August 24, 2023 Rhonda Pryor

Foraging the Poetics of Nature

forage, climate, art

Foraging the poetics of nature: digital image of plant matter

Poetics of Matter 2, work in progress, digital image

What the brilliance of human beings has done to our planet. Brilliance with an inbuilt greed and a desire for power over nature and our fellow humans.

Oh, the things we pay attention to. Always, in the back of my mind (if not right at the front) is the creeping reality of climate upheaval.

My family rib me occasionally for washing all our soft plastics before collecting them for recycling (Recyclesmart, if they service your area, will collect soft plastics and all sorts of stuff from your door for free). I keep a couple of boxes in the laundry for ratty old clothes and towels I can’t really salvage, ready for textile recycling (Upparel are great for this). I give unwanted art materials to a local child care centre (but I sharpen the coloured pencils first). Hmmm…. must make that fire plan.


Some climate science stuff

But it just doesn’t seem enough. Indeed, it isn’t, but until we stop burning fossil fuels altogether, it just won’t be. Earlier this year I read climate scientist Joelle Gergis’s book Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope. I found it a very human, very relatable explanation of the climate issues currently facing us, and potential future ones. She writes with the feeling and personal emotion of an ordinary person, but with clear, understandable scientific explanations.

She urges us to experience and protect the natural beauty we are so fortunate to have. The thought of the loss of that, what our descendants will miss out on and have to cope with – discomfort, displacement, compromised health outcomes, lack of basic resources, unemployment, constant uncertainty – is not for the faint-hearted.

This morning I watched a webinar with The Australia Institute hosting a discussion with Jeff Goodell, author of Heat: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet. With the catastrophic fires currently underway in the northern hemisphere (not to mention our own climate calamities of 2019/20 and beyond) it seemed responsible to tune in. Goodall appears a calm, composed individual with a lot of research behind him, undertaking the huge task of alerting us to the fact we are just not prepared as a society for extreme heat. This might give the impression he’s all doom and gloom – but he’s not – just giving the facts, and urging us to prepare.

It would be a heartbreak if natural beauty and biodiversity were looked at, by future generations, as a nostalgic thing, something from an idealised past. It must be looked at – now – with fresh eyes, with purpose, with an attitude of appreciation and a willingness to protect.


How to look up

Aside from concrete action, mental and emotional preparation are crucial. Take some time out to notice details. Beauty, unusual details, weirdly delightful things are just under your nose. These things can be unexpected jewels in our lives, uplifting and sustaining.

And don’t forget art. Emotional sustenance and enrichment are certainly to be found in nature, but art can do all that and more.


Foraging the poetics of nature

The exhibition forage: symbiotic (trans)formations takes these concepts and seeks to deepen understanding of our relationship with nature. Curated by Nicole Wallace, the exhibition will be showing at Gallery Lane Cove from September 13 to October 7 2023, and will tour regionally. I’ll be sharing the exhibition space with some very accomplished female artists: Alyson Bell, Katherine Boland, Heather Burness, Katie Harris-MacLeod, Catriona Pollard, Jo Victoria and Liz Williamson.


Foraging the poetics of nature: digital image of plant matter

Poetics of Matter 10, work in progress, digital image


My works, Poetics of Matter and Unwrappings, respond to these themes, in appreciation of the beauty of living things and in acknowledgement of humanity’s impact upon those lives. Poetics of Matter consists of ten jewel-like images randomly climbing the gallery walls – images of squashed, decaying plant matter compressed against window panels of a glasshouse on Awaji Island in Japan. I was struck by the beauty of this scene while leaving the glasshouse; obviously not meant to be seen by visitors, but compelling to me in their abstract formations and softened colours. Decay can be such a beautiful, if transient, thing.


Foraging the poetics of nature: discarded eucalypt bark, moss-dyed silk georgette

Unwrappings, detail, work in progress, moss-dyed silk, eucalyptus bark


Unwrappings combines pieces of thick, discarded eucalypt bark laced with lichen, with softly twisted silk georgette dyed with moss, in two subtle straw-like tones. Representing the discarding of protective layers of both plant and human, the work acknowledges the reliance of human life on the healthy ecosystems of our planet.

The opening event for forage will be from 6-8 pm on Thursday September 14 at Gallery Lane Cove.

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