Monthly Archives: April 2019

Test Pieces

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.

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The Work

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.

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Research

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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).

Relevance

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?

References

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].

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Assignment four – Reflection

This piece worked quite well in the end. It would have been nice to have the pieces suspended so people could walk under it without garroting themselves, but I’m not sure how that would be possible without having them spinning rapidly around. I had worried that despite using the largest card I had, the pieces wouldn’t be large enough, but they showed up well enough. The more illustrative approach worked well, although they were better on the side photographed than the reverse.

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Assignment four – Installation

I had scouted out the local wood and picked an ash tree to ‘dress’, but on the way to it, picked out a more suitable specimen:

I took along all 7 triangles so I had the option to hang as many as would work whilst on site and used fishing wire to hang these in place. Hanging the first of these identified problems with the work spinning rapidly in the wind, so holes were added in the corners and attached to branches on the ground. This worked to hold them still, but meant that the work couldn’t be walked under due to many invisible wires going down to the ground! I also soon found out that I should have practiced some knots before I headed out!

After three triangles had been hung up, I decided that was sufficient and proceeded to take photographs of the pieces in place.

The video below may make you feel sea-sick as the ground was very rough to walk over!

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Assignment four – Preparation

I decided to link this to my parallel project and produce work based on ash dieback.

My initial idea was to use it as a test for the ash dieback fungus drawings I intend to produce as part of my parallel project, cut them into circles, stick them back to back and then hang from an ash tree.

Thinking this through, I questioned myself “why circles?”. It has no meaning, and is just a shape that might look good hung in a tree. It would also spin in the wind which might not be wanted?

Thinking about other possibilities, a triangle came to mind. On its own, this shape is similarly meaningless. However, using the language of road signs, it is a warning sign, especially with a red outline. This is exactly the message I want to get across. It also offers the opportunity to secure the corners to the ground if I didn’t want it to turn in the wind.

I started out making a small  triangle on card, before realising it would be far too small and would be lost when hung from a tree.

I dug out some larger black card and made 6 more triangles at the largest size I could manage. After drawing on 2 of these, I realised I needed to go more illustrative as these needed to be easily viewable and identifiable from a distance.

The last 4 worked better when I used cut out paper to create the designs.

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Project 3: Installation

I struggled to think of large-scale work which wouldn’t directly or indirectly (through use of materials) damage the environment. So I thought I might go small instead. So an early idea for this was to solder wires together to make spiders webs and leave them on dead trees in the local woods. I tried doing one of these, which worked out OK. However, whilst doing research for this section I began to question whether this would be an installation, or due to is being small, an intervention. I decided it would be the latter, although I guess a large number of them would increase the scale to the point of an installation.

I decided to re-think and came up with an idea for producing an installation in my spare room.

This is used as a general dumping ground when no-one is staying, so some clearing up will be required before doing anything, but I sketched out some ideas on photos of the room:

My thinking was to have a continuous line around the whole room, in some ways similar to Edward Krasinski’s blue tape line (Tate, 2019), although not a straight line and varying in media in different areas of the room.

Curtains – draw across window, line sewn in? Or maybe just in tape so doesn’t have a lasting effect on them.

Bookcase/shelf – line in wire coming out into the room similar to Eva Hesse’s line coming out from the picture frame (MoMA.org, 2010) – going through books on bookcase and around pots on the shelf.

Wardrobe/door – lines in masking tape to avoid damaging them.

Wall by door – have the line follow features in pictures on the wall (echoing work in project 2 when interacting with the environment).

Wall above bed – cover wall with life drawing images (maybe part cover them over in charcoal?) and draw a line across all of them in white or silver echoing a heartbeat from a hospital monitor.

I started with the curtains, using ribbon pinned onto them, with marking tape continuing the line to the next wall. Then I started on to the wire through the bookcase and shelf. I couldn’t bring myself to drill through any normal books, but I had a couple of work ones which were being thrown away. These required propping up as they were not very stable – I guess they could be glued down if this was a more permanent installation. It was more difficult than I thought it would be to make the wire do what I wanted it to, probably because my end points weren’t very stable.

Using masking tape around the cupboard and door worked OK, but the tape didn’t stick very well to the picture glass and it’s size meant that it obscured the features it was following rather than highlighted them.

I then covered the main wall in life drawing images. I decided to draw over them using red 3D paint. This worked quite well, but didn’t stand out quite as well on very dark areas as I had hoped.

Reflection

It was good to go big on this project and produce work which used the whole of a room. Scale often constrains my work as my house is full enough already without keeping adding to it. It was nice to shift scale and think what could be achieved on a large scale on a temporary basis.

I think the wire element of this installation could be developed more. Books of relevance (maybe one on Edward Krasinski?) could be used if I could bear to drill through them. More could be made of the wire puncturing these, or the wire could perhaps be shaped into words as it exits the books?

The masking tape over the pictures was too thick and ended up obscuring the features it was following rather than highlighting them. A thinner line in paint or wax might have been better (if it could be removed afterwards). What would have been really good to do would be to draw onto the landscape in a way similar to Christo and Jeanne Claude’s ‘Running Fence, 1972-76’ (Javacheff and Denat, 2019), and use images of these to continue the lines.

The wall of life drawings provided a big impact piece on the wall of the room and looking close up, the line over these drawings worked the best. However, it was not very visible from further back, so a thicker line or a different colour would have made it stand out more from the background.

References

Javacheff, C. and Denat, J. (2019). Projects | Running Fence. [online] Christojeanneclaude.net. Available at: https://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/running-fence [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019].

MoMA.org. (2010). On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/online/#works/02/49 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].

Tate. (2019). Edward Krasinski 1925-2004 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/edward-krasinski-10009 [Accessed 9 Apr. 2019].

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Greening Arts Practice 5 – Talks by Artist Ruth Levene and Anthropologist Megan Clinch.

This was an interesting talk by Levene and Clinch. Levene’s work is very different to the work I do, with her ‘outcomes’ being mostly ephemeral, or records of the process in photographs of walks or recorded interviews. Despite the differences, it is always interesting to hear artists speak about their practice and some nuggets of information or advice or ideas are always picked up.

Levene is interested in the dialogue with people. Her work is often an investigation into something new, delving into it from many angles, to finally decide what the work will be about and the form it will take.

One of the most interesting discussions came from another artist at the session asking her how she approaches experts she want to work with, without seeming like an idiot. Her response was to be an unapologetic idiot! She has no idea at the outset about what work she wants to make and when people ask her about that she responds that why should she know what she wants to make when she hasn’t spoken to the experts yet? If she did, she would be going in with pre-existing ideas and biases that might not be valid. Also, you are there to speak to people because they are the experts. Why should you know about what they are experts in. You go in with the enthusiasm and the interest to learn what they have to tell you.

A very interesting approach which could be applied well to collaboration work.

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Contextual focus point: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye grew up in a remote desert area of Australia. Only starting painting at the age of 80, she produced an average of a painting a day for the next six years until she died. During this short career, she became acknowledged as one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists.

Aboriginal people have a very close connection to their landscape and believe that they have a responsibility to recognise and replicate the designs and patterns left within the landscape (Mca.com.au, n.d.). This close connection with the landscape and it’s patterns shows through in her work. Her painting are of her place and life, uninfluenced by the outside art world.

They are paintings, but with her use of strong lines and dots, they could equally be viewed as drawings.

Richard Long (1945-)

Thinking about other artists who use place with such an immersive passion, Richard Long is an obvious artist who springs to mind. His main body of work comes from walking, using materials found on the walk to make marks, or simply the action of walking too and from a point to create an impression on the ground. As Emma Dexter comments about his work in her introduction to ‘Vitamin D’, “the artist’s interventions reveal the earth as a surface or ground to be marked, etched, and scarred by the body as the instrument of drawing, taking the role of pencil or pen” (Dexter, 2005).

When the work is brought into a gallery, it often only exists as a photograph and/or words describing the walk, with Long describing the text works as “narratives of events and sculptures – walks – that I have made” (Long and Wallis, 2009). These interventions will be lost quickly as weather/nature erases them. When he produces sculptures, these are usually from sculptures created on location from nearby materials and then brought into the gallery, or mud and earth is used to create works on canvas or the walls.

My work

Place is important in my own work, frequently recurring in my use of maps in drawing or sculpture, or as the starting the theme of my work. I guess it is an inherent theme in all artists work as it has such a strong influence on our lives.

References:

Dexter, E. (2005). Vitamin D. London: Phaidon.

Long, R. and Wallis, C. (2009). Heaven and earth. London: Tate.

Mca.com.au. (n.d.). Emily Kame Kngwarreye. [online] Available at: https://www.mca.com.au/artists-works/artists/emily-kame-kngwarreye/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].

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