Personal Structures Exhibition, Venice Biennale


The two paintings about Venice demonstrate Peter Day’s extensive experience in creating issues-based and site-specific artworks. Day has painted over 100 murals, including some of the largest in the southern hemisphere, and has created many public sculptures in various media.

The form and presentation of these two paintings are inspired by theatrical backdrops, which are relevant to the theme of the drama, and painted union banners, which are renowned for stridently advocating social issues and human rights.

Peter’s interest in Venice commenced when conversing with Assessor De Martin of the City of Venice. They discussed Council’s obligation to the world to maintain Venice as much as possible because Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The upkeep of Venice involves a great deal of investment, commitment and organisation.

The uniqueness of Venice is indicated by the amount of interest it generates in the rest of the world, especially in terms of tourism, arts, and architecture. Day was impressed with the willingness of Council to rise to such a great challenge, especially given the pressures imposed on the city by tourism, climate change, and even its residents.

A local business owner introduced Day to some scientific research by an eminent Venetian scientist, Rosanna Serandrei-Barbero, about monitoring organisms living at the bottom of the lagoon to gauge its health. These organisms are called Benthic Foraminifera (Forams), and we now understand their important contribution to the structure of Venice. Millions of years ago, the decomposition of the Forams created limestone. Since a large component of Venice is limestone, Venice might be described as made of Forams.

In these two artworks, Day asks: Is it not curious that the monitoring of Forams is contributing to the well-being of Venice when we in the world are not doing much to safeguard them? This question takes on particular significance when we realise that Forams will be extinct by the end of the century due to climate change and the acidification of the sea, after existing for 750 million years.

The painting ‘Forams’ reveals the structure of the City of Venice by espousing the link between Forams and Venice. A graphic of the Forams is shown embracing Venice.

The painting ‘Aqua Alta’ depicts a fragment of the courtyard in front of the Museo Archeologico, being consumed by the Aqua Alta. This is a specific example of the effect of climate change on Venice. A lot of the paving in Venice is limestone, which came from the bottom of the sea (Forams – Benthic Foraminifera). If climate change continues and the sea rises significantly, the pavements of Venice will again be part of the bottom of the sea. The word benthic means occurring on the bottom of a body of water.

Both paintings were designed digitally from photographs Peter took in Venice in mid-October 2022.

Peter incorporates community engagement into his arts practice and consults on public art strategy and urban design to the three tiers of government, property developers, and other institutions in Australia. He has worked with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations. Peter has held approximately 35 solo exhibitions of his paintings, sculptures, and prints.

Forams – The Structure of Venice, 2024. Acrylic and oil, gold and silver leaf on linen, 220 x 220 cm.

Aqua Alta – Reclaiming, 2024. Acrylic and oil, gold and silver leaf on linen, 220 x 220 cm.