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Category Archives: Parallel Project
Idea 1: Pollen
I would like to expand this work, so have the idea of producing a series of drawings of pollen grains, then their transformation into pieces of sculpture.
Maybe move this more into mixed media drawing?
Some ink drawings of the actual pollen grains as a starting point:
Idea 2: Genetic Modification or cross pollination
Using a similar method to the idea above, this would start with a drawing of a pollen grain and another of a virus (or different pollen grain), then a series of drawings combining the two into a new form and from there into a sculpture.
This would require research into the science behind these first.
Idea 3: Bees
I might have the opportunity to get involved with an exhibition based on bee decline with my sculpture work. I could incorporate drawing much more in this process than how I usually work and see if it leads me into more interesting territory.
Idea 4: Textures
Produce 100 different texture drawings to result in 10 sculpted texture tiles?
Idea 5: Hidden environmental threats to the Yorkshire Dales National Park
- 3 artists (myself, Geoff Rushton and Anna Whitehouse)
- 3 hidden threats
- Bring science, environment and art together
- Exhibit in the National Park, a scientific establishment (Leeds University?) and an art gallery
Anna has the potential opportunity to use an electron microscope at Leeds University.
Environmental issues facing the Dales:
- Tree disease – ash dieback, similar disease in Juniper
- Species movement (due to climate change)
- Plastic – tree guards
- Traffic volume
- Farming – uncertain future post Brexit
- Invasive species
- Isolated habitats suffering encroachment
- Pest control – altering balance of natural predation
‘Hidden issues’ is an interesting idea, but as a group we wanted to follow this route to raise awareness of environmental issues, but when focussing on specific issues in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, there is very little or nothing the general public can do to help.
Idea 6: Focus on a 1km grid square and produce work based on that
This is an idea for collaborative work also, but rather than focus on the environmental issues at the outset, take an area of land and produce work based on what we find there – the environmental issues will no doubt come out as we do this.
Picking a location is currently a sticking point, but we are thinking of a place roughly at the mid-point between each of our three locations (so semi-random).
Idea 6 is the current front runner for my parallel project.
I want to explore:
- ink drawing
- rust printing
- gunpowder drawing / burning
- ‘drawing’ on bronze – lines on a 3D surface
Exploring a 1km grid square and producing work based on that – was agreed by the collaboration participants.
The 1km grid square was chosen by selecting a spot close to the central location between the three of us and we arranged a site visit to explore this area. It turned out to be an ideal site as it contains a wide range of habitats:
It also includes Barden Tower, a 15th century fortified house which was remodelled in the 16th and 17th centuries which is a very impressive ruin.
The first thing we came across when looking at the river was a large selection of signal crayfish remains. This is an invasive species which carries the crayfish plaque which wipes out the native white clawed crayfish. They are also much larger than the native crayfish and can out compete and even predate on them.
We also found Himalayan Balsam which is an invasive non-native plant. So invasive species could be a possible avenue to follow.
I spent a morning with conservation staff from the Yorkshire Dales National Park doing river fly monitoring in the river about 6 miles upstream of this site. We caught and examined the larvae of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. During this monitoring, we also found a non-native invasive snail (from New Zealand) and an American flower (which I forget the name of).
Ash dieback is very prevalent in this location, with all the small trees affected and many of the large ones showing signs of it. This is spread by very small white fungus which appear on fallen ash leaf stalks between July and October. The spores from these are dispersed by the wind and can travel long distances. I hope to be able to find some of these during this period to be able to study further.
We also found Alder Gall Mite and Bird Cherry Ermine Moths. The former causes wart like nodules on Alder leaves, the latter covers cherry trees in silk. Both look like bad news for the trees, but apparently don’t harm them much.
Brown, P. (2018). Specieswatch: Bird-cherry ermine moth. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jul/24/specieswatch-insects-caterpillars-moths [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
Woodlandtrust.org.uk. (2018). Ash dieback. [online] Available at: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-diseases-and-pests/key-threats/ash-dieback/ [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
Historic England. (2018). Barden Tower medieval fortified house and medieval garden earthworks. [online] Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1015417 [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
Plantlife. (2018). Himalayan balsam. [online] Available at: http://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/discover-wild-plants-nature/plant-fungi-species/himalayan-balsam [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
Orchard, P. (2018). Alder Gall Mite featured on the The Nature of Dorset. [online] Natureofdorset.co.uk. Available at: http://www.natureofdorset.co.uk/species/alder-gall-mite [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
Natureinthedales.org.uk. (2018). Nature in the Dales – White-clawed crayfish. [online] Available at: http://www.natureinthedales.org.uk/species/invertebrates/white-clawed-crayfish [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
I looked initially as her works like ‘Rice/Tree/Burial, 1968’, a piece which is thought to be the first ecologically conscious earthwork (Kino, 2012). This was a performance piece which involved planting a rice field, chaining trees and burying poetry in a time capsule. I have great admiration for works like this and whilst it chimes with my environmental concerns, it doesn’t chime with the type of work I want to produce myself.
On further investigation of her work, it became apparent that she has produced work in pretty much every field of art. The pieces of her work which appealed to me the most, are some of her drawings, a few of which I have made notes on below.
‘Stelae – Message from Another Time – Discoveries of Minds and People, 1986’
Carved marble inscribed with mathematical and scientific formulae. Looking at the scientific achievements we might carve onto a slab of stone to show the pinnacle of our thinking of the time, which could be unearthed in the future by archaeologists.
‘Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space – Map Projections: The Doughnut, 1974’
An ink and charcoal drawing of the globe in a doughnut projection.
‘The Human Hang-up Machine, 1969’
An ink drawing on graph paper which is like an engineering diagram for a machine, but with labels like “Degrees of Freedom”, or “Ethical Egoism Oscillator”. I am very taken by this work, engineering diagrams hold appeal to me for their precision and depiction of machinery and the explanation of how they work. This adds humour and a complexity which means you can spend a long time discovering new features of the work.
Her work appeals to me in the way she often combines science and art. Her drawings are precise which appeals to my way of working, although a little too precise and clinical sometimes for my taste. I want to find a balance of precise and random in my work if I can.
Kino, C. (2012). Agnes Denes Stretches the Canvas as Far as Can Go. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/arts/design/agnes-denes-stretches-the-canvas-as-far-as-can-go.html [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].
Moma.org. (n.d.). Agnes Denes. Human Hang-Up Machine. 1969 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/61777 [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].
Agnesdenesstudio.com. (n.d.). Agnes Denes. [online] Available at: http://agnesdenesstudio.com [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].
herman de vries
herman de vries (he uses lower case for his name to embrace equality) works with nature, using natural materials to produce installations, or rubbing earth on paper. ‘from earth: everywhere, 2015’ is a collection of 84 rubbings from different earth samples – de vries has over 8,000 different earth samples, so this is just a selection of these. The displaying of samples appeals to me and I have produced some work in a similar vein cataloguing textures.
His work is often uses natural objects as they are, with little intervention other than their placement. It is interesting, but mostly not where I want to take my work, although the cataloguing display is an area I have explored and may well take forward.
Ganstrom, L. (2015). herman de vries interview in the dutch pavilion at the venice art biennale. [online] designboom | architecture & design magazine. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/art/herman-de-vries-dutch-pavilion-venice-art-biennale-05-13-2015/ [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].
herman de vries. (2018). herman de vries. [online] Available at: http://www.hermandevries.org/ [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].
The Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) is a charity all about nature and the Arts, so it should be a good place to explore the ideas I want to look at.
‘Soil Culture’ project shows the amazing things you can discover when focussing on a particular issue, soil in this case. Exploring the science behind this is fascinating and provides an unlimited source of inspiration. Making art from this inspiration can then start a conversation about the environmental issues behind the subject. This brings issues to light which would not have been known about before.
Interesting quote from one of the videos (CCANW, 2014):
Dr Stephan Harding, Resident Ecologist & Head of MSc in Holistic Science
‘Information doesn’t work, I can show you tonnes of graphs of sea level rise, it won’t do anything to you, it will just switch you off, make you go back and watch your television even more. It doesn’t work. Fear doesn’t work either. The only thing that works is love. What we’ve got to do, is fall in love with the earth.’
CCANW (2014). Soil Culture. [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/112804613 [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
Ccanw.org.uk. (n.d.). Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World. [online] Available at: https://ccanw.org.uk/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
There was an exhibition of the work of Common Ground at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This is a group of artists who look for ways to engage people with their local environment, running workshops and engaging with other artists, organisations, public. The exhibition showed work from many of their projects and like many artists working in this area, they focussed on using natural materials to create their work. Whilst I admire this work, I was focussing on what I could get out of it to use in my own work and there were two pieces which stood out for me.
‘the Light Walk, 2016’ by Harriet and Rob Fraser
This was a series of wooden boards made from seven different woods (hawthorn, rowan, alder, scots pine, sycamore, birch, oak) with a laser cut GPS-tracking showing the seven day walk they took to travel between seven Long View trees.
The piece is visually attractive, appeals to my background working with maps, the poetry speaks to me about the environment they encountered and there is a great story about the journey they took behind the piece.
‘[G.H] Galgorm/Holly, 2018’ by Christine Mackey (and 4 other drawings in the series)
These are drawings of charcoal twigs which I presume were made with the charcoal twigs themselves. An idea I plan to use in my parrallel project work.
Common Ground. (n.d.). Common Ground. [online] Available at: https://www.commonground.org.uk/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
Fraser, H. and Fraser, R. (2016). Back from the Light Walk. [online] THE LONG VIEW. Available at: https://thelongview.today/2016/06/28/back-from-the-light-walk/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
The result of this research and much thinking around this subject was the identification of the key issue for me. I want to highlight environmental issues, whilst working in my chosen mediums of bronze and steel sculpture, or rust printing and gunpowder. I am not looking to change the mediums I work with to suit the subject, but a way to approach the subject using the materials I respond to. In some ways it seemed that by using more industrial materials, I may be contradicting myself and I battled with this issue for a long time. However, I believe it is more about getting the message across and I don’t believe the materials should matter in doing this.
A simple paragraph to write, but the crux of the issue which I have been battling with for many months now!
Having given the subject a lot of thought over the last few months, I have now decided what I want to look at and some ideas of the work I want to produce.
Ash: A Celebration and a Lament
This is a difficult subject as unlike many environmental issues, there doesn’t appear to be much we can do about this one. Ash dieback has spread throughout the country and the impact on the landscape around me in the Yorkshire Dales is huge. Ash trees make up a very high percentage of the trees in the Dales which is already a sparsely tree covered landscape and pretty much every Ash tree I see in my local environment is showing the symptoms of Ash dieback. The latest thinking seems to be to wait and see if any genetic strain of Ash is resistant to the fungus. It looks like 5-10% of ash trees may be resistant to the disease (BBC, 2018), but even if that is the case, the impact on my local area will be enormous and a lot of tree planting will need to be done to replace the habitats which will soon be lost.
What can I do? Well, I doubt many other people realise the extent of this issue, so I can raise awareness of it. Hopefully there will be some plan to address the issue at some point, in which case I can also raise awareness of that as well. What I can also do is celebrate the trees we still have at this moment in time. Having investigated the issue and noticed the impact it is having, it is also an issue I cannot now ignore and so I have to make work about it now.
My current thoughts are detailed below.
- Charcoal (made from ash twigs) drawings of dead leaf stems with ash dieback fungus (in ink?)
- Maps (in ink / rust prints?) with trees drawn on, then the ash trees burnt out (using soldering iron / gunpowder / sun and magnifying glass?)
- Sketches of planned sculptures as rust prints
- Ash dieback fungus
- Cast ash twigs, leaving the charcoal of the twigs in the moulds to give holes in the casts
- Model landscapes cast to partially fail (could make them fail in required areas in similar way to map drawings described above?)
- Ash dieback fungus – photograph and try to preserve some (resin?) + try to see spores
- Ash twigs – to cast + turn into charcoal
- 5(?) 1km grid squares – survey trees in the square and which ones of them are ash
- Dense black charcoal twigs
- What medium goes with the above for drawing the fungi
- Adding ink / watercolour to rust prints
- Research ash dieback
My ideas so far are more focused on the ‘lament’. I need to think more about how I get the ‘celebration’ part into there.
BBC. (2018). BBC Radio 4 – Gardeners’ Question Time, The New Forest. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000sdq [Accessed 4 Nov. 2018].
Originally the disease appears to have come to Europe from Eastern Asia (Baral and Bemmann, 2014). It was first identified in England in 2012 due to the importing of infected trees from the continent as well as from windborne ascospores (Orton et al., 2017). The increase in global trade is blamed for this and many other diseases of a similar nature. When you look at the figures which suggest that ash imports could have been as high as 3.5 million trees a year (Sansford, 2013), it is no surprise that the disease eventually made it to these shores.
From Forestry Commission reports, “Ash accounts for approximately 14% of total broadleaved standing volume in GB” (Sansford, 2013), but the impact when looking at the Yorkshire Dales National Park is much greater. “Ancient semi-natural woodland covers about 1% of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. About 80% of this woodland is made up of ash, making it the iconic tree of the Dales.” (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, 2018)
Ash disease has two forms:
- When the tree is in leaf (summer), its form is Chalara fraxinea. It fives in leaves and twigs and damages them by releasing viridiol which is toxic to the tree. It also produces sticky spores called conidia which can be spread around the tree by rain
- In autumn, it turns into Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, a small white cup-fungus, which appear on fallen ash leave stems (midribs). These cups puff out ascospores (1/1000mm in size), one midrib can have around 20 cup-fungi, each producing around 1,500 ascospores an hour for about 2 weeks (Rackham, 2014) or around 100,000 ascospores each (BBC, 2018). These ascospores float on the air and are spread by the wind.
When I initially investigated Ash dieback, I thought it meant the end of all ash trees in the Yorkshire Dales, which would be a devastating loss. However, on further investigation it appears that this is not the case and it does not always kill the trees it infects. The disease starts in the leaves and spreads into the twigs and then can travel into the branch. However, the tree’s natural defence mechanism walls off the damaged areas and the infection appears not to continue in future year’s growth and new shoots form from buds below the damaged area (Rackham, 2014). In less vigorous trees the new shoots can become infected also and the whole tree may die. This is also certainly the case in young trees as is evident in the woods near my house.
Some trees appear to have a genetic resistance to ash dieback and in studies 5-10% of trees do better than others, even when next to dying trees. Professor James Brown is confident that ash will recover in Britain, but it will take a few hundred years for this to happen (BBC, 2018).
It was interesting doing the research into the disease, but what am I going to do with this new found knowledge? Well, apart from being less depressed by knowing some ash trees are likely to survive, I have taken a few things from this:
- Much of the detailed science in the available papers on the disease goes over my head, but many of the papers provide diagrams and images of the fungus and ascospores which have interesting forms and may provide inspiration for drawings or sculptures.
- Representing the two different states of the disease might be an interesting approach?
- The release of many thousands of ascospores might be interesting to represent – maybe with charcoal dust, or sparks from gunpowder?
- The likelihood of some trees surviving gives a glimmer of hope – this might be represented by using gold leaf?
Baral, H. and Bemmann, M. (2014). Hymenoscyphus fraxineusvs.Hymenoscyphus albidus– A comparative light microscopic study on the causal agent of European ash dieback and related foliicolous, stroma-forming species. Mycology, 5(4), pp.228-290.
BBC (2018). The New Forest. [podcast] Gardeners Question Time. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000sdq [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
Orton, E., Brasier, C., Bilham, L., Bansal, A., Webber, J. and Brown, J. (2017). Population structure of the ash dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in relation to its mode of arrival in the UK. Plant Pathology, 67(2), pp.255-264.
Rackham, O. (2014). The ash tree. Toller Fratrum: Little Toller Books.
Sansford, C. (2013). Pest Risk Analysis for Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus for the UK and the Republic of Ireland. [online] Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140904094312/http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/pestsDiseases/documents/hymenoscyphusPseudoalbidusPRA.pdf [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. (2018). Ash dieback hits Park. [online] Available at: http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/living-and-working/other-services/press-office/news/recent/ash-dieback-hits-park [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
I plan to make 5-6 large drawings using maps as a starting point with holes burned through where ash trees stand.
I also plan to make a similar number of large drawings of ash midribs with Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (white cup-fungus).
I will also produce some accompanying sculptures.
I made some smaller test map pieces so I could try out various different ideas on them without being too worried about the wasted time and expense with the ones which didn’t work.
Rust print and burning only:
This works well, but I don’t feel it is enough on its own. The burn marks are also too precise and controlled. I may have to try this using gunpowder on a full size version.
Adding ink to represent the non-ash trees in the landscape:
The green ink I have is a bit too sickly. I might be better doing this in watercolour if I want to add colour in this way.
Adding black ink detail:
I like this combination of randomness and precision. My concern is whether this will translate well to the larger images. Maybe some small sections like this would work?
Here I tried using masking fluid to mask out a leaf pattern over the whole map, wetted the paper and drew around the masked area in black ink:
I don’t think this was very successful, the masked areas are too roughly done when on top of the (relatively) crisp rust marks. Also it ended up with two different images your eyes try to picture alternately, more likely to make you cross eyed than interested.
Adding an ink drawing of the cup-fungus (in white ink) on a midrib (in black ink):
This is similar to the previous test in fitting two different images on top of each other and again I don’t think this one works either.
Adding gold leaf in some of the burn holes:
Representing rays of hope in some ash trees hopefully surviving the disease. On its own it is not hugely successful, but it may work with the detailed ink drawings? It is too hard to tell on a small scale though and may have to be tried on a full size version.