Godman's gardens in the sky

One of Lloyd Godman's art works hanging in Melbourne, Australia.
One of Lloyd Godman's art works hanging in Melbourne, Australia.

Former Dunedin environmental artist Lloyd Godman has just installed the first of his Airborne works in Melbourne - sustainable hanging air gardens suspended over a public plaza. Gavin Bertram reports.

Lloyd Godman dealt with 15 government departments to successfully install the first of his Airborne works in Melbourne last weekend.

The former Dunedin artist says it was simply a matter of complying with the necessary red tape and just keeping going.

Funded by a Melbourne City Council Arts Grant, Airborne is the world's largest series of sustainable rotating air gardens, suspended above a plaza in the city's Northbank area.

The striking works are constructed from frameworks adorned with living bromeliad plants that take in water and nutrients through their leaves.

"I started studying them and I realised some of the species don't need any roots or soil at all," Godman says.

"There are quite a few artists who try to put plants in galleries, and within a week the air conditioning just kills them. Whereas these plants I've had in galleries for up to three months, and no problems."

Having grown up in Dunedin, Godman became interested in photography and eventually set up and ran the photography section of Otago Polytechnic's School of Art.

He says he'd always been a gardener too, and the two things eventually came together in his art. Godman had a revelatory moment in 1996 when he realised plants were something he could work with.

"I became I more interested in photosensitivity than photography per se," he explains.

"Things that were sensitive to light. And what grew from that was the idea that the planet is the largest photosensitive emulsion that we know of - it's a huge, abstract, ever-changing photograph."

Since 1983 Godman commented on environmental issues in his work, but he had a realisation that environmental artists had to move on to actually contributing. As he says, photographers going to Antarctica to document ice melting en masse doesn't help the issue, and nor do painters using toxic materials.

Whereas his plant works create no waste, don't present storage issues, and bridge the "nature/culture" divide.

"They are nature as much as they are culture," he says.

"Most other work makes a comment about nature, but they're representations, they're not nature itself. These pieces are a piece of culture that is nature. There's a distinct paradigm shift there that I'm trying to explore."

There are more Airborne works to be hung over the next month, which will be suspended above the Les Erdi Plaza until the end of the year.

Godman has had interest in similar projects from Brisbane and Dunedin, has discussed various ideas with architects, and garnered interest from design publications in London and New York.

He believes there is much potential for the kind of work he has been exploring with Airborne.

"There's plenty of scope and plenty of space to do things," Godman says.

"These works are like prototypes and we're still testing things out. It's a whole new field really."

D Scene