Heather Matthew

Heather Matthew (Australia)

Title: Sea Garden
Medium: Mixed medium : cloth, handmade paper, plastic rubbish, cotton thread
Size: 21 x 29cm
Price: AU$350

Heather Matthew is a paper artist living in northern New South Wales, Australia. She uses much of her handmade papers in collages, artist books and sculptural installations. Her work is about interconnection between the human and non-human world; place, occupation and environmental crisis.

Matthew has experienced first-hand the effects of climate change when her studio was flooded in 2017. During her 2019 artist residency in Iceland she saw the receding Icelandic glaciers and returned to find the east coast of Australia in the grip of extreme bushfires. Her sculptural installations of paper pulp respond to the world in crisis. Matthew holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) from Southern Cross University and has been selected for numerous regional and international exhibitions.

Everyday millions even trillions of tiny plastic particles are washed along the shorelines of beaches all over the world, carried and deposited by the tides. Inside the stomachs of fish, birds and giant sea mammals, these large and small plastics accumulate. Shredded plastic bags drift like translucent jellyfish, appearing as enticing food to sea creatures.

Each morning I walk along the beach and find myself collecting plastic rubbish. I am drawn to the high visibility of colours, especially the variety of blues that seem to poke out through the knots of coastal seagrass. I return to the studio to fuse plastic to my handmade paper.

In this work, Sea Garden, I dipped linen in blue recycled cotton pulp which I also used to create a paper sea creature swimming through the garden. Fused and stitched into the foliage are plastic and mesh produce bags along with my tidal collections of fishing line, plastic particles, cellophane food wrappers and balloon fragments.

I imagine underwater sea gardens with kelp and translucent plastic bags drifting and blooming in the ocean depths. If this garden wasn’t so deadly it would look beautiful in all its colours, a triumph of human hubris bringing indelible loss of fragile interconnected ecosystems.