Exhibitions | Voices from the eARTh2019-11-12T15:12:12+00:00

Exhibitions

Voices from the eARTh

CURATED BY ELS VAN MOURIK

Berman Contemporary
3 – 17 November 2019

Ingrid Bolton | Marian Hester | Natalie Field

Join us on Saturday 16th November for the artist talk and exhibition closing with Ingrid Bolton, Marian Hester, Natalie Field and our guest, poet Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu. Facilitated by the curator, Els van Mourik.

RSVP essential for seating arrangements.
gallery@bermancontemporary.co.za

“Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognising that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come.”

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
Kenyan political and environmental activist & Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (2004)

Exhibitions

Voices from the eARTh

CURATED BY ELS VAN MOURIK

Berman Contemporary
3 – 17 November 2019

Ingrid Bolton | Marian Hester | Natalie Field

Join us on Saturday 16th November for the artist talk and exhibition closing with Ingrid Bolton, Marian Hester, Natalie Field and our guest, poet Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu. Facilitated by the curator, Els van Mourik.

RSVP essential for seating arrangements.
gallery@bermancontemporary.co.za

“Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognising that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come.”

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
Kenyan political and environmental activist & Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (2004)

INGRID BOLTON

Artists have been working with and commenting on societal matters for centuries. Our society currently faces so many contentious issues and it is the artist who has the ability to work with those issues. I thrive on fleshing out some of these concerns and bringing them into the public space so that we may ask questions and encourage discussion. I see this as my challenge as an artist. I have found a home in the art activism space because making work that is meaningful is important to me. Similarly, using materials that carry meaning validates my art making. Having a past, which comes with a life experienced, presents plenty for me as an artist to work with. I believe that we are an accumulation of the life we have lived. My past history in microbiology, ceramics and farming inform my art making today.

More and more, we are discovering that even the smallest microscopic organisms or compounds or minerals in the earth – the things we cannot see or touch – are crucial for a healthy globe. Not confronted by these tiny organisms, invisible to the eye, or minerals hidden far below the surface of the earth, we tend to overlook their importance. We are discovering that what we do on and in our world affects other living creatures, but ultimately affects us in ways that we are unable to control. What is the link between us as humans and phytoplanktonic organisms that live in the oceans? They have been sinking the carbon dioxide that we have produced for years, cleaning up after us. The coal that is burned for energy use, specifically in South Africa, produces an abundance of carbon dioxide, too much for the oceans to absorb, turning them acidic. This process depletes the oceans of calcium carbonate, which is needed for shell production. The shells of some organisms are already being affected by this acidification. They sit at the bottom of the food chain.

While I work with diverse materials like copper cable, coal, calcium carbonate or porcelain, I find connections between them; connections like China’s electrification driving copper theft up and how this is affecting the train lines in Cape Town. Whilst farming in Franschhoek, my copper irrigation pipes fell prey to these same demands. In the same way that I make connections between compounds, my processes include making physical connections between them as well. In the series Opencast, the title not only refers to the method of coal mining in South Africa, but also to my method of working. I cast the materials from the back into an open frame, not knowing what the final outcome will be until I release it from its mould. This uncertainty also references the uncertainty that we face, not knowing how the effects of climate change will ultimately affect us as humans. Juxtaposing unfamiliar materials alongside each other allows one to compare and visualise them together. The compounds are packed hard against one another, forming layers and sometimes cracks between these layers, the materials unable to bind together.

How can I as an artist co-opt society to think about carbon dioxide emissions or climate change? Can I encourage debate? I find it very invigorating to make art that may motivate someone to think about climate change and potentially even act on that thinking. Pointing fingers doesn’t bring solutions because we are all implicated in the predicament that we find ourselves in, myself included.

MARIAN HESTER

I believe that the art which artists create says much more about them than they themselves perhaps realise. I wondered, a couple of years ago, why I was making art about things that seemed completely external to me, even though I thought them important, when I had been through some traumatic experiences in my personal life: why wasn’t I dealing with them in my work? An enlightened art critic friend pointed out that the uprooted trees and damaged nature which I depict in my work are, in fact, a very direct kind of self-portrait.

My body of work, I realise now, explores the broader ideas of damage, loss and absence of connection. In a time of deepening ecological crisis, it may be easy to see the work as only a literal reference to the pressures placed on ecology by the current “Anthropocene” era and, indeed, my work does address the dismay I felt during my research about how recent our collective knowledge about the functioning of forests is and how much damage has been done globally to forests and ecosystems. But a thread runs through my practice that draws on my personal experience of loss and grief.

I use variations of the shadow image throughout my work – and the shadow’s connotations of insubstantiality, absence, the negative, the sombre, the idea of obstruction, the blinkered view, darkness and the mirage, illuminate how work using this kind of imagery also speaks about a difficult personal journey. Shadows in general are interpreted as analogues or metaphors. I often use shadows in layers, combining them with reflections, and I believe that my working in this way is, in fact, a kind of re-thinking: reflecting on and reinterpreting the world, layer by layer, idea by idea, encounter by encounter. I like the idea that my work might suggest that the viewer also consider the contrast between what is and what might be.

I make art in various media and using diverse methods: sculpture, installation, sound, printmaking, drawing and painting. I love the freshness that comes from re-looking at an idea in a new medium, which sometimes suggests a new approach or ways of thinking about it. For instance, my experiments in using shadows to make cyanotype solar prints led me to want to find ways to fix those shadows on sheets of metal, in a way which drew on the idea of the shadow as representing damage; as an absence or as a relic of something that existed before. Other themes that recur in my work include the idea of thriving nature as a ghostly presence, the world of shadows as a parallel world, and the use of the distorted or unresolved reflection as a metaphor for how hard it is to reach a final conclusion when the circumstances around me keep changing. The questions remain unanswered, and the way remains open for another method of approaching the problem. In most of my work, my tree and nature representations are partial, metaphorically in some kind of liminal state: their provisional quality opens the possibility for other outcomes – perhaps even a hopeful one.

NATALIE FIELD

“The story of our universe begins with a singularity. Due to some inconceivable force, space expanded, and matter formed. The stars, the earth, oceans, animals and even our bodies are all made from this matter that has existed since the beginning of time.

“We are, quite literally, stardust.”
Natalie Field

Working primarily with light-based media, I harness the physical medium of photography as a metaphysical medium to communicate transformative narratives; not just in the image relating to the subject matter, but also with regard to both artist and viewer who are both altered by the experience of engaging with the art.

The concepts in my work are driven by a desire to (re)connect humans (including myself) with the Natural World. To challenge the alienation between Nature and Culture at this crucial time in our history, standing on the precipice of ecological collapse caused by anthropomorphic machinations. How can Nature be rendered worthy of moral care and consideration by society when we cannot see its value outside of human consumption or concerns? Consider John Dewey’s theory on aesthetics from 1932 that “Art is not an object but an experience”. So too Nature should be considered as Experience above Object. Studies have shown that when we feel more integrated with Nature, the individual’s commitment to protect the environment increases.

Consequently, my current projects engage with the practices of observation, imagination and projection. Deconstructing sites, ecology and the narrative of civilisation, my process begins with isolating elements from their context to mimic our experience of nature as commodity, before reconstructing my own perception of existence to render each individual object as sacred, precious and intrinsically connected to the wellbeing of the whole. On the surface, this interconnectedness is visually illustrated through anatomy, zoology, entomology and botany; biological forms woven together to illustrate the mercurial and cyclical nature of the cosmos. More than celebrate Nature, the work considers the interdependence of biotic life forms and their micro-habitats, and the importance of the conservation of this ecosystem that we call home: Earth.

I explore our current state of liminality to depict a world in flux searching for balance: opposing yet complimentary forces pulling at (or rather feeding off) each other… Life vs Death. Light vs Dark. Organic vs Geometric. Biology vs Technology. Order vs Chaos. Fiction vs Reality. To reveal that “Underneath duality there is unity”, as Alan Watts pragmatically describes it.

Working with self-portraiture and performance art, the inclusion of the human form is often key to creating a bridge between the narrative and the viewer, encouraging an empathic connection with the Earth. The emotionality of the process is a form of catharsis through which I relate fears of a dying world. The female form not only a symbol of life, but simultaneously the personification of the Earth herself.

More recent works have shifted direction to take my passion for natural history into the realm of a Citizen Science project. Teaching myself about the species that make up the ecology in a 1km radius from my own home, while (hopefully) encouraging others to step outside and explore their own environment. I am currently capturing my observations online to assist scientists with studies on biodiversity as they create a map of life on Earth in support of the Half-Earth Project founded by biologist EO Wilson. The influences of Natural History Museum dioramas, aspects of Natura Morta and underpinnings of Sacred Geometry are also becoming more prevalent in my creations.

Drawing further from Surrealism and Automatism, my interdisciplinary practice includes various photographic processes, moving images, installation and environmental art. Combining self-portraiture with performance art, photo-manipulation with the spontaneity of in-camera effects and digital capture with alternative printing techniques, I continue to experiment – play – create in my search for the “The Unexpected Image”.