Exhibitions / The Flying Gardeners

03.08.2021 to 21.08.2021

The Flying Gardeners, Flinders Lane Gallery

The Flying Gardeners; the bats, birds, bees and butterflies, they sow and grow and even protect our magnificent Australian landscape and it’s inhabitants.

Gina Kalabishis’ forthcoming exhibition pays homage to the activity and work of these engaging pollinators. Capturing stilled moments in time, and with a sense of immediate purpose, her images depict the flurry of their activity and in so doing highlight the fundamental contribution they make to both the ecological and agricultural systems of our world.

 

The Flying Gardeners

Essay by Sophie Cunningham,  2021

 

When I was in my twenties I helped my scientist-brother do field work. He spent time with the banksia of Wilson Promontory. Netted trees to try and identify pollinators. Bats, birds, marsupials, insects, wind? All of the above? His next project was looking at the reproductive ecology of a rainforest palm in Costa Rica. I visited a couple of times and helped out once again. That work was to develop a model for understanding how the success of a plant is influenced by the animals that it interacts with. It was when I walked through the forests of La Selva in Costa Rica that I first saw hummingbirds: so tiny I thought they were colourful bumblebees. I thought of those hummingbirds when I looked at Gina’s paintings of regent and blue-faced honeyeaters — the delicate curved spine of a beak designed to dip into bottlebrush and the flowers of eucalyptus. The regent honeyeater is now endangered — there are only a few hundred left in the wild.  Some species of bat, butterfly and bee are similarly endangered. To lose these creatures is to lose the work they do in keeping entire ecosystems alive; in feeding us. 

 

I felt this keenly on a recent trip to the south of Western Australia when I walked through coastal heath full of swamp banksia shrubs. There were New Holland honeyeaters everywhere. Hundreds of them. The birds dipped and dived their long beaks into cones in full flower, golden, pollen-filled. As I walked towards the flowers I could hear their hum and buzz; saw that individual cones had dozens of bees staggering around under the weight of their bounty. They were drunk on it. It was such a privilege to be in the presence of this abundance; such vibrant biodiversity. Pollinators are — I knew, but realised all over again — a sign of a flourishing landscape. Gina’s work captures all this: the respect we owe these tiny workers, the focus of these seekers of dust, of life force, of nectar.

Gina Kalabishis’s work first caught my eye when she and I did a residency at Bundanon in NSW.  Every day I’d go on a long walk through the spotted gum and paperbark forests that surrounded our retreat. I’d often see tiny sculptures — ikebana — sitting in the clefts of hills, between granite rocks and tucked into tree roots. Curved sticks, a cone, draped eucalyptus leaves.  I’d think to myself, Gina has been here. 

 

 I am such an admirer of the hyper realism, the surrealism, of Gina’s latest work. Its intensity, its richness. Her celebration of pollinators alongside the hints of a warning. The flashes of colour and the melancholy of her greys and blues. The discretion of restrained olive greens that melt to grey. 

 

I recently visited Gina’s studio and stood in front of dozens of her paintings and drawings. I found myself wanting to stroke the bats’ graphite fur, the pollen-filled fuzz of the bees’ hind legs. I want to look at the gang-gang with as much intensity as he looked at me. 

 

Gina’s birds and bats have a frank gaze and those of us who love cockatoos (despite their naughtiness), and the grey-headed flying foxes of Yarra Bend park know the truth of this; that these birds and bats are curious, chatty and playful. However, Gina also captures their sleepy private faces, their vulnerability. Bats (like birds, like butterflies) are being squeezed into diminishing habitats. Bats’ leathery wings give them grief on hot days and flying fox colonies have been moving further and further south in a vain attempt to avoid heat waves. In these COVID times the flying fox has become associated with disease and is persecuted as a result. 

 

On my visit to her studio I asked Gina how she painted pollen and she showed me the variety of yellows she has worked with to capture its particular quality. I look around the room and I see that she’s sprinkled it everywhere: like fairy dust, like tiny pieces of sunlight scattered across paper and canvas. I read the working paper taped to her desk where she jots down thoughts and ideas. Pollen & Seeds, Gina has written, magical dabs of brightness. 

The Flying Gardeners 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

The Flying Gardeners  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

142 x106cm

I just can’t get enough (after Depeche Mode) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

I just can’t get enough (after Depeche Mode)  2021

ink,watercolour and pastel on paper

123 x 91cm

We are the same 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

We are the same  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

124 x 91cm

Nothing compares to you (after Sinead O’Connor) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Nothing compares to you (after Sinead O’Connor)  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

123 x 91cm

The pest controllers 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

The pest controllers  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

123 x 91cm

Pictures of you (after The Cure) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Pictures of you (after The Cure)  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

123 x 91cm

See how they Love! if I am reborn, let me be a butterfly in the field (after Issa-Haiku) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

See how they Love! if I am reborn, let me be a butterfly in the field (after Issa-Haiku)  2021

ink and watercolour on paper

123 x 91cm

Love’s many forms 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Love’s many forms  2021

ink and gouache on paper

76 x 56cm

She is a Rainbow (after The Rolling Stones) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

She is a Rainbow (after The Rolling Stones)  2021

ink and watercolour on Blue Lake paper

76 x 56cm

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.4 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.4  2021

ink and gouache on paper

104 x 76cm

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.3 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.3  2021

ink and gouache on paper

76 x 56cm

Should be seen and not heard 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Should be seen and not heard  2021

charcoal on paper

104 x 76cm

You are my sunshine (after Elizabeth Mitchell) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

You are my sunshine (after Elizabeth Mitchell)  2021

graphite and ink on Blue Lake paper

50 x 39cm

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.2 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.2  2021

graphite and charcoal on paper

76 x 56cm

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.1 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Melbourne’s Flying Fox No.1  2021

graphite and charcoal on paper

70 x 50cm

Blue (after Yves Klein) 2021 by Gina Kalabishis

Blue (after Yves Klein)  2021

oil on paper

76 x 56cm