Drawing a line in the sand

Merinda Davies, 31, of Burleigh Heads, was studying law and international relations at the Gold Coast’s Griffith University campus when her art career spiralled.

Jun 06, 2023, updated Jun 13, 2023
Conversations with the Forest artwork by Merinda Davies photo by Ellamay Fitzgerald

Conversations with the Forest artwork by Merinda Davies photo by Ellamay Fitzgerald

Davies, a multi-design artist across performance, installation, text and writing, is currently working with the support of the City of Gold Coast, on a 100-year-project “Conversations with the Forest”, in which she is examining how trees in Surfers Paradise, “communicate and listen”.

She is also part of the current Placemakers INCUBATE* program.

The program, Generate GC, is in partnership with Situate Art in Festivals in Tasmania.

“I’ve always spent a lot of time in nature. Working with sound and actual plants in a Surfers Paradise art studio provided by the City of Gold Coast, I am looking at the forest which was here 100 years ago,” she said.

“There were particular plant species which were part of the rainforest and there are some remnant trees still there.

“I am working in consultation with local Kombumerri woman Justine Dillon and I’m growing a forest indoors and trying to find the right site outdoors to install it for 100 years. It’s not just a temporary piece.

“I never thought I would be so fascinated by Surfers Paradise. After spending more time I now have a deeper understanding of it.”

White Rabbit Theatre Founder Lisa Smith photo by Tyler Alberti

Lisa Tilley, 42, Founder and Artistic Director at White Rabbit Theatre, is committed to making work that is “playful, original and impactful.”

White Rabbit’s performances are text-based and narrative driven based largely on dialogue where “the story is Queen”.

“We are in the process of transitioning into a small-to-medium business rather than just project-based. The gift of COVID was having some time to reassess the company,” she said.

“We had a studio space in Currumbin before March 2020 and at this point we are just kind of floating about but are based at the southern end of the Gold Coast.”

White Rabbit Theatre’s The Grand photo by A.Ashley


Tilley said White Rabbit Theatre had benefitted from a number of grants over the past decade including the City of Gold Coast’s Regional Arts Development Fund.

“This has made the difference between being able to make the work and not make the work. We don’t put on work where we are asking the artists to work for free,” she said.

Best known for its delivery of the annual contemporary art festival BLEACH*, Placemakers* Gold Coast is seed funding 30 projects with support from the Australian Council for the Arts.

Among these programs is the INCUBATE* Residency program which invests in big ideas and supports professional practice.

Both Davies and Tilley are also beneficiaries of this residency.

Davies has been working on the relationship between humans and the environment.

As part of her residency, she has been interviewing women in Miami, Gold Coast and those in Miami, Florida, where she will head in June, on the concept of “pleasure”.

Her findings will be translated into books, audio and latex artworks.

“It’s a very intimate work but it’s not just about sexual pleasure. It’s a topic that isn’t openly spoken about, especially for women,” Davies said.

“When I was starting to research this, women were coming back to tell me the environment is a really big side of pleasure. People would talk about how they’d lay on the ground and it would fill them up or one woman spoke about her relationship with the moon.

“It’s a bigger metaphor for what we are doing to the environment and how we are treating our bodies.”

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Davies, who last year was also supported by the City of Gold Coast’s Regional Arts Development Fund to present a dance project at HOTA, said the city’s cultural scene had developed significantly.

“The Commonwealth Games brought in a big injection and key companies to the Gold Coast,” she said.

“To be able to create a vibrant art scene you need to create opportunities for artists to work.

“It may be a bit hard to see from the outside but once you key into a couple of things you will be able to find it.”

Tilley said White Rabbit Theatre used its INCUBATE* residency to start working on a new piece which will have its first play reading at HOTA in January 2024.

“The Gold Coast art scheme has changed exponentially over the past 10 years, and I think we now have an arts’ industry that is bolder, more curious and more unexpected than it once was,” she said.

“There is so much more opportunity for artists to be supported in making, testing and presenting of their work.

“There is more infrastructure, funding and support for artists.”

White Rabbit Theatre used its INCUBATE* residency to start working on a new piece which will have its first play reading at HOTA in January 2024.







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