Freelance Curator and Writer
My childhood growing up on the Gold Coast was sun kissed and simple. It may be the jaded adult in me imbuing my childhood in hindsight with a romantic carefree aura, but truly this is my recollection. My family had a boat and my parents and I spent most school holidays sailing the Broadwater and the waterways between the Gold Coast and Moreton Bay, an area rich with natural wonders. Sometimes I would take a school friend along, or we would meet up with other family friends on their own boats, but mostly would just be the three of us. We would anchor in one spot for a day or two, taking the time to leisurely swim, read and fish.
When I was old enough my father taught me how to use the outboard motor on the tinny and I was able to take myself ashore for a swim, or take the boat into the mangroves to fish. I marvel at this former, younger self, adept at managing fishing tackle, gutting and cleaning fish, negotiating the small waterways navigable only by small boats demonstrating sensible capable skills. Mostly I marvel at this pre-teen self, content to be alone and quiet. I can recall the solitude of those moments, the quietude of the mangroves at once peaceful and meditative and loud with cacophonous birds, fish jumping, and nature throbbing and just doing its thing. There was a sense of discovery of previously un-traversed places, (or so I would imagine) where I was a plucky female explorer. One day the outboard refused to start and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so plucky. Interestingly I cannot recall how I returned to the boat, but presumably I did.
It is these secret cays and islands, and one in particular, that Marian Drew and Alana Hampton illuminate so eloquently and beautifully in a collaborative series of photographs and film works that merges night footage of trees, beams of light through water, reflections of light and sky on the water surface and daylight footage of underwater or half above/half below with real and stretched sounds of the birds, boat engines, bi planes and water. Mangroves are not normally associated with beauty. Indeed they are seldom celebrated at all, at least not in the same way the Gold Coast’s theme parks or beaches and waterways are: playgrounds for hedonism. And yet they are integral to the complex eco systems that make up the region, and demonstrate the very rich natural diversity that the Gold Coast can boast, an important characteristic that the city most certainly downplays. Together through the camera and film lens, Drew and Hampton show us a place, Lorikeet Island, that is elusive, dependant upon tidal comings and goings, and sometimes non-existent.
When the water recedes though, either in the black of night or at early dawn a small perfect island is revealed and it is this humble natural miracle that the artists have chosen to elaborate. Drew and Hampton’s installation invites us to visually and aurally immerse ourselves in the environment that both artists have been visiting for some years in the wee small and late hours. Using kayaks, underwater cameras, shooting during the day and at night, Drew and Hampton have composed something of a visual love letter to this ‘island’, an every island as it were, symbolic of so much, a place whose natural rhythms they have come to know intimately. By focusing so specifically and locally they speak more universally to the significant natural wonders that remain hidden to all but the most ardent nature lovers. Lorikeet Island is a project that employs creative strategies to stimulate a collective awareness of the beauty of the regional waterways and the cultural potential of the area beyond the usual aforementioned Gold Coast attractions. These secret places lie on our doorstep but are know to so few.
By drawing attention to that which frequently goes unnoticed, and in the case of the underwater photographs, unseen, they reveal to us a watery universe of epic and microcosmic proportions. Similarly, the artistic strategy of photography using a long exposure where light is cast upon the subject, painting as it were with light, has an almost cinematic effect. Spotlit and highlighted the trees with their roots exposed appear as dancers upon a lit stage. The elongated shapes are artfully illuminated so that we may ruminate on the beauty of their form as revealed by the tide.