by Dilpreet BhullarOct 12, 2021
Quite incessantly the importance to nurture the harmony between nature and built-environment is stated. If not vehemently, then silently the request is put to rest. Making an exception to this trend, that too successfully is the artist duo Wona Bae (South Korea) and Charlie Lawler (Australia) who have collaborated to form a collective named Loose Leaf. Their site-specific sculptural installations, “navigating the visceral and symbiotic connections between people and nature,” are acutely informed by permaculture practices. Bae formally read floristry and horticulture, and Lawler’s expertise lies in the field of design and communication design. Putting together this knowledge into creative thought has led to the process of making installations that are concept-driven, yet experiential.
Inviting the viewers, a majority of city dwellers, to redefine their understanding of the physical reality is a task that demands persistence and crystallised thinking. Since their work is a combination of installation, sculpture, sound, relief and photographs documenting ephemeral interventions, in an interview with STIR, Lawler says, “Our works deconstruct and distort familiar natural forms and present new landscapes to be considered and explored. We try to find balance with space around, presenting the natural world as active and central in an era of polarisation, inequality, inaction and apathy”.
For the installation Proximity, the collective collaborated with the photographer, Sean Fennessy, and The Establishment Studios to create this work in the 19th century church hall, which was restored in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Given the scale of the building with tall historic arches and column details, the vast work Proximity, made out of green fronds, embraces the columns of the space to give an impression of dense nature. The ephemeral artwork interlaces the nuances of nature and built architecture.
To create the work of this scale with the natural material is not a result of a simple exercise involving collection and tailoring of the material to suit the concept. It requires an organic approach on the part of the duo to meticulously put the material into a shape that would complement both the architecture and creation. Lawler elaborates on this style of processing, “Considering the experimental nature of our practice, we generally develop a relationship with materials over a period of time, often years. Constantly learning from materials, such as how they interact with light or how they behave over time. While other materials are chosen with the intention of being ephemeral, capturing a moment in time. These works are often documented through photography and live on as archival series”.
To raise the sensitivity of the viewers towards nature and how the artistic interventions could blur the distinction between urbanity and environment, immersive experience around the work plays a pivotal role. Lawler explains that their installations make use of immersion to varying degrees, “Works such as Rumble, a multiple room intervention at Heide Museum of Modern Art, is a multi-sensory experience using sight, sound, scent and scale to create an immersive experience for the viewer. We worked with sound artist, Martin Kay, intending to bring a sense of life and movement to the work. In order to propel the viewer-listener to reimagine the symbiotic potential of these two elements. On the surface it appears to be static, yet can very much be imagined and experienced of events in a state of flux”.
For the winners of the Yering Gallery Award at the 2019 Yering Station Sculpture Exhibition and Award, the natural world of their works is at the centre that activates the surrounding elements. The scale of the installations may suggest an imposing viewpoint to be urgently shared with the audience. However, the duo let the work speak for itself, “Our installations are made to be experienced and explored, everyone’s experience is different and personal. Interpretation ultimately sits with the viewer. We do not try and offer any further influence than creating a work that encourages exploration. Our works often invite the viewer to experience the work from multiple angles”.
In the times fraught with binaries, the artists add sensory dimensions to the works that allow the audience to foster a relationship with the work. “Some of our installations use some pretty subtle cues for interaction, such as audio in separate rooms or scent which can be a powerful trigger for memory and association,” they mention.
Often to meet the intricacies of a concept in the mind, the visual language and materiality of the work are put at the negotiating table. Loose Leaf makes an exception and reassures no window is left open for compromises.