Unleashing Hell series

This series of new work is a dramatic shift in direction from the 2016 Only natural series. Vibrant abstractions of the natural world make way for the gritty reality of a narrative focussing on the ever increasing risk of intense bushfires as a result of climate change.

The gallery of images displayed here present the four works included in the 2018 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition followed by 3 additional works that were created for the series and previously displayed at the UniSA Visual Arts Graduate Exhibition.

2018 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition
Friday 16 February to Sunday 11 March
10:30am to 4:30pm daily

Drill Hall, Torrens Parade Ground
Victoria Drive, Adelaide, South Australia

Long term planning – 50cm h x 40cm w
Words fail us – 90cm h x 30cm w
Turn down the heat – 60cm h x 40cm w
How did it come to this? – 60cm h x 40cm w

Artist Statement

Climate Change is a slow moving disaster that struggles to compete for our attention. Iconic imagery of polar bears or hurricanes in faraway places do little to connect our day-to-day lives with the climatic changes occurring slowly around us.

We are living with an ever increasing risk of catastrophic bushfires due to climate change. Our fire danger ratings warn us of the potential hazard, but we are experiencing fires that far exceed the worst we could imagine. The fires are beyond categorisation.

My research revealed a striking quote that had such a significant influence on me that it inspired the title of this series of work, Unleashing hell. The full quote comes from an Australian Climatologist who explains that as a result of our inaction on reducing carbon emissions, the resultant climatic changes will disastrously increase the prevalence and impact of bushfires such that ‘we are unleashing hell upon Australia’.

As the single largest contributor of carbon emissions is our coal fired power stations, this has prompted the use of these symbols of electricity consumption. Most of the images are bespoke manipulations of household objects.

Words fail us evolved from the knowledge that the Fire Danger Index applies the rating of catastrophic for conditions at 100 or higher on the scale while some of our most deadly fires have exceeded 180. Factors that influence the severity of bushfires include temperature, rainfall, wind speed and fuel (vegetation). Climate change is magnifying their impact. Radiant heat in major bushfires can be so intense that it can kill people from hundreds of metres away without a flame ever touching them.

Heavy reliance on reverse cycle air-conditioners, as indicated by the fear of power black-outs in summer, is exacerbated by systemically poor house design. The air-conditioner that shields us from summer heat is linked to rising carbon emissions, that is contributing to the climatic changes that fuel our increased exposure to extreme bushfires.

Bushfires do lead to the loss of life and this can only be expected to rise as the intensity and frequency of fires increases due to the impact of climate change. While it may not be the threat of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that motivates us, it may well be the increased prevalence of bushfires that ignite our actions.