When talking environmental degradation and habitat-loss, there is a paradox of scales that perplexes artist Janet Laurence. On the one hand, mass apathy continues to lead to mass extinction; while on the other hand, a small number of dedicated individuals continue to deliver intensive TLC to a small number of fortunate survivors in animal sanctuaries around the world.

Laurence examines this disparity of collective and individual responses to the plight of animals in her new site-specific commission at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation.

Using gauze veils, she has partitioned the gallery into a number of spaces that could be interpreted as cells or animal hospital cubicles. Each space hosts a distinctive part of the installation: laboratory plants on life support; colour-negative images of doomed forests that appear as lavender ghosts; collections of taxidermy animals; and on selected weekends, a roving vet who will tend pets brought into the gallery.

This is not the first time Laurence has explored ecological issues, or themes of loss and healing. Throughout her esteemed career she has raised awareness of the unending interconnection of life on this planet. Asked how she has managed to do so without ever being didactic or compromising her creativity, she states, “Through poetry and playfulness.” Then adds, “Art can bring scientific truths to the level of emotion and imagination.”

Janet Laurence: After Eden shows at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation from March 16 to May 19.

sherman-scaf.org.au