At last! New work on the underway building on the Henry Moore Research Fellowship. Finally able to bring to fruition tests and notes related to fieldwork undertaken at Le Musée d’histoire du Valais, Switzerland over two years ago. The result is Emergency, a group of works responding to domestic artefacts emerging from alpine glaciers as a result of climate change as the ice in which they have been preserved for 50, 500 or 5000 years is melting at unprecedented rates. This rare and valuable archaeology provides important knowledge about human past, yet insight comes at the cost of environmental change and threatened futures. How might processes of drawing - with its narratives of marking and erasure - negotiate these ideas and find ways of thinking through loss and change?
The works - I think of them as drawings - are made by sandwiching powdered graphite between fine sheets of wax paper, fused with heat to seal the image. Like my earlier wax works, this is a new iteration of a drawing that embodies the material conditions of its subject - if it gets too hot, the drawing will blur and fade or even disintegrate entirely.
The work extends research around the mould and stencil - how each captures and forms spaces of presence and absence be it in 3d or 2d - considering what relationship might exist between these devices.
The drawings hang in space - perched, suspended in limbo. It is a precarious state of existence, one which always offers the possibility of falling down, seeming anchored securely to neither wall or floor. In space, the sheet is exposed in all its thin vulnerability, exposing its material insubstantiality (Ginsborg, 2001) inhabiting the clothes of sculpture, it invites the danger of touch without sculpture's robust materiality to withstand the contact.
The space on/ within the sheet is also explored through folding crumpling it into objects , boulder like forms, scattered across the gallery floor. Peaks and fissures of waxed paper echoing the geological trauma that formed the alpine peaks 65 million years ago, when ancient continents collided, crumpling up the sea bed forcing it high in the air.
The objects peer out like dirty stains and scars, encased within. Subject to the same crumpling as the icy looking surface within which they are encased, the drawings aspire to the precarity of the glacial artefacts, suspended and fragmentary within the ice. Hidden from sight, fallen out of human memory, they lie protected from elements within the ice. But this space is not static, ice rivers are always slowly making their descent down the mountain. Each year they are moving, growing or, more commonly now, receding, the surface diminishing, releasing the objects from their icy slumber. A wake up call that places the object at risk, and heralds the creeping warmth of climate emergency.