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4. A Piece of Turf
The following is taken from a presentation delivered in 2022 at ICON11 titled Twists and Loops: Illustrating Ecologically. The aim of the talk was to reflect on the inputs and development of A Piece of Turf, a collection of drawings and prints produced in response to observations of a small patch of weeds. This work was brought together into a publication and exhibition alongside prose by Beatrice Karol.
The images shared in these posts are a collection of the ongoing investigation into these ideas around illustrating ecological complexity. These chinagraph drawings and monoprints are made in response to direct observations of patches of weeds from my allotment. In an attempt to make work that is ecologically aware, the observations are specific and particular as a means to avoid creating work that is archetypal or generalised. They’re messy, somewhat chaotic and haphazard in their execution, with a primary focus on tone and texture. This restriction of material and process allows me to ‘Stay with the Trouble’1 and the notion that things exist in a ‘mysterious and magical’2 way, that they withdraw from access.
Timothy Morton states that ‘Ecological awareness is dark, insofar as its essence is unspeakable. It is dark, insofar as illumination leads to a greater sense of entrapment.’3 By zooming into the details, I’m interested in the idea that it’s possible to become entrapped, to become lost, in the darkness. Rather than creating understanding of a thing, I want to celebrate the strangeness and the unknown-ness of that thing. Despite the number of studies and their function as a collection, they are still dark.
In response to the drawings and prints, my good friend Beatrice Karol produced a short, supporting piece of prose. We worked closely together to explore how the text, in assemblage with the imagery could also entangle some of these unrepresentable aspects I have discussed. This work was exhibited at Yorkshire Artspace and the publication4 is available to purchase here. Below is an extract from the writing.
roots tangle in soil in the soil excrement in the soil leaves in the soil wings legs eyes where cells meet cells mycelia links roots in soil roots join rhizomes join stems join leaves join flowers petals twist and bend with leaves share volatile compounds a leaf smells a leaf on a leaf are left invisible footsteps foot and paw imprint on crushed leaf and soft soil air weaves between branches released carbon devoured tannins run twigs carried in beaks become nests become twigs become soil beneath leaves drop become soil petals bow become soil snow hides shadows chase light melts snow becomes rain becomes water in roots becomes shoots now leaves share air
Thanks for reading! Continued next week in Part Five…
Haraway, D. (2016) Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene. New York; Duke University Press
Morton, T. (2016) Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 17