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Artwork makes new home for marine life

CULTURE/ANIMALS



Within a few hours of being sunk at the end of world-famous Busselton Jetty in Western Australia’s south-west, a one-tonne, ceramic art sculpture has become a new home for a range of marine life.


The piece was one of 13 sculptures placed under the sea at the end of the Jetty — the longest timber-pile jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Over the space of a few weeks the artworks have become an artificial reef.


“I was relieved to see just hours after the first sculpture installation, a massive school of skipjack trevally came through,” says jetty environmental manager Sophie Teede. “The trevally were quite attracted to the ship sculpture initially. In the weeks after, as the other sculptures went in, I think we’re close to 20 species that are actually using the sculptures as a habitat.”

The artworks range from bronze mermaids to 10-metre-long steel whales.


“The marine life will colonise over them,” Teede says. “So we’ll still have the form of each of the pieces and some of the minor, the intricate details, may be colonised over.”


She hopes the South-West community and tourists will revel in watching this new environment grow. “Initially, people will be coming to see the sculptures and artistic nature,” Teede expects. “We’re hoping over time as they continue to come and visit they’ll also be gaining an appreciation for the marine life as it grows over and becomes the reef.”


One of the sculptures, a three-metre-tall ceramic ‘Postmaster General’ by artist Georgia Zoric, was inspired by a descendant of fellow ceramic artist Ian Dowling, who during World War II would ride his bike to the end of the jetty every day to collect the post and check customs.

“I suppose I just loved the idea of Australian clay making an Australian person under such an iconic Australian structure as the Busselton Jetty,” she says.



Zoric says while many people think of ceramics as fragile, they are in fact hardy. “Ceramic stoneware jars are the only things that can survive millennia under the oceans virtually unscathed,” she notes. It took her four months to build the artwork and she had to borrow a larger kiln to fire it in three separate pieces.


While the artwork is visually appealing, Zoric says it was the small details that marine life will appreciate. “Underneath my Postmaster General is a layer of stoneware bottles that I’ve cut holes in so octopus and cuttlefish and eels and fish can live inside and easily hide,” she adds.


Even though some of the art pieces can be seen from the jetty, the best view is during a dive to the ocean floor. However, Zoric has another way. “My son has already rigged up a GoPro on a fishing line so I can send that down there when I need to have a look at him,” she says. She plans to dive down to get a closer view sometime in the future “once I get my courage up”.


TOP Part of the Postmaster General sculpture, which was sunk near Busselton Jetty.

PHOTO Georgia Zoric

ABOVE LEFT Mermaid sculpture

PHOTO Sophie Teede

ABOVE RIGHT Ceramic artist Georgia Zoric standing next to her Postmaster General sculpture

PHOTO Georgia Zoric


Initially, people will be coming to see the sculptures and artistic nature. We’re hoping over time as they continue to come and visit they’ll also be gaining an appreciation for the marine life as it grows over and becomes the reef.

Sophie Teede



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