Berocca and neuroplasticity – Sea Tears wins Gold Coast Art Prize 2015

Neuroplasticity is the potential that the brain has to reorganise and adapt by creating new neural paths. Think of the neurological changes being made in the brain as the brain’s way of tuning itself to meet your needs. And Berocca is Berocca, the vitamin filled drink that gets a lot us going in the morning. And then there is Hiromi Tango and Sea Tears.

Sea Tears is the winner of Gold Coast Art Prize 2015 and as such the latest acquisition in the Gold Coast City collection. “Like a Berocca to the senses, Tango seduces us into her mad and obsessive collecting. Like a bowerbird, she mines her immediate surroundings and experiences to create works that are both autobiographical and take the pulse of contemporary society.” judge Nick Mitzevich, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia describes the winning piece.

At first glance the piece seems to jump out off the wall it’s hanging on. It is a colourful, bright and playful 3D sculpture but the meaning and process behind it takes the viewer to a much deeper, more emotional journey. As the artists described it herself, during the

creative process she went through an array of emotions all of which left their mark in the piece; a period of anger produced the red elements, feelings of comfort were reflected in the ocean, the coral and the calming blues.

Sea Tears follows the shape of a seahorse, used a metaphor for the seat of memory and emotion in the human brain. The Hippocampus, named after a seahore for its shape, is associated mainly with long-term memory as well as emotional regulation. The sculpture’s numerous tendrils branch and intertwine, coil and terminate like neural networks. Acts of sorting, wrapping and weaving create the visual representation of neuroplasticity.

“Since 2009, my work has become increasingly preoccupied with brain structures, connections, and the promise of emotional healing and healthy development offered through the science of neuroplasticity. Poetic possibilities offered by nature including the seahorse, jellyfish, flowers, elements, coral reef and lizard’s tails have been explored as metaphors for regeneration and healing.” Tango explains.

But what you see on the wall in the gallery is not the whole story. Sea Tears is actually a performance installation. The performance, as Hiromi Tango explained, is an ever-changing component of the piece. On the day of my discussion with Ms Tango, her inspiration and content for the performance came from her father’s illness, on another day it was her thoughts and perceptions of the Gold Coast. Then again the static piece on the wall is constant and solid and it is our perception of it that is ever-changing.

Hiromi Tango is originally from Japan and in 1998, not knowing any English, Tango relocated to Australia. Working as a studio assistant for her now husband Craig Walsh, Tango started to develop her wildly unique practice. Nearly 20 years later, she is nationally and internationally acclaimed artists with site specific installations for the

Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane and various solo and groups all over the world including exhibitions in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong and Japan. At the moment Tango is working on her installation for the Adelaide Biennale in 2016. Hiromi Tango lives in Tweed with her husband and two children.

This piece is as intriguing, interesting, delicate and quirky as the artist who created it. And who said art wasn’t brain surgery? Or that Berocca was best enjoyed around the breakfast table?

Gold Coast Art Prize 2015 is on display in Gallery 1 and Foyer Gallery until 31 January.

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