Marian Tubbs moved from Sydney to the northern New South Wales town of Lismore in February this year, and already this new setting is weaving its way into her practice. A new installation for we need privacy guys here too will include objects with a peculiarly subtropical feel: sea sponge, wax cast into branching coral forms, and eroded styrofoam as host to grasses and weeds. The form complements the subject matter: there’s a work alluding to Lismore’s outrageously precipitous roads, a video treatise on coral mining, and images of enormous fractal cauliflowers (these were found online, although Tubbs is also growing her own).
The opportunity to exhibit at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) Art Gallery comes with layers of importance for Tubbs. She grew up on the Sunshine Coast, where much of her family still lives. There is also the significance of a university gallery: Tubbs is an artist and academic. Curated by Hamish Sawyer, this show will function as a mini-survey, featuring video, painting, digital painting, sculpture and installation from the last five years. Tubbs sends through some stills—a small sample from the videos that will feature on a wall of screens. The images are full of tension and dichotomy: slick and messy, beautiful and grotesque, playful and serious. There is a textural overwhelm too, with shiny metal jaws, iridescent sea creatures and snakeskin; exposed wires, graph lines and lumpen polyps.
Combinations of technology, nature and science are also present in Tubbs’s digital paintings, printed on reflective aluminium with small, machine-cut circular holes. These holes could be voids or portals, and they remind us that the slick images on the surface always have some referent in the real world. These days, it can be strangely comforting to remember that all things digital actually have a physical counterpart.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.