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A steep staircase descends into Jane Gillings' subterranean art studio, with a sign perched above the narrow entrance inviting you to enter her 'Bower'. It accurately describes the jewel-like treasure trove that lies within. A rainbow labyrinthe of bright plastic objects and found materials, all carefully ordered into various boxes and shelves, are graded into a candied assortment of colours and shapes. Gillings, in fact, refers to the bower bird as her 'artistic totem'. Like her ornithological soul mate, the artist is an obsessive hoarder and collector.

Ever since a bowerbird once vividly appeared to her in a dream, she has formed a fixation with creating beautiful objects out of found materials. "I come from an entire family of hoarders", comments Gillings. "My brothers and I are cursed/blessed with the same affliction. I think it's genetic. We collect to the point of suffocation. We sort and catalogue. Assign and combine..." Her studio is filled with the modern detritus of life - plastic cutlery, packing strap, dismembered toys, drinking straws, bread tags, used toothbrushes, empty pill packets, vegemite lids, spray can pumps, all the 'leftovers' of consumption that normally end up as landfill.

Friends and neighbours drop off bags filled with discarded plastic products, destined for the rubbish tip, awaiting Gillings' original vision to infuse them with a new lease of life. In some form of alchemical wizardry, the artist transforms all these parts, painstakingly combining the individual components to create exquisitely playful art objects. The self-trained artist derives her inspiration from an eclectic background, having worked in taxidermy at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and in architectural modelmaking.

Her studies in woodwork, linocut printmaking, Asian calligraphy and fabric painting, as well as the influence of artistic mentors such as Joseph Cornell, Rosalie Gascoigne, Robert Klippel and Andy Goldsworthy, all contribute to her current work. Recent artworks have included an enormous wreath, comprised of individual plastic sculptures inserted directly into the grassy headland at Bondi, for the 2007 'Sculpture by the Sea' exhibition. This dazzling floral array attracted scores of visitors, as much for its intricate quirky elements and colourful design, as for its underlying ecological message about domestic and commercial waste.

In last year's 'Fragile Planet' exhibition at NG Art, she created an entire planetary globe, with each country made up of plastic parts from our throw away society. The work was a weighty reminder of the consequences of our addiction to consumerism. Gillings' current exhibition is a celebration of her love of Australian fauna - and native bird life in particular. A keen birdwatcher, she creates life size replicas of common garden birds, such as currawongs, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos and rosellas, perched alongside rarer endangered species', alerting us to the importance of protecting our indigenous wildlife. As she sits in her studio, the artist points out an eastern spinebill outside, contentedly feeding on the grevilleas in her garden.

For Gillings, the stuff of art can sometimes come directly from outside her back door... After eight years of working with found objects, Jane Gillings' ready-made sculptures have developed an idiosyncratic humour and personality of their own. Her plastic aviary of birds on display are set out to entertain as well as attract the viewer with their singular beauty. And the centrepiece of this display is the totemic satin bowerbird, resplendently adorned in his Yves Klein blue plumage, luring us into this ornate bower that Gillings' has created for our visual pleasure.

Victoria Hynes

To download and view a PDF of Jane Gillings' biography click here

To watch an interview with artist Jane Gillings click here

Found Feathered Friends Exhibition: Artwork list & Price list.

Found Floral Follies - a catalogue of floral works as seen in Sculpture by the Sea 2008 and on exhibition at Mission

Jane Gillings Media: Sydney Morning Herald | Nov 2008
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