed by viewers and now a second generation of maggots are active within the work.
In an unsettling time of Turbulence caused by global climate change I hope the work highlights our dependence on nature and the need to lower our impact on the natural world, as we aim for a more sustainable future.
J: You work across different media. How do you feel when you create your art?
F: Contemporary artists are able to use any media that best facilitates an investigation of relevant issues. I am a constant drawer of ideas and thoughts and some preparatory drawings have been included in this exhibition. Also included in the exhibition are scenes painted on raw timber rounds responding to the notion of nature as a resource.
Using recycled materials in this work allowed me to tell the story of sustainability in way new materials wouldn’t. Making the work was fairly labour intensive as the windows needed renovation and were double glazed. A three day work schedule involved the collection and pressing of plants, ordering glass, design of the house and individual planes and the fitting of new glass. During this process I couldn’t break for a day as plants needed to be pressed and repressed in order to control decomposition.
J: The exhibition features the work of women artists. How did all of the artists get involved?
Stephanie Neoh, an art curator from the Banyule Council first approached me with the idea of creating work for a show about environmental sustainability late in 2016. Members of the Textile Art Community and sound artist Alice Bennett were also commissioned to create new work for what became Turbulence.
Early in the planning process I decided to build something substantial within the gallery. This is something that women artists don’t often do and I saw it as an opportunity to investigate our sense of bodily self and connection with nature within an orchestrated space.
J: What was your motivation to create the Compost House as a vehicle to communicate the message of climate change?
F: I was motivated to build a house signifying shelter and our ultimate vulnerability to climate change. By using plants and organic matter I wanted to highlight nature’s random complexity and regenerative abilities. It is hoped the work will offer a sense of positive change and celebration of the natural environment.
Felicity Gordon’s Bio
Felicity Gordon is a visual artist based in Melbourne. Felicity has worked in many mediums including sculptural and two dimensional forms, but is currently experimenting with acrylic house paint on timber. Felicity’s previous work was influenced by constructs of gender and her experiences as a woman. Art Stream’s Peter Doherty once called her “a guerrilla girl at heart” (Art Streams, March/April 2000. p.7). Felicity’s work is underpinned with political, environmental and social concerns.
Turbulence is on at Hatch Contemporary Artspace in Ivanhoe until May 13, 2017.