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Secret World - Carnivorous Plants of the Howard Sand Sheets

This unique exhibition focuses on the Bladderworts that thrive in an area near Darwin known as the Howard sand sheets. The sand sheets host rare and threatened species including carnivorous plants, which have adapted to the area.

By Claire Eltringham

A group of artists and scientists gathered on the sand sheets in April 2015 during peak flowering to investigate complex species that flourish through their own ingenuity, yet are vulnerable to outside forces. Darwin artists Winsome Jobling, Sarah Pirrie, Jasmine Jan, Karen Mills and Jacqueline Gribbin worked with botanical specialists Emma Lupin from Greening Australia, and Dr Greg Leach, to investigate this site of international conservation significance, right on Darwin’s doorstep.

During the workshop botanical and environmental scientists explained the unique nature of the site, identified plants and led field trips to key environmental hot spots. The artists responded to the experience by taking photographs, making drawings and developing art works.

According to artist Sarah Pirrie, the process was an insightful one.

“For me, it’s been a beautiful project to be part of, that is really credit to Angus and Rose [from Nomad Art Gallery] who always try and undertake meaningful projects. I love working with environmental issues and this was one I knew very little about. We spent a couple of days visiting different sites – got down on our hands and knees and explored this unique micro world – it was extraordinarily fragile and we had to be careful everywhere we tread. It was clear how catastrophic our footsteps would be, let alone the impacts of sand mining.”

As Pirrie suggests, it wasn’t only educational but an incredibly creative and collaboratively process too.

“We [the artist group] had a clear idea how we would approach the artwork before we visited the site. But when we arrived there, we all went into our own separate zones and went about our work in a meditative way. It wasn’t until we went to Jasmine Jans’ studio, that the collaboration began and we all started to discuss ideas.”

The resulting work is an impressive large-scale, multi-paneled series of works on paper that trace records of the plant specimens and invoke a strong sense of place. This work forms a major part of the group show that is accompanied by a catalogue. It is artists’ hope – and certainly that of gallery directors Angus and Rose Cameron – that this exhibition and catalogue will act as tool for raising awareness about this precious ecosystem.

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