Möller heightens awareness of the fragility of Nature to audiences well beyond the inner circles of the Australian art world and its market.
deatina 2017, oil on linen, 157.0 x 137.0 cm, Courtesy the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Vera Möller
Vera Möller’s exhibition at Bunjil Place, Narre Warren, is supported by a catalogue, excellent labeling and a children’s field guide entitled “A Brief Guide to the Creatures and Plants of Westernport Bay”. The exhibition sits within a festival program entitled “Art+Climate=Change” featuring exhibitions, theater works, lectures, events and public forums on climate and environmental science.
Vera Möller at Flinders, Victoria 2019.Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
It is housed in a monolithic $125 million complex adjacent to a mega-Westfield shopping domain. Strategically located at the intersection of highways that connect south-eastern regional Gippsland and outer-suburban populations it links to the wetlands surrounding French Island National Park and the coastal ecosystems from Phillip Island to Westernport Bay on the Mornington Peninsula.
vestibulia 2019, mixed media, installation dimensions approximately: 20 x 240 x 480 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne Photo: Jo Moulton
There is respectful acknowledgement that evokes the 35,000 year pre-Colonial history of the catchments and swamps that once provided an abundance of natural resources to the Bunurong, and Wurundjeri people when they harvested eggs from many bird species, caught seal and mutton birds and fished and foraged for shellfish, orchid bulbs and wild currants.
No stone is left un-turned in Möller’s bid to connect to new audiences, to lure them into the natural wonder of the local wetlands and coastal shores and to engage them in the challenge of protecting the unique flora and fauna of Western Port Bay.
celsenium 2017 oil on canvas 183.0x151.0cm Collection of the artist. Photograph: Vera Moller
A Thousand Tides is a seductive introduction to a swathe of species including sea slugs, Weedy Sea Dragons, rare grasses, mangroves and the mud, sand and basalt terrains that form their habitats.
slow indigo 2015 -19, oil on linen, triptych: 183.0 x 457.5 cm. Photo: Jo Moulton
Vera Möller studio 2019 (painting slow indigo) Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
There is an optimism not often found in ‘the art meets science’ space. Möller immerses us in a theatrical and hallucinatory carnival of color – a world where aqueous plants and translucent and gelatinous sea life sway in the tidal ebb and flow. There is a lightness and delicacy in the spotted, striped and curious objects and drawings – strange creatures in a peaceful and silent state of cohabitation.
Playful abstractions and the scaling up and down of forms enhance the Surrealism but there is an authenticity and a precision of detail that stems from Möller’s scientific background.
vestibulia 2019, mixed media, installation dimensions approximately: 20 x 240 x 480 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Jo Moulton
Dr Möller’s study of marine biology began in her birth country, Germany, where she researched the fresh-water ecology of the Bavarian Lakes. Möller’s original motivation had been to become a biological illustrator, but it wasn’t until she settled in Australia in 1986 that she unleashed her prodigious artistic talent via an academic pathway that led to a doctorate in Fine Arts at Monash University.
This exhibition is a confident and transparent exposure of a practice that has evolved through a mix of media experimentation, scientific research, creative and intellectual refinement.
It is a quirky mixed-media collection of miniature and monumental works – underwater photographs, collages, drawings, sculpture and paintings - arranged and loosely classified into specimens of pure art.
A Thousand Tides exhibition, Bunjil Place Gallery May 2019. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
philolia (no.1-70) 2001-2019 (selected details), ink gouache, watercolor and enamel on paper, 70 works: each 18.0 x 13.4 cm (sheet), Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photos: Jo Moulton
From the delicate and flimsy collation of taxonomic drawings in philolia (above) that document strange and slug-like creatures to the monumental painting slow indigo 2015-19, an exuberant evocation of underwater space, movement and color, this exhibition betrays an artist who is using all the powers of imagination and creativity to take us into another world.
Her visual inspiration comes from the visual perspective that might be experienced by a diver or snorkeler.
According to Möller “vision becomes the primary sense with which one interacts with the surrounding space …. forms, surfaces and tissues of marine fauna and flora (that) resist specific definitions… an overwhelming variety of otherworldly life forms, biologies with characteristically scintillating color and contrasts …. intricate surfaces, mysterious structures and transparent and gelatinous forms … complex visual phenomena, of opalescence, luminescence and iridescence.
The encountered spaces assume an almost hallucinatory quality.”
cajalia 2019, modelling material and acrylic, dimensions variable: 20.0 x 250.0 x 350.0 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
In the installation cajalia (above), Möller’s field of sculptured ‘mangrove roots’ tipped with phosphorescence and lit by ultra-violet lights, she evokes a kind of visual magic that recreates what she describes as “the fascinating communication systems employed by aquatic life-forms.”
cajalia 2019 (detail), modelling material and acrylic, dimensions variable: 20.0 x 250.0 x 350.0 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
With the keen observation skills of a scientist Möller is engaged in shedding a bright light on the hidden treasury of phenomenal significance in the Great Southern reef. She is thrilled by its plethora of undiscovered species - sea-grasses, molluscs, crustaceans and marine worms. It is a smorgasbord of fascination and exploration.
The monumental paintings take us to an enchanting ‘fictional’ place where a wondrous fusion of these life forms waft through dark and mysterious spaces illuminated by dramatic contrasts of light and shade. There is luminous color, rhythmic patterns and sensuous flowing plant forms animated by the ebb and flow of tides.
liquilumber 2013, oil on linen, 199.8 x 167.8 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne. Photo: Vera Möller
Möller exemplifies the essence of “biophiliarts” i.e. she is an artist - evocative, playful, tapping deep into the history and culture of place, connecting us, heart and soul, to the mesmerizing beauty, complexity and fragility of the marine biosphere of Western Port Bay.
For families, residents and travelers who sense the need for climate change this exhibition will inspire and delight. It is a ‘must see’.
Words: Jo Moulton Studio JOMO May 2019
Location: Bunjil Place Gallery, 2 Patrick North East Drive, Narre Warren
Dates: 9 March – 9 June
Times:10 am – 5.00 pm
Entry: Free (Closed Mondays)