Objets d'art really cool

Artist Gabby O'Connor has created a multimedia exhibition based on two visits to the Antarctic with scientists. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Artist Gabby O'Connor has created a multimedia exhibition based on two visits to the Antarctic with scientists. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A curious juxtaposition of art and science has created something beautiful at Otago Museum.

The multi-media exhibition by Wellington artist Gabby O'Connor is based on images of platelet ice crystals which form on the underside of sea-ice in the Antarctic's Ross Sea.

Ms O'Connor is visiting Dunedin as part of the New Zealand Antarctic Science Conference where she has talked about the benefits of art and science working together based on her experience working with scientists on two trips to the Antarctic.

When she was in the Antarctic last year and in 2015, she was struck by the beauty of the ice structures as they were pulled from the water and then melted within minutes.

They were especially beautiful when a few were fused together.

''When I scooped them out I kind of saw them as these very tiny incomplete sculptures.''

They reminded her of modernist sculptures from the 1960s and 1970s.

She also liked how they told a story about how they formed, which had wider implications for how the ocean moved underneath the sea ice.

The ice structures formed when the ice shelf melted and water entered the super-cooled almost -2degC ocean system.

The water sometimes ''flash freezes'' and rises up to the underside of the sea ice, creating the unique and beautiful crystal structures.

''We were scooping these out of holes in the sea ice and then I was taking photos of them.''

The images contributed to global climate models, as what happened in the Antarctic was a key driver for how the ocean moved around the world.

Computer models assumed it would be flat on the underside of the sea ice as it is in the Arctic, but the roughness showed the water was flowing in a different way.

Ms O'Connor said art could help tell important stories to people about things such as climate change, which was otherwise difficult for non-scientists to understand.

Her experience was ''almost proof'' mixing art and science worked.

The exhibition was made up of photos, painting, sculpture and ambient music incorporating the otherworldly, synthesizer-like calls of Weddell seals which she recorded.

''Weddell seals make the best noises ever.

''They sound like the opening theme song to Dr Who.''

The exhibition runs until Sunday in the Beautiful Science Gallery.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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