Lea Ferris

Lea Ferris’ new series of marble sculptures explores both the magic and mortality of the reef.

The stories of reef are inscribed in Ferris’ medium, as the marbles were literally created by corals. The calcium carbonate exuded by the microscopic corals millions of years ago was heated and compressed by eons of earth processes to become marble. Every vein, every colour, every pattern tells the intimate and broad scale story of coral reefs and life on earth. ‘The pieces in this show are my tribute to corals – the true sculptors of the reef’, reflects the artist.  They are glimpses of her experiences underwater, conveying Ferris’ observations of ‘a world of infinite varieties of forms; explosions of nowhere-else seen colours; endless diversities of patterns; incessant ever-changing interactions’, as well as her feelings of ‘awe, humility, joy, gratefulness, and wonder’.

For Ferris, the undersea world of coral reefs is more wondrous and spectacular than our wildest imaginings. Her sculptures convey the magic of this hallucinogenic, kaleidoscopic world, yet at the same time they hint at the fatality of reef. The ephemerality of coral in a time of climate change is paradoxically captured in the permanence of the marble, evoking a sense of fossilisation; mummification. Ferris comments, ‘For the first time ever, on our planet, we, me, you, us humans are causing and witnessing, knowingly, coral death at a rate and scale that threatens the destruction of this magical paradise …  I have seen and touched a once living reef now covered in nothing but green algae.’

The works in this show are thus both celebrations and lamentations. ‘I used to think of them as the canaries of the reef. But now I think of them as sirens – not in the strict Homeric sense of singing voices luring us to our deaths, but rather calling to us for help, to save them and, in doing so, ourselves.’

Lea Ferris: Homage to the Reef
18 November – 10 December 2020
Defiance Gallery, Sydney

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