Murray-Darling art: take me to the river

UNDER A CLOUD

Until Friday

Theatre space, Backstage Hope, Rear of Building 40, UOW

The sounds of river wildlife and water dripping into an array of vessels from large cotton clouds make you not want to leave the dark, tranquil room that houses the Under A Cloud exhibition.

But artist Kim Williams is not simply trying to achieve tranquillity in this exhibit.

This is a work that reflects her passion for looking after the Murray-Darling Basin.

"What happens out there is important to all of Australia - and it's relevant for those living in cities too," Williams says.

Her concern for the Murray-Darling grew while she was the artist in residence at Wollongong Art Gallery from 2008-09.

Now completing a master of creative arts (research) at the University of Wollongong, Williams has gathered ideas from journals she kept during two trips along the river to complete the multimedia installation as part of her studies.

"I walked, I filmed, I recorded sounds and interviews," Williams explains.

The 50-minute DVD took four months to edit, with images from it also being projected onto a large basin in the middle of the main exhibit.

Surrounding the huge central basin are smaller vessels including a milk can and funnel, a vessel holding red dirt and bones and another holding shells. Each vessel, including the basin, is bordered by cracked clay pieces resembling a dry riverbed.

"The basin encapsulates the whole river and the vessels are to me the different places along the river - like the sand and shells are Coorong, the bones are Menindee and the milk can and funnel are Louth," she says.

Williams laughs at the irony of using cotton for the clouds; the cotton industry along the Darling River is controversial due to its effects on the river.

Williams keeps in contact with people she interviewed.

"Everyone had a different idea on how it should be managed but everyone agreed it had to be better managed," she says.

"Without the river the communities would die."

Williams estimates it has taken her two years to complete the work; building the clouds was extremely labour-intensive.

Williams has further ambitions for her art.

"It would be fantastic to get the work out to places like Bourke, or even better to get it to Sydney."

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