Art Craft Science
A Vibrant Coral Ecosystem of Thousands of Crocheted Sculptures Confronts the Climate Crisis
A new report released this week by an Australian agency says that the 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef has undergone its sixth mass bleaching. About 91 percent of the brightly colored marine ecosystems were affected by this most recent catastrophe, which occurs when water temperatures rise. Disasters like this are becoming more frequent as the climate crisis intensifies, prompting artists like Christine and Margaret Wertheim to respond with striking displays of what could be permanently lost.
The Australia-born, California-based sisters began the Crochet Coral Reef project in 2005 to confront the devastations of bleaching, over–fishing, tourism, and agricultural contaminations through sprawling, labor-intensive environments. More than 40,000 of the oceanic works are now on view at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden, transforming the gallery into textured ecosystems resting atop pillars and protected in glass cases. The Wertheims explain the project:
Like the organic beings they emulate, these handmade sculptures take time to make—time that is condensed in the millions of stitches on display; time that is running out for earthly creatures, including humans and cnidarians. Time forms a framework for the Reef project, for as CO2 escalates in our atmosphere time is increasingly in short supply, and what we choose to spend time on is a reflection of our values.
Part of the intention for Crochet Coral Reef is to involve local communities, and so far, almost 20,000 people have contributed their own fiber-based forms, with about 5,000 participating in the show in Baden-Baden alone. Since debuting at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the exhibition has traveled to more than 20 spaces from London and Dublin to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., and will be on view at the Museum Frieder Burda until June 26. A complimentary satellite project is also up at the Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York, through June 12.
Visit the Crochet Coral Reef site for more information on getting involved in the project and for chances to see the textile organisms in person. You also might enjoy Mulyana’s yarn ecosystems. (via artnet)
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Knit Coral Suits and Vibrant Marine Creatures Spring From Mulyana’s Whimsical Yarn-Based Ecosystems
In Mulyana’s Fragile Ecologies, two figures cloaked in coral and algae tower over beds of fiber-based sea creatures. The Indonesian artist continues his playful and eccentric approach to marine life conservation in his solo show on view through March 4 at Sapar Contemporary, which brings some of his life-sized costumes and an array of woolen specimens to the gallery. Each piece is knit or crocheted with recycled, brightly colored yarn, which the artist fashions into sprawling ecosystems and immersive installations that dangle from the ceiling.
Mulyana puts a fantastic twist on the natural lifeforms, especially when crafting his signature Mogus character: most recently, the reimagined octopus is outfitted with a mustache in leopard print, innumerable eyes all over its body, and polka-dotted horns. Lighthearted in presentation, the works are rooted in more urgent issues like the effects of the climate crisis, isolation, and how we collectively configure identities that are always evolving. A statement about Fragile Ecologies says:
On a macro level, Mulyana’s profound concern for the eroding environment and our collective lack of care for the natural world parallels the importance of self-care on a micro level. His message encourages a holistic path to self-preservation amidst a chaotic and uncertain post-pandemic world. While Mulyana does not overtly reference gender and sexuality in his intricate installations, the diversity of his colorful environments and spectacular costumes allude to the fluidity of human identity.
For more of Mulyana’s underwater knits and costumes, head to his site and Instagram.
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Exquisitely Cut Paper Sculptures by Rogan Brown Highlight the Effects of Coral Bleaching
“The coral reef is a microcosm of a macrocosm,” says paper artist Rogan Brown. “What is happening to the reefs today will ultimately happen to the planet tomorrow unless action is taken.” Through new paper sculptures comprised of delicately fringed sea creatures, Brown (previously) creates a striking visual display of the disastrous impacts of the climate crisis on marine life, showing how issues like coral bleaching can radiate outward into the wider world.
In “Ghost Coral,” two circular reliefs comprised of intricate paper cuttings splay outward, layering the fragile lifeforms sliced from stark, white paper. These monochromatic pieces contrast their vibrant counterparts, which are nestled into the protective center of one of the masses. The other work, titled “Coral Garden,” is Brown’s interpretation of the heat-resistant organisms that scientists grow and plant in deteriorating patches for rejuvenation, and he places bright, healthy creatures, which are enclosed in transparent bubbles, within swaths of spindly, pale creatures. To create both pieces, Brown follows the same meticulous process, which involves drawing the organisms, cutting them out with a laser, and carefully hand-painting and mounting them into their final, sprawling forms. “The fragility and delicacy of paper seem to fit perfectly with the subject it is describing,” he tells Colossal.
The exquisitely crafted assemblages shown here are part of an ongoing series, which Brown will show this month at Galerie Bettina von Arnim in Paris, and you can keep up with his work on Instagram.
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Hundreds of Ceramic Marine Creatures Radiate in Gradients to Show the Effects of Coral Bleaching
Two new site-specific pieces by Courtney Mattison (previously) position ceramic sculptures of corals, sponges, and anemones in a swirling cluster of ocean diversity. Titled “Revolve” and “Our Changing Seas VII,” the wall reliefs are the latest additions to the Los Angeles-based artist’s body of work, which advocates for ecological preservation by highlighting the beauty and fragile nature of marine invertebrates.
In both installations, Mattison contrasts the vibrant, plump tentacles of healthy creatures with others sculpted in white porcelain to convey the devastating effects of the climate crisis, including widespread bleaching. Her recurring subject matter is becoming increasingly urgent, considering recent reports that estimate that 14 percent of the world’s coral population has been lost in the last decade alone.
Each of the lifeforms is hand-built and pocked with minuscule grooves and textured elements—she shares this meticulous process on Instagram—and once complete, the individual sculptures are assembled in sweeping compositions that radiate outward in shifting gradients. “Water connects us all, from the lush banks of Lawsons Fork Creek to the icy glaciers of the Arctic and glittering reefs of Southeast Asia. Life on Earth is dependent on healthy oceans,” she shares about “Revolve.” “The swirling design of this work is inspired by these connections and patterns, with revolving forms repeated in nature through hurricanes, seashells, ocean waves, and galaxies.”
Mattison’s solo exhibition Turn the Tide is on view at Highfield Hall & Gardens in Massachusetts through October 31 before it travels to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, where it will be through May 1, 2022. You explore a larger archive of the artist’s marine works on Behance and her site.
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Circular Masses of Coral and Leaves Form Sculptural Embroideries by Meredith Woolnough
From swirls of eucalyptus leaves to perfectly round bodies of coral, the sculptural pieces by Newcastle-based artist Meredith Woolnough (previously) depict a range of textured, organic shapes. Each elaborately crafted work is drawn through free-motion embroidery, which involves using the most basic stitches on a sewing machine and moving a swath of water-soluble material around the needle. Once the form is complete, Woolnough dissolves the fabric base to expose the delicate, mesh-like structure, a process filmmaker Flore Vallery-Radot follows in the studio visit above.
The resulting works either stand alone as sprawling clusters of veins and branches or are strung into larger displays, like the “carpet of embroidery” Woolnough is working on currently that involves more than 1,000 small pieces threaded together. No matter the size, each piece contrasts thick lines with fine, sparse patches to give the leaves or rocky formations shape, and the artist describes the balance between the two methods:
Often when I depict solid subject matter, like coral which is often quite hard, I will stitch my design with dense areas of stitching. I like to put lots of small overlapping stitches very close together to form a solid structure where you can’t clearly see the individual stitches. This dense structure is needed to help the final embroidery hold its shape once I remove the water-soluble base material I stitch onto. With this dense stitching, I can also achieve subtle colour blending as I change thread colours.
Alongside her practice, Woolnough teaches a variety of workshops and released a book back in 2018 titled Organic Embroidery that details her processes. Some of her smaller works will be included in a group exhibition at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which opens online on October 16. You also can find her available pieces on her site and watch for updates on Instagram. (via The Kids Should See This)
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Coral and Plant Life Consume Discarded Objects in Post-Apocalyptic Sculptures by Stéphanie Kilgast
Artist Stéphanie Kilgast (previously) envisions a vibrant, post-apocalyptic world overgrown with coral, fungi, and lush moss. Using cheap devices and disposable containers that tend to outlast their original function as her base, Kilgast creates painted-clay assemblages that are teeming with fantastical colors and texture: mushrooms sprout from an empty paint tube, sea creatures envelop a crushed can, and plant life cloaks a pair of headphones with whimsical botanicals.
Each of the works contrasts the enduring manufactured object with natural growth, imagining a universe that’s simultaneously devoid of humanity and still marred by its rampant consumption habits. “In that sense my work is joyous. I remove the root of the problem, us, and let all the other species just grow over our mistakes,” she shares. “Nature itself is full of bright colors. It’s inherently beautiful, and my work is an ode to all the living and existing species, (except) for us. Hope dies last, so I still hope my work opens up discussion, thinking, and eventually change.”
Currently based in Vannes, France, Kilgast has exhibitions at Comoedia in Brest, France, Modern Eden in San Francisco, and three at Melbourne’s Beinart Gallery slated for 2022. She also shares much of her process on YouTube and Instagram.
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