Water, Water Everywhere

VAULT examines a major exhibition at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, the centrepiece of which is a showstopping Olafur Eliasson environment.

pReview by Steve Dow NOV 2019

Spanning the ground floor of the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, is a vast expanse of water-rounded stones and a small pond fed by a stream of water which transforms the gallery into a natural ecology. This is by Danish-born artist Olafur Eliasson’s Riverbed (2014). The work invites visitors to reflect upon human induced destruction of the planet, inspired by the landscape of his familial Iceland.

“Olafur is able to speak in a range of registers, some of them subtle and sublime, and others that are poetic but pointed,” QAGOMA Senior Curator of International Art Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow tells VAULT. She is here reflecting upon Riverbed, Eliasson’s immersive installation that sits alongside work by more than 40 international and Australian artists presented at Water. The exhibition, opening at QAGOMA in December, commands a consideration of the challenges in caring for water and addresses its tenuousness as a resource depended upon for sustaining life.

It is only the second time the ambitious Riverbed work has ever been staged, outside of its premiere at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen in 2014. For this work boulders, rocks and pebbles have not been sourced from Iceland but instead from landscape suppliers within Australia, namely Queensland, and placed onto a wooden substructure built on site at QAGOMA according to Eliasson’s architectural blueprint.

The artist hopes the work, whose intricate hydraulics scarcely spill water, will make us think about consuming less. “It looks like an empty river, like some of those images we’ve all seen where parts of the Murray River have run dry or the water’s in retreat,” says Barlow. “The work also feels like the .. Subscribe to read this article in full


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