The Climate Wars: Q&A with artist Simone Eisler
Not a day passes without debate about the need to build a more sustainable and greener world.
In response, Queensland sculptor Simone Eisler has created a 7-metre-high living growing artwork, masquerading as a manicured topiary-like horse totally covered in native plants.
Featured in Curiocity Brisbane 2023, The Climate Wars sculpture resonates with the myths of the Trojan Horse and the biblical ark. Underpinning the artwork is the idea that forests are long gone and that the city we live in is a tough environment and a kind of fortress against the spread of nature. Through this artwork, Simone suggests that nature needs to go undercover, to infiltrate the city by appearing to be a wondrous gift. The art ‘ark’ for native plant species also acts as a transformative incursion into the city, celebrating the natural and organic world.
Instead of a palette of paints, Simone uses plants to interweave texture and colour, carefully arranging light and dark plants to promote the sculptural modelling of the horse form. Like many of Simone’s artworks, The Climate Wars is also a highly labour intensive production, with over 10 different species and 2000 plants overall planted in vertical gardens to cover the horse, including several species that mimic horsehair, mane and tail.
Set against the backdrop of the city, The Climate Wars aims not only to attract the public but to promote discussion and action.
Here, Simone shares her thoughts on the creation of her newest artwork, The Climate Wars and its message as part of World Science Festival Brisbane 2023.
Why have you titled this work The Climate Wars?
Essentially, it is promoting the idea that we need to save the planet from destruction from overdevelopment and land clearing. It is becoming a war – where we are fighting vested monied interests for a more sustainable planet. I have referenced the Trojan horse and the Trojan concept as an infiltrator. The war is not always out in the open but it is also about being proactive and planting and re-wilding. The Trojan horse is a gift – a beautiful gift to the city but one which can transform the city,
Is it important that the artwork is located at South Bank, on the other side of the city?
I love the way it confronts the city and especially the Casino (a symbol of our wasteful living). Importantly, by being part of Southbank it promotes the living nature of the Southbank parklands
Is it difficult working with materials that aren’t permanent – or making a living artwork?
I have been working with natural materials such as bones, animal skins, leaves and fish scales for a long time, but this is the first time l have made a ‘living artwork’. There are over 2000 native plants on this work which are in vertical garden pockets. They do require constant watering, and this unseasonal heat has not helped. Also, the design of the artwork has been so important, that is, how to cover a 3D rounded structure and to enable plants to fall a certain way to mimic mane and tail.
Whilst the work is making an environmental statement are there other elements of the work that you think are important?
My work always explores the magical or the enchanting – a large horse will always excite children and beauty is a key element. Much of my work involves reskinning re-adapting and revolving by developing new skin. This work is a reskin of sorts, through using growing plants.
How do you think the public will view this work?
Already people are photographing it as it is being installed! There is a real sense of wonder because of its size. We have a history of equestrian statuary here. Already people are understanding it and seeing its environmental statement. I hope that it will become a lovable object.
How does the work fit with the concept of World Science Festival Brisbane?
I know its not obviously technological, even though there was a lot of tech to develop the design and hanging structure. It is a promotion of the need to grow and support native plants and a broader promotion of re-wilding our suburbs and rural areas. It refers to the need for greater scientific understanding of how we are using this planet and how we can be more sustainable.
As an artist do you always work with environmental themes?
My work deals with themes of adaption and transformation – both literally around climate but also in the relationship between people and animals.
Do you enjoy working in the public?
Yes, it demands new ways of thinking and presenting. It also demands that, as an artist, you have to think of your audience. It is enjoyable when people appreciate your work and actually use it.
What other activities will be associated with this sculpture?
I will be running workshops aimed at children where they make a seed-bomb horse to start infiltrating the city with native plants.
Where do you think you will go with your work after this major piece?
It was wonderful to be able to do such a major work for such a key festival. I am hoping for more similar commissions. This work can be used for other events too, so hopefully it will have another outing or two. I will continue to make other public art and run workshops too.
Outside your art do you have a relationship with the environment and animals?
Yes! l live in a beautiful 250acre mainly forested property which l see myself as its custodian. I also have rescue horses, cats and a dog – a very loving group of animals!
Simone Eisler’s Curiocity Brisbane 2023 artwork, The Climate Wars can be seen during World Science Festival Brisbane from 22 March until 2 April 2023 at Riverside Green, South Bank Parklands. For more information on Simone’s workshops, visit the event page.