rainforest residency, first after thoughts – work processes


This blog can be found on the Trelex Residency website HERE 


I wanted to work with the rain — and this proved quite difficult.  Partly because due to El Niño it didn’t rain as much as usual, and because timing was complex – I wanted to do cyanotypes with rain, but managed only one that I kept.  I needed more paper, more time, more rain!   More satisfactory was mud coated onto paper, and then left in the rain, to register the marks of the rainfall.   However even this was limited.    It would pour, I would prepare the mud on paper which needed to be at a particular point of dampness before exposing it to the rain.  Then I would go out, and of course the rain would have stopped. This happened unaccountably and infuriatingly often.

I also gathered mud to experiment with.  I made small studies of oval shaped mud puddles — reminiscent of eggs or stones.  These dried over a period of several days on the floor of my room and insects crept and hopped out of the mud and over the paper leaving light traces and marks, or in some instances nibbling at the mud and making patterns that way.  I took this all as part of the rhythm and life of the finished sketch.    

On a few occasions I took puddles of paint or mud and left them out over night in the forest, hoping for some action, of insects or rain.   Only one was moderately successful.   The procedure itself was too frustrating in the given working circumstances — and on the whole they were either rained out or they dried too fast for anything to happen.

Later I began to have a lot of satisfaction with drawings of plants made with a pipette using earth from the forest mixed with gum arabic as a binder.    I drew plants I collected from the forest, engaging with them very directly — sometimes only looking at the plant and not even at the paper at all as I followed the form, tracing my seeing.   This helped make as direct connection as I could with the nature of the forest through the process of looking, feeling, drawing.

There was poetry too.  Early on when I’d lost my bearings and was somewhat lonely, my phone threw at me some John Clare poetry.    Phones do this sometimes — when you sit on them or they do ‘bag calls’.  It never feels quite random.   Out of nowhere my phone had got itself into the Kindle app and produced a poem!  It was a minor wonder as the deep communication the poem provided was just what I needed.   I decided I wanted to read John Clare to the rainforest. This early 19th century english poet of nature had suffered chronically due to the loss of the nature he knew, through the enclosures, landowners blocking off access to fields, woods and meadows.  I thought I’d take him through space and time to a different hemisphere via his poetry to an encounter with a tropical nature of now.  I found a way to do this and film it, in a watery area of forest.

And now I’m back but it still feels very recent.   Just three weeks ago I was there and it will take a while to process it all.  Having made a personal connection to this extraordinary place, I’m wondering how to apply this more widely.  I’m also thinking further of contexts including that of climate change, the impact of damage and loss.  I’m not there yet, but I’m beginning to shape the exhibition I intend to have and thinking of what else I will be doing going forward.

My feeling is that encounters with all variety of nature in this increasingly globalised world whose biosphere is in crisis, are radical and precious and that the creative language which emerges, in whatever art form, needs to be spoken out loudly.

31 January 2016.  London