Review: Under the Sea by Tracey Deep

By Penny Craswell

The gently swaying forms of undersea plant life can contain fascinating folds, crinkles and patterns. Tracey Deep is an artist who sees the beauty in ocean plants, even after they have been washed up on a deserted beach. By making sculptures from these forgotten remnants, she introduces us to a world where even the most stinky seaweed can become a thing of beauty.

Sea Urchin, Tracey Deep, burnt willow. Photo: Nicholas Watts

Sydney artist Tracey Deep’s work was recently shown at Saint Cloche gallery in Sydney. In the exhibition text, Dr Prue Gibson draws parallels with the Cabinets of Curiosity or Wunderkammers of the 17th and 18th Century, calling Deep’s work: “her own cabinet of curious natural specimens”.

Within the context of the 21st century, these natural specimens gain new meaning. Gibson writes: “Many of us feel frustrated and forlorn about the environment, diminished ecosystems and biodiversity. But by collecting the detritus of the massive expanse of our oceans, Tracey calls our attention to the troubles afoot in the natural world, but she also offers us a solution, a re-enactment of beauty.”

Jellyfish, Tracey Deep, bamboo fibre. Photo: Nicholas Watts

Set against the bare white walls of Saint Cloche’s gallery, the power of these sculptures is in how they elevate the natural within this context, drawing on the lament for nature that is common amongst us city dwellers.

But it is not just the collecting and showing of the work that gives it beauty, it is the rhythm of Deep’s works – the way she uses the natural patterns found in seaweed, ocean sponge, coral, hemp, driftwood and other fibres, and plays on that, bringing a sense of order and beauty to these wild natural materials. The intricacy is both innate in the materials, and highlighted in Deep’s treatment of them. Wonderful work.

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Coral Reef, Tracey Deep, coral, hemp. Photo: Nicholas Watts
Sand Dune, Tracey Deep, willow, jute. Photo: Nicholas Watts
Installation view, Tracey Deep. Photo: Nicholas Watts

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