Wassenaar’s Unplugged wins Estuary prize

Marion Wassenaar, Unplugged (2018). Photo supplied

The winners of the 2018 Estuary Art and Ecology Prize have been selected by judge Paul Brobbel and are currently on display in Malcolm Smith Gallery.

Congratulations to Marion Wassenaar for winning first prize for her unique contribution to the exhibition. Her work, Unplugged, involved the incineration of a book discussing the vulnerability of Auckland’s infrastructure, using the remaining carbon as a filtering system to attempt to purify water.

This work ironically uses one of Auckland’s (literally) darkest moments and turns it into an aid for our pollution crisis, described by Paul as “a challenging artwork – intelligent with possibly an element of humour to some”.

This work encourages us to consider our impact on the biosphere and think about what small changes we could make to our daily routine that might help our planet stay clean and green.

Second prize has been awarded to Wei Lun Ha for his piece, Colours that I wouldn’t want to see. This work engages viscerally with the Estuary by using water and rubbish found within to paint a landscape of the waterway. Though from afar the colours may seem vibrant and dynamic, upon closer inspection it is clear that these colours, representing foreign plastics, are out of place in the natural environment.

Michelle Farrell and Mish O’Neill were given merit awards for their considered approaches to the Estuary and its representation in their works.

Farrell’s delicate ink work evokes a sense of calm, setting it apart from many other works in the exhibition. Restore Me said the Water uses layered washes to draw our attention to the careful balance we should strive to maintain in vital urban water systems. O’Neill’s photogram, Manawa, glows with hope for the Tamaki Estuary.

The bright silhouette of the plant leaps out of the frame, at once lively and eerie. Though these works are polar opposites in their appearance, both sensitively respond to the local ecology and encourage deeper thought about our personal relationship with the environment.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to select their favourite work by casting a vote for the People’s Choice Award. The winner of this prize will receive $1000, generously donated by the Rice Family Partnership and voting is open until the exhibition closes on August 19. Our next exhibition, EAST, featuring three urban contemporary artists, opens on Saturday August 25.

– Anna van den Berg, Malcolm Smith Gallery Curatorial Intern