Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea might feel a world away, but Carla Moss’s exhibition in our Porch Gallery brings the history of the area into sharp focus, with a stark warning about the realities of manmade environmental degradation. You can see the exhibition at Left Bank until 9 October, weekdays 10am to 5pm and weekends 11am to 4pm.
This set of 12 oil paintings depicts a panorama of the Aral Sea, formerly the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world. Since the 1960s, the lake has been slowly disappearing due to irrigation projects instigated by the USSR. These projects diverted water from the rivers feeding the lake to nearby deserts, with the aim of growing lucrative exports like cotton on the previously arid land.
As the Sea shrank, it changed from a freshwater to a saline lake, killing the native fish. Additional pollution and the practical aspect of distance decimated the local area’s once-thriving fishing industry, creating unemployment and economic hardship. Due to its speed and scale, the shrinking of the Aral Sea is considered one of the worst environmental disasters of the 20th century.
Made to be presented in the round, the work is intended to be absorbing and experiential, yet also partly abstracted – designed to demonstrate the ongoing change that is inevitable in our non-static world.
Carla’s practice is concerned with our relationship to the environment, as well as with time and place. These paintings were created during her visits to Kazakhstan in 2003 and 2005, where she recognised that the Aral Sea disaster was a microcosmic example of humans’ relationship with the natural world.
This caused her to examine our separation from nature and how it relates to our understanding and experience of time. It seems to Carla that as our priorities have shifted and the demands on our time become greater, our consideration of the environment is squeezed out of the picture.
You can see more of Carla’s work at carlamoss.co.uk