RaftRaft - the drifting border 2002-2008

“Looking down the long line of coast this morning as I begin these lectures. I see the first rays of the sun strike Mount Warning and am aware, as the light floods west, what a distance it is to the far side of our country-two time zones and more than three thousand kilometers away, yet how easily the whole landmass sits in my head-as an island or, as I sometimes think of it, a raft we have all scrambled aboard, a new float of lives in busy interaction”

- 1998 Boyer lectures by David Malouf  A Spirit of Play

“With this confronting exhibition, the artist Stephen Copland is concerned with how Australians fixate their hopes and fears on the watery border of the ocean – the wavering line that defines our cultural identity as an island and separates us from Asia with all its seemingly alien complexities and contradictions. The exhibition features works in a variety of mediums including bronze sculpture, digital film, wood, wax, painting, printmaking and drawing.

With an eye to our own history, Copland’s work reflects Australia’s response to asylum seekers and boat people. Copland takes his inspiration for the exhibition from the famous work by Theodore Gericault whose work “The Raft of Medusa” created a new shift in French romantic painting by addressing the subject of a contemporary political event where government corruption and incompetence led to a large loss of life due to the sinking of the frigate Medusa in 1818.

In 1818 the frigate Medusa, carrying soldiers and white colonists to Senegal sunk off the African coast. A raft was constructed by crew and passengers and drifted for two weeks until rescued with only 10 survivors. Two surviving officers Savigny and Correard petitioned the Government to compensate the victims of the shipwreck and punish the frigate’s captain, a corrupt Government appointee. Both officers gained support by writing a book. This book inspired Theodore Gericault’s famous painting The Raft of Medusa (1819) whose contemporary, the historian Jules Michelet wrote “it is our whole society that is embarked on the raft of the Medusa”

The social, political and economic changes to Australian culture in recent years, coupled with our changing views on the concept of migration and the idea of the coast are the catalyst for this series of powerful works which make up “Raft: The Drifting Border”. This series was exhibited on the anniversary of the MV Tampa crisis at Macquarie University Gallery (2009) in conjunction with the Department of Social Inclusion.

You may also like to view the Raft Catalogue.

Watch video:The Corrugated Sea


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