Refraction Principle

October 2018

Marine grade aluminium

4.2m x 80mm x 500mm

Based on a 3D scan of a driftwood stick from the Derwent River

GASP (Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park) Derwent River, Wilkinson's Point, Tasmania

(Please note: this work has been removed and gifted to the Clarence City Council. It is due for re-installation on the eastern shore of the Derwent River sometime in 2021-22.)

People say that a stick in water ‘appears bent because of refraction’… we may judge that the stick is straight…

But the sense alone does not suffice to correct the visual error

René Descartes, 1642

Refraction Principle marks the site where fresh river water and salt tidal water meet, creating a ‘Salt Wedge’. The schism in the sculpture embodies the opposition between invisible and apparent forces at the site and those acting in perception.

Following on from his participation in the Swimmable! LAB in 2014, Geurts undertook extensive on-site research and development of his project during a two-month residency with GASP and UTAS, Nov.-Dec 2015. This included the staging of a tidal drawing action: Drawing in: Derwent River (low tide-high tide). On the 4th November Geurts launched a small row boat from the GASP site, Wilkinsons Point at precisely 10:39am (low-tide), and set adrift upriver with the incoming tide for 5 hours until 03:42pm. The tidal line drawing that he produced references psycho-topographical mapping and the fluid dynamics of the river. The currents took him across the Derwent, past MONA, drawing him upriver, where he drifted ashore near the Cadbury’s factory.


Through critical investigation, James Geurts draws out geographic and conceptual forms that are layered within specific sites of research. The artist examines how natural and cultural forces shape perception. Geurts works across the disciplines of sculpture, drawing, video, photography and Land Art, including Archaeology of Time, public sculpture Victoria 2016. Exhibitions include: National Gallery of Victoria; White Cube, London; Gemak, Den Haag Netherlands; Centre for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv Israel; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; La Chambre Blanche, Quebec; and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

Read more about the artist.


GAGPROJECTS/Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Berlin
Contemporary Art Society, London

Curated by: Jonathan Kimberley & Pippa Dickson

Top and bottom right images by James Geurts. Bottom left image by Frances Butler

This project was presented as part of Swimmable – Reading the River.

With thanks to:

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info (at) gasp.org.au

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