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Greef 2018

Artist statement


It’s easy to catch the shadows of the Anthropocene, cast across the earth, engulfing everything… They are embedded in the deepest trenches, in virgin sand – everywhere. There is no place untouched.

And for me - if I were to see my shadow compounded across the decades?

My mother was born in Nywaigi Country, wet tropics. In those days you could see the full vibrancy of the Reef. You could believe back then that our shadows were simply swallowed by the expanse of ocean.

And here, the chemical blue of sun prints evokes another aspect, of my ancestors crossing oceans to Jarowair and Giabel Country. Hard working Prussian farmers, they struggled to understand a landscape still bloody from the frontier wars.

What fears did they carry as they broke ancient land patterns, felling trees and transplanting Europe? How did they read the land’s reprisals, the severe droughts and alternating floods year after year?

​So now, the collective shadow… we inherit it. We cast it. These works are mixed media encaustic. Blended beeswax. Like us, the wax survives in moderate temperatures.  But at zero, it cracks, and at 72◦C it runs. Vulnerable, like us – caught in the shadow of the Anthropocene.

Animation - 2.46 minutes duration

Animation by Rachel Apelt

Waves Recording by Nik Paget-Tomlinson

I made this animation after a year of voluntary work to protect the Great Barrier Reef. By now, most of us know that the Reef is under enormous pressure.  A series of catastrophic coral bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017 have left it so very vulnerable. The last two are the most concerning, and we sit on the edge, hoping against hope for 2018.  

Like most of us, I always thought she’d be there. She was a given, a magnificent icon surrounded by an admiring bevy of hangers on – the fame of Queensland. So beautiful – actually, too beautiful, as if over pretty, down to a cliché. So I didn’t visit her. I always thought…maybe next year.

Finally I went last August.

I visited her in palliative care.

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