FOR THE PAST four months, Quandamooka artist Megan Cope has been ensconced in the Marrickville Addison Road Community Organisation in Sydney’s inner west with a dedicated team collectively preparing for her new commission, Whispers, at the Sydney Opera House. Workers are sifting through 85,000 oyster shells collected from an array of hospitality outlets, hotels and restaurants. Kinyingarra — ‘oyster’ in Jandai language — shells are amassed in a vast warehouse where they are cleansed and perforated in order to be woven into a mammoth armature that will be seamlessly sited on and under the Sydney Opera House’s monumental stairs. An undulating wave of shells, this is Cope’s most ambitious work yet, involving more than 3000 hours of labour in what she refers to as “shell therapy — loving, cleaning, holding oysters and marvelling”.
Cope is adept at working collaboratively and collectively with a philosophy of deep listening to nature with its cyclical rhythms. “All the work I do is an acknowledgement of Country in practice through sculpture, painting and a process of remembering,” she says. Since April, she has held Scrub Clubs to gather workers to assist her and also to galvanise a communal effort. Process and preparation are part of the artwork. Her shell tapestry is about the psycho-geography of place and recalls Cope’s previous painting series After the Flood (2014) of elliptical shapes in iridescent blue that focus on river systems, topography, cartography and the cultural legacy of colonialism.
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