Hi everyone! I haven’t posted for a while because I have been finishing up my research thesis, exhibiting the creative work, and have been pretty snowed under.  Today I thought I would share my experience from a recent art trip to Cairns in North Queensland.

I was offered an opportunity to present at a SciArt Symposium for James Cook University and the Cairns Institute -Research in Tropical Societies. The symposium was organised by Dr Robyn Glade Wright, who is an amazing environmental artist herself.

The Symposium was called “Falling From The Sky” and came about after extreme heat caused bats to fall out of the trees in Cairns. The topic for symposium was to centre around how art can communicate science and environmental issues. I submitted an abstract, which was accepted and I wrote a a paper with the topic titled: Not My Cup of Tea: Communicating Environmental Messages through Metaphor and Storytelling in Art.

As a student at James Cook University, this trip also provided me with a chance to delve deeper into my research and create artwork that fits the brief of communicating environmental messages. I thought presenting my work at the SciArt Symposium would be an invaluable experience to learn from other artists and scientists and a chance to share what I have learned, and exhibit my artwork.

The SciArt Symposium itself was pretty inspiring and the exhibited artwork was incredible. The exhibition included work from school students, researchers and experienced SciArt practitioners.

Presenting my work to a diverse audience of academics, artists, and environmentalists was a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. My presentation revolved around my recent ceramic installation, “Not My Cup of Tea,” which I developed as a response to a lifestyle development near my home in Moreton Bay, Queensland. I explored the use of metaphors and storytelling in my artwork to communicate the environmental impacts of this development and encourage viewers to consider the consequences of their consumer choices.

This trip has left me feeling excited about what is next, and what you can do when you stretch your practice just that little bit further.


Here is the part of my presentation that describes my artwork “Not my cup of Tea”:

“The State Government in Queensland gave the green light to very large lifestyle Development in North Harbour that would allow and facilitate the dredging of parts of the Caboolture River, and subsequent maintenance dredging for the foreseeable future once the marina estate is finished. This is a marina based estate. All of the land and river areas in this region have acid sulphate soils, and the impact of dredging for canal estates and the damage to the flora and fauna (many protected bird species, including the Eastern Curlew) is well documented.

I thought to myself, if I was considering buying in to this type of development, would I turn a blind eye to the impact of my choices on the environment. And if I did, would this later cause me to have some level of green or eco guilt about ignoring what I knew was going on in order to have this wonderful lifestyle associated with living in a high-status canal estate.

Now as an aside, I don’t consider myself an activist but I do care about the environment. I don’t begrudge anyone choosing to live how or where they want, but the damage caused by dredging is horrendous the flora and fauna.

After a period of research to understand the environmental impact of this development, I created a concept about how a people might choose to turn a blind eye to the ongoing damage this would cause, especially if it meant they wouldnt be able to live the dream life in a marina estate.

I had to experiment and explore how I could represent consumerist society and status, and I had to work out how I could reference the impact of the development on the migratory birds that live in the area of impact.

I created a ceramic artwork installation that I have titled, “Not My Cup of Tea” and I have hopes that the work will successfully communicate an environmental message using several metaphors and through the subversive use of imagery and symbolism.

Eastern Curlew in a toxic River of tea

By juxtaposing the luxurious and familiar image of a teacup and saucer, with the confronting image of an endangered Eastern Curlew skeleton in a toxic river of tea, I am challenging viewers to confront the uncomfortable truth that their lifestyle choices can have far-reaching and destructive consequences on the environment.

The work asks viewers to not turn a blind eye to the environmental risks of lifestyle developments and to ensure they are fully aware about the impact to the environment as a result of their consumer choices.

Breaking the artwork down further, my use of metaphor is a key element of the installation. The Willow pattern on the teacup and saucer nods to late 18th to early 19th century Britain, and is used as a metaphor for mass marketing and consumerism that can contribute to environmental degradation. This is intended as a subversive use of beauty….the pretty teacup and saucer,  hides the image of an endangered Eastern Curlew skeleton in a river made toxic by the exposure of acid sulphate soils from river dredging.

The artwork invites viewers to sit in the uncomfortable truth that our consumer choices can have far reaching and destructive consequences.  In addition to the teacup and Saucer with dead bird in situ, I also produced several posters and a zine about “Not My Cup of Tea” which serves as a secondary distribution of information, providing more opportunities for audiences to digest and engage with the artwork and its environmental message. 

Since zines are typically designed to be concise, creative, and accessible, they can be an effective tool for communicating complex ideas in a simple and engaging way. I have included images and descriptions of the artwork, as well as information about the environmental risks of lifestyle developments, acid sulphate soils, and the impact of dredging on local flora and fauna. In true punk style, the zine is a call to action, such as ways to reduce personal impact on the environment, promoting more sustainable living and increased environmental awareness. By using a variety of mediums to spread awareness, you can increase the reach of your artwork and message, thus contributing to wider environmental consciousness and action.

So wrapping up – challenges and limitations

The challenges and limitations of using metaphor and storytelling to communicate scientific concepts and environmental issues include the risk of oversimplification, as metaphors and narratives may not fully capture the complexity of environmental issues, the potential for conflicting interpretations, as different viewers may interpret the same metaphor or narrative in different ways, leading to confusion or misinterpretation of the intended message. Additionally, some critics argue that storytellers may manipulate information to evoke reactions from their audience through embellishment and concealing facts. This can lead to the oversimplification of complex biological systems and limit critical thinking.

Another challenge is ensuring that the intended message is effectively communicated to the audience. Artists can address these challenges by carefully considering their messages and audience, using multiple analogies and narratives, engaging in dialogue with viewers, and embracing the potential for ambiguity and multiplicity in their work. By doing so, artists can create powerful and engaging artworks that inspire action and change around environmental issues, contributing to a more sustainable future for all.