LION TIDES - Stories of Sea and Salt

LION TIDES – Stories of Sea and Salt

Barbie Kjar

Beyond sun and stars is the ocean.1

                                                                                                      Below the Water Line

Lion tides occur when the earth, moon and sun are aligned at perigee and perihelion. It is a tide just after a new or full moon, when there is greatest difference between high or low tides, commonly known as big tides.

This exhibition focuses on forms of navigation, as a swimmer and as a sailor.


As an ocean swimmer I am aware of an underworld, a world under the water, a world which is deep, unknown, at times treacherous but also calm and clear. It is abstracted with hues of green, debris, seaweed, creatures, jellyfish, fish, currents, light, dense, choppy, wild, transformative. Each time I came back to land I feel altered, in awe, and buffeted from a myriad of thoughts.


I have delved into a magic zone.

The transformative element to ocean swimming is compelling. There is a Spanish myth which tells of a man who went swimming off the southern coast of Spain and wasn’t seen for months until he was sighted in the north of Spain as a changed man covered in fish scales.


There is also no time delineation except the light and sun and moon. The horizon gives a sense of distance and perspective and the night sky. I swim amongst this world with a group called Seagals and individually. It is largely silent and deep. I swim deep and reflect on changing climatic conditions, global warming, threatened species in particular the hand fish and giant kelp in Tasmania, the impact of millions of plastic bottles littering the ocean and entrapping fish and other sea life.

The Polynesian Wayfinder, Mau Piailing once told navigator Nainoa Thompson, “If you can read the ocean, and if you can see the island in your mind, you will never  get lost.”2 This work is focused on looking at the night sky for direction, under the water for sea life and bull kelp forests, viewing the unknown through portholes where animated images of threatened sea life, the environmental catastrophe of plastic bottles, the man who emerges from the sea covered in fish scales can be seen in a private viewing space.

                                                           Constellations - Taurus

I have lived on the island of Tasmania most of my life, almost always next to the sea and have sea faring heritage in my ancestors. My artistic concerns are the rituals of human behaviour, connection to the natural world, identity, mythology and science, historical research and narratives. I am particularly interested in the impact of climate change, stories of the sea, navigation and the deep dark sea itself.

Lion Tides is a reflection of my preoccupation with the sea.

Lion Tides runs until 27 August 2023


1 Wade Davis, ‘The Wayfinders’, The University of Western Australia, 2009, p.58
Wade Davis, 'The Wayfinders', The university of western Australia, 2009, p.61