Everyday enviro with Elise: art and the environment

Everyday enviro with Elise: art and the environment

By Elise Catterall  April 7th, 2021

How art can help us think critically and creatively about the environmental challenges we face.


During the recent Sydney Festival, Damon Gameau, the award-winning director behind 2040, presented the Australian premiere of a new film called The [Uncertain] Four Seasons. The impactful, moving multimedia production combines a recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with climate change data and evocative imagery.

The result is a beautiful yet discomforting experience, warning of environmental danger, but also inspiring hope. During his introduction, Damon said that now, more than ever, the environment needs the involvement of artists. 

This is a critical time to harness art to champion the environment. Art has the ability to engage new audiences using an entirely different language than science. It can also bring people together outside of a political environment. But beyond offering new messages to diverse audiences, art can also be sustainable in and of itself.

Sydney-based artist Elizabeth West creates exquisite woven artworks using salvaged plastics, which blend both the message and the problem (or, one of the problems at least). These pieces examine sustainability by being fully sustainable artworks and by using one of the biggest threats to the environment and wildlife: waste plastic. They emphasise the conflicted relationship between humans, resources and the environment. They are also beautiful, tactile and meaningful.

The pieces range from smaller decorative wall pieces through to large-scale installation pieces. By using the ancient practice of weaving as her technique, Elizabeth brings extra layers to her message. Hand weaving is not just a functional activity either, but also an activity deeply connected the tradition and culture of Elizabeth's Māori heritage.

The juxtaposition of using modern waste material with this ancient, meaningful activity is a powerful message in itself. It helps us not only celebrate our individual cultures, but also to examine where we are, how we got here and where we should go now.

Elizabeth has been exploring the relationship between resources and the environment for a long time and has created ten public art installations showcasing the scale of plastics’ impact on the earth, transforming over 100kg of salvaged plastics in the process. One of these was Cascade, installed in the Blue Mountains, which represented the flow of plastics into our waterways worldwide. You can see more of her work on her Instagram feed.

The natural world has inspired artists since the beginning of time. The environment, and the crisis we are in, has been at the heart of many artists and artworks for many years. We need these creative messages to spur both contemplation and creative action.

If you, like me, find this fascinating, you might want to also explore the work of some other environmental artists:

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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