Art and science meet under the sea: art exhibition

Published 16 July 2010

What happens when you cross pollinate ideas from art and science?

This question is being considered in a new exhibition entitled, Underwater Secrets – encounters with biodiversity, opening next week at the SCU next Art Gallery in Lismore as a response to 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity.

Included in the exhibition are works produced by five visual arts students from Southern Cross University who have in some way engaged with the coral reef research undertaken by Professor Peter Harrison, director of Marine Studies, director of Marine Ecology Research Centre and research leader, coral reef and whale research teams at Southern Cross University.

Professor Harrison’s images of coral spawning including ‘Birth of a Coral Reef’ feature in the exhibition. The images capture mass coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef, an event he describes as 'one of the world’s most spectacular natural phenomena'.

“Although I’ve witnessed thousand of corals spawning on many reefs around the world, I am still inspired by the beauty of these events,” Professor Harrison said.

A work by visual arts student, Kaye Wearne, ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’, expresses her concern that 'the public needs to understand that the lack of sustainability in the world’s carbon emissions is causing the rapid loss of coral reefs, the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystem'.

Dr Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, a senior lecturer in environmental chemistry and marine pollution in the School of Environmental Science and Management, was also invited to contribute work to the exhibition.

She makes that point that the cross pollination of disciplines is not a new idea, but perhaps a return to a way of thinking that has been less popular for the past few hundred years.

“Perhaps we can point the finger at the industrial revolution for defining with such clarity the need for art and science to be separate disciplines,” Dr Reichelt-Brushett said.

“In some ways we have not let go of that sort of thinking where we build metaphorical walls around paradigms and processes and this can halt the natural cross fertilisation that can occur between disciplines.

“In essence, Darwin’s genius challenged both science and art and produced the very foundation of our current understanding of biodiversity.”

Gallery curator Dr Shelagh Morgan said the exhibition 'is seen as a blue print for future cross disciplinary projects that facilitate art/science dialogue that enable students and others to find ways of thinking differently'.

“Art/science collaborations are not so much about one area being in service of the other as a dialogue in which ideas are shared and the communication of those ideas becomes the outcome,” Dr Morgan said.

Underwater secrets - encounters with biodiversity features works by Professor Peter Harrison, Selina Heathwood, Chrissy Huntsman, Lauren Mackley, Dr Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Kaye Wearne and Kylie Windhorst and is open weekdays 10am – 4pm from July 21 to August 7.

The exhibition will be officially opened by Professor Jenny Graham, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Southern Cross University on Tuesday, July 20 from 5pm at the SCU next Art Gallery located at 89 Magellan Street, Lismore.

Photo: The image 'Birth of a Coral Reef' by Professor Peter Harrison features in the exhibition. A high resolution image is available.

Media contact: Jane Munro Southern Cross University media officer, 02 6620 3508, 0429 661 349.