The Startling Art Exhibit at Q Station From a Submerged Cave

There is a piece of black yoga mat that has been pecked by birds. Birds that swallow marine plastics such as polystyrene are known to starve to death because they assuage their hunger without ingesting nutrients.

As for the Victorian silhouette of a familiar face, it is indeed Thomas Keneally. The famous author was “delighted and intrigued” when he met the two artists during his morning walk through the 30 hectares of Q Station during their residency.

Author Thomas Keneally met the two artists on his morning walk.

Author Thomas Keneally met the two artists on his morning walk.Credit:oscar colman

“I’m always up for subversion,” said the 86-year-old writer. “I think everything they’ve done here is really wonderful. They gave polystyrene a weight that it doesn’t have. There is a mischievous imagination behind it. I never thought I would do with this material what they did, giving it the irony and gravity that it has when you see it.

One of the polystyrene art objects looks like a fragment of an ancient mosaic. Keneally remembered the Roman mosaic he saw in Chichester Cathedral, except one did not bear the logo of a popular burger chain.

As Australian environment ministers agree on a national phase-out of polystyrene food packaging by 2025, a global treaty to tackle marine plastic pollution is needed, says policy officer Kate Noble No Plastics in Nature at WWF-Australia.

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“A staggering 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year and plastic dumped in one region can travel and impact others. This is a global disaster that requires a global response,” Noble said.

The global problem of ocean waste is a shared passion for Gillings and Barker, who both make art from consumer waste and are regular exhibitors at Sculpture by the Sea and elsewhere.

“We work in a similar style – eclectic and material-based,” Gillings said.

Gillings said the harbor views from Station Q are deceptively pure. “It’s just crazy [the ocean-borne pollution] everything is still there,” she said.

Will the cave that produced so much art material fill up with trash again? “Oh yeah, I expect it to be full again now,” Gillings said.

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In addition to polystyrene, the artists salvaged charcoal, tennis balls, broken glass and other scraps that ended up in the art objects.

Poly.glut might have a longer shelf life than just at Q Station. The artists plan to feature the installation in various art awards and hope it will be featured in regional galleries.

Poly.glut opens at Q Station on Saturday, January 22. An exhibition of rejected sculptures from Sculpture by the Sea is ongoing at Q Station until the end of January. Admission to both exhibitions is free.

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