The art of science communication

The art of science communication

The art of science communication

Climate change is emerging as the biggest issue of our time. JCU Associate Professor of Creative Arts Robyn Glade-Wright is harnessing the power of art to engage the public and shine a light on the science.

Known for artwork that challenges viewers, Robyn’s works present environmental concerns veiled in beauty. “I try and make the work appealing so people will engage with it, then unfortunately it reveals some sort of haunting message,” she says.

Her history of confronting environmental art is as extensive as it is thought provoking, but the inspiration for creating such a work doesn’t come from imaginative whims or fanciful daydreams. Instead, it stems from the mounting evidence within climate and environmental science. “I think that being involved with scientists in terms of how we look at the world is a beneficial relationship. I certainly see it as a two-way street,” says Robyn.

Taking aim at marine plastic pollution JCU’s Creative Ecologies research collective took advantage of the benefits of the varied perspective across the arts and sciences to curate the Plasticine Marine Exhibition. Conflating the beauty of art and the dread of marine plastic pollution, Robyn’s works used found plastic to provoke a response from viewers.

Robyn's artwork titled Inflated. It features a sea turtle built from plastic waste found in the ocean and is filled with discarded fishing floats.

Robyn's artwork Inflated 2018 displays the confronting result of sea turtle consuming plastic - no longer able to dive for food they float on the surface of the ocean starving and hot.

Following the Plasticine marine exhibition and amidst a record-breaking heatwave, Robyn’s piece Microplastic Found in Human Embryo made visible the horrifying effects of microplastic. The piece drew on the research of Eco-toxicologist Heather Leslie, whose work has demonstrated that plastic particles can pass through the placenta and the blood brain barrier, and potentially cause harm.

Constructed from over 1000 discarded plastic bottles, collected with shocking ease, highlight the extent of the plastic waste problem. “I thought that it might be complicated for me to collect so many bottles but, in fact, it was really easy. I went on maybe five occasions to collect bottles in my local area in a few streets and I was amazed at how many bottles I could collect.”

Robyn's artwork titled Microplastics Found in Human Embryo. Built from a thousand discarded plastic bottles the work is shaped like a human fetus in utero.

Robyn transforms 1000 plastic bottles into a stark reminder of where discarded plastic ends up.

The unique habitats of North Queensland motivate Robyn to create environmental art. “I chose to come to Cairns because of the beauty, and one of the motivations for my work is to work towards sustaining the natural beauty that exists and the amazing plants and animals that we share the planet with. That’s a major drive of my work, living in the tropics in this beautiful region.”

Robyn is not alone in harnessing art’s power to communicate the big issues of our time. “I think that there are a lot of artists, and I’m one of them, who deliberately make work to address issues that we see as being important.”

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Feature image: Robyn Glade-Wright

Published 24 Oct 2019

Featured JCU researcher

A/Prof Robyn Glade-Wright
A/Prof Robyn Glade-Wright