Townsville sculptor Alison McDonald is well known for her work repurposing items others would be quick to discard – many would remember the striking visual of more than 20,000 plastic bottle lids flowing from the roof of Umbrella Studio in 2011 and the shimmering scale-like armour crafted from old aluminium power pole discs which wrapped around the life-saving tower at the 2015 Strand Ephemera.
Alison’s latest exhibition, Immersed, will continue this great tradition and was inspired by our unavoidable reliance on water, which Alison observed while camping in outback Queensland; travelling through China; and during everyday tasks like washing her hands, doing laundry or brewing a simple coffee.
The exhibition features more than 20 large pieces including Voyage, carved from hot water services; Float, made of plastic lids, Sink, made of plastic bottles, Brew, made from empty Nespresso pods; and Blue Lagoon, an entire room within Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, that visitors to the exhibition can interact with.
Alison said Voyage developed after she was gifted a hot water service.
“I was given one and I bought two more,” she said. “They’re very tall, the tallest one is 6ft and they go down from there and I worked out how I could wind these patterns [around them] to tell a visual journey.
“One tells the dry, hot, humid story of Townsville through my eyes. Then there’s the journey over the ocean – a lot happens there we don’t even think about: refugees, great big ships with containers on them and all the waves and the islands and things, so I made one with that. And the biggest one I made in China. For that, I made the Bund [a waterfront area] in China, which sits on the Huangpu River in Shanghai, and raindrops and things like that.”
After carving her intricate patterns from the hot water services, Alison fitted them with lights, which work with the housing to cast intricate shadows across the gallery space.
“Light is a big deal in my exhibition,” Alison explained. “Because I couldn’t have water [in the exhibition] – if you ever tried to keep water out of something, it’s as difficult as light when you’re trying to keep something dark – I decided to use light as a metaphor.”
Of course, no Alison McDonald exhibition would be complete without an imaginative new use for one of her favourite materials – and most loathed products – the ubiquitous plastic water bottle.
“Plastic bottles still bother me. They’re everywhere.
“So I’ve made five works out of plastic bottles and lids. There’s a big artwork, called Float, made out of lids and it takes up one big wall. This is like Flow and it is the image of Shimmer, my version of Shimmer. When Shimmer was on that wall on the Strand it reflected beautiful colours, the sand, and the ocean and the sky and I thought that would be really nice too do in lids, so I have done that.
“On the opposite wall I have a big artwork made out of plastic bottles. [Inspiration for] that happened when I got out of the car one day and in the car park I saw a flattened plastic bottle and I picked it up and it looked like a little bomb. ‘Oh’ I thought ‘how apt!’ They sink underwater, and the lids float. So I have made a big artwork called Sink out of plastic water bottles.”
Immersed is sure to make visitors to the exhibition rethink their relationship with water – how it’s used, where it comes from, and how we can preserve it in its many forms.
Immersed will be on display at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, 21 Sep – 18 Nov, 2018.