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A dreamy exploration of emotion and the ocean

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Penny Coss, ‘The Twist of the Sea’ ·
Moores Building ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Commissioned for “UNDERCURRENT 19”, the second edition of the Fremantle Biennale, “The Twist of the Sea” is a solo exhibition of works by Perth-based artist Penny Coss. The exhibition borrows its title from a translation of the Portugese “volta do mar”, a historic sailing technique involving the use of trade winds to navigate ships.

Through these works, which were all created in Fremantle, Coss seems to suggest linkages between the flow of the currents and our emotional states – a comparison encouraged by the excerpts from Walt Whitman’s poem “As I ebb’d with the ocean of life”, installed onto the outer walls of the gallery.

A bewitching large-scale video projection, Twist of the Sea (2019), follows two ethereal figures who drift on the ocean’s currents in inflatable swim rings. Dreamy underwater shots are mixed with aerial footage of brightly coloured fields of dye gently diffusing through the water around them. Much as historic ships were dependent on permanent wind patterns, these figures follow the movement of the water, which is evocatively accentuated through the swirling clouds of dye.

Is this mindful choice – their act of giving up control, of being driven by the wind? Or are the figures being passively swept along, helpless in the face of the movements of their environment?

In the following gallery, the assemblage Cool Breeze (2019) presents a flock of swim rings suspended in motion. Their top surfaces have each been covered in a thickly painted pastel colour – like the past traces of the waterline have become a tangible marking.

The final gallery houses three suspended screens showing video works exploring meditative repetition, the interplay of substances and forces, and the movement of the ocean.

This exhibition fits beautifully upstairs within the historic Moores Building, a quintessentially “Fremantle” venue in a port city so closely linked to the ocean.

“The Twist of the Sea” runs until 24 November 2019.

Pictured top is  a still from the bewitching large-scale video projection, “Twist of the Sea”, by Penny Coss.

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