An exhibition of recent works by the floral sculptor celebrates – and transforms – native plants
A tang of peppery sweetness greets you as you walk into the Saint Cloche gallery – the soft, pleasant smell of the bush. The fragrance is emanating from the wall-mounted works by Redfern-based floral sculptor and installation artist Tracey Deep. The combined effect of the olfactory and visual power of her works, their fragility and power showcased against stark white walls, is alluring enough to stop you in your tracks.
Deep is a collector and curator of nature: she rescues the discarded limbs of trees, recycles plants, and transforms unused organic and man-made materials into intricate pieces that seem to defy their natural properties.
In ‘Paperbark Moon’, inspired by the vision of burnt Banksias engulfed by fire, the ends of hand-burnt willow sticks cluster at the centre of the work to form a spindly charcoal moon that fans outwards. Deep has created symmetry and balance through curated irregularity: the sticks vary in shape, size and length, but assembled like this, they form a satisfying circle.
‘Paperbark Dreaming’, which hangs in the window and overlooks the street, was inspired by the effect of paperbark cascading and falling off trees. Dangling gently, the pieces seem to hover without weight; they feel as though they might flutter to the ground at any moment.
Deep says this work is a celebration of the playfulness of nature. “I love how nature can be so playful,” she tells us. “It just looks like nature’s just having so much fun.”
In another work, old rope is ripped apart and knotted around fencing wire so that its delicate, fraying ends mimic the bloom of gum blossoms.
Deep says that her job is to work out what shape a piece wants to be: “I find a way to work the found object [or] the material and bring out its best somehow,” she tells us.
Her works accentuate the graphic detail and structure of materials in their natural state. And by directing us towards the simplicity of nature, she draws our attention to an aspect of our world that we often overlook.
‘Ancient Paperbark’ spotlights the natural tones of dried flax sticks, which are collected to form a crescent shape. Recycled mesh is wound tightly around the body of the stems, and the crocheted detail of the net creates the effect of paint on the sticks.
“I felt like I had an indigenous spirit enter my body while I made it,” Deep says of this work. “My heart was pounding so hard, I just couldn’t wait to keep going and to see it finished. That’s what that piece did to me.”
In ‘Sea Grass’, wild grass is woven together in bunches that look as though they have been swept by the breeze and suspended indefinitely – delicate and soft like feathers.
“I love how nature has this prehistoric look and feel about it,” says Deep. “That’s what I love about bush flowers too, to me they’ve got this ancientness to them.”
Deep describes her work as living art – for obvious reasons. But as we stand with the artist in her exhibition, it strikes us on another level, too: the changing light filtering into Saint Cloche gallery throughout the day hits the pieces from different angles at different times, throwing shadows and bringing each work to life.
“The works are singing their own songs,” says Deep.