Category Archives: art

Ghost Calls

This remarkable, unique exhibition is open at Dundee Contemporary Arts from 28 April 2021 to 8 August [1].

Main works include Ghost Calls (2020), a large painting in acrylic on silk (parts shown in the photos below), the mesmerising Keening Songs (2020) – an animation of over 14 mins (hard to describe) and A Crash in Fast and Slow Motion (2020), again acrylic on silk.

In Ghost Calls female forms occupy and move through a landscape. Intense colour contrasts with the greys of the figures and with shapes containing words describing how things are and where we might go.

Perhaps in relation to A Crash … , the author writes [2] “Against the backdrop of the ecological disasters of our age, I feel increasingly like we were passengers in a vehicle being driven recklessly round a blind corner, headed for some massive smash up.’

Those of us who see ecological destruction and human misery can’t help but connect with what we see here. Yet the artist offers a way forward. First, it helps to grieve, to keen.

Then to imagine. From the book of the exhibition [2]: “Talbot imagines future environments where humankind has been flung out of a capitalist-driven society of digital technologies and must look towards more ancient and holistic ways of crafting, making and belonging”

And then to act – at the end of Ghost Calls are the words: ‘This is not the end | let’s use the time we have together | embracing | a forward movement without fear’.

Britain’s environment has been irreversibly changed. The rainforest has almost gone, soils are being lost, rivers are still polluted, so much life has been made extinct. Yet there is still the need to re-group and re-form, to make the best of the land, soil and living things, those remaining and those introduced. Where’s the alternative.

You must see this exhibition.

From a Living Field correspondent visiting the exhibition on 19 May 2021.

Further

[1] Exhibition Notes: Ghost Calls by Emma Talbot. Dundee Contemporary Arts, 152 Nethergate Dundee DD1 4DY

[2] Ghost Calls. Emma Talbot. 2021. Artist and various authors. Book published as part of the exhibition. Dundee Contemporary Arts. 

[3] DCA What’s On web page for Ghost Calls.

Tina Scopa Edaphic Plant Artist

This year, as a 3rd year Contemporary Art Practice student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (Djcad), Dundee and with the support and encouragement of Geoff Squire & Gladys Wright (& Pete Iannetta who pointed me in the right direction) I was introduced to the Living Field at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and ran my plant-printing workshop as part of the Open Farm Sunday event.

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Studio and exhibition space

My work concerns wild plants (and those often considered to be weeds) and the soil in which they grow. I currently work mostly in printing where I have developed a number of plant printing techniques. I also make ‘earth’ paintings, and work in ceramics, photography, and laser cutting. I would be very interested to hear from any scientists who might be interested in this work, have comments, or who might want to collaborate with me, particularly in context of the blue pigment; in making the prints lightfast; or the possibility of employing these printing techniques as a scientific tool.

Edaphic Plant Art

In my most recent work I coined the term, Edaphic Plant Art. This body of work was concerned with a small patch of grass on campus. I was interested in the variety of wild plants growing on this patch and also in the soil in which they were growing. I focused on 5 plant varieties and attended soil science lectures. I documented these plants by using 3 different plant-printing techniques that I have termed, the Pigment Print; the Graphite Print; and the Ink Print.

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These prints were presented on the wall in a grid format together with digital print photographs of the plants. Porcelain tiles were also prepared for each plant. In addition ‘earth paintings’ were made using soil taken from the site and ‘healthier’ soil taken from another site. Besides each painting a soil sample was presented in a hand made porcelain cup.

Weeds

This body of work began with the initial desire to get plants to ‘draw’ themselves. The plants used were those largely considered to be ‘weeds’. The method used to develop this idea has primarily been experimental printing. Experimental photography techniques were also been employed to a lesser extent, as were small sculptural works.lf_tsepa_img4_1100

 

lf_tsepa_img6aThrough the process of experimentation and subsequent development the goal was considered to have been accomplished.

The resulting plant ‘drawings’ were able to convey the inherent beauty of these weed forms and the individual ‘character’ of each plant. In addition, the body of work was presented as a metaphor for our own human condition, commenting on different aspects of ourselves.

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The Blue Pigment

Over the course of developing my Pigment Prints I have often noticed a very blue pigment located just where the stem meets the roots in certain grasses. If anyone can shed light on this I would be very grateful and would love to extract this in the lab.

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More from Tina to follow ….

Contact

http://tinascopa.wixsite.com/website

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Maize paper

Most of our paper comes from plants, but the process by which leaves and stems are converted to sheets that we can write on or wrap things in is unknown to most of us.

As part of her work with the Living Field, Jean Duncan has been making paper from plants grown in the garden.

She started with some maize, which is a tropical and sub-tropical species originally from the Americas. Some types can now grow in our climate, and it was one of these that was grown in the garden for its cobs (corn on the cob).

Jean used the maize plants to make the paper. Here is a description of what she did.

Step 1 is to collect maize leaves and stems when they are in good condition, still green.

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Step 2 is to cut the leaves and stems into small pieces. Leaf pieces should be about the size of those in the white bowl. The tough stems were cut into larger pieces (right  below).

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Step 3 – put the cut material into an enamel bowl or pot (above left). Add soda ash to the material, 1 teaspoon for a 10 litre pot, and mix.

Step 4 – cook the plants for 3 hours, or more if the material is tough. At this point you will need pH indicator strips (litmus paper) to check that the cooking is going according to plan. (Litmus can be bought on-line or at some gardening shops.) The pH of the mixture should be around 8, but if it drops to 7 or 6 then add a little more soda ash. When cooked, the fibre should be soft and easy to tear.

Step 5 – rinse the fibre thoroughly in water; when fully rinsed the pH or the water should be neutral (i.e. about 7).

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Step 6 – the fibre now needs to be beaten to a pulp. The traditional way is to beat it with a mallet for a few hours. (Craft-workers in some countries still use this method).  An alternative, if you have electricity, is a kitchen blender working in short bursts so as not to burn out the motor. Jean uses a machine called a Hollander beater.

Step 7 – the fibres are now ready to be transformed into sheets of paper. The pulp is suspended in water. A ‘mould and deckle’ is lowered into the water (image above) and brought out slowly with a flat layer of fibre on it, or else the pulp is poured into the mould and deckle until there is a flat layer of the right thickness for the type of pulp (which you work out by trial and error); the water drains out through holes leaving the moist fibre.

Step 8 – the moist sheet of fibre is  turned onto an absorbent fabric  or board or something similar for drying and pressing, a procedure that takes about 3 days (top right in images below).

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Maize paper: lighter sheet (top left) is from the husk round the cobs, the darker sheet from stems; etchings below of root cross sections (Jean Duncan)

 

And that’s it – a sheet of paper!

Info, links

Khadi papers India. Web site: khadi.com. Youtube: Papermaking at Khadi Papers India

Jean’s recent work on an exhibition of etchings using her own-made paper: The Beauty of Roots and Root art.

[Update with minor amendments 10 June and 27 July 2017]

Sectioned II

Our artist friend, Jean Duncan has been trying out new techniques, getting inspiration and materials from the Living Field garden and from microscopic sections of roots. Jean writes about her depictions of brassica roots:

“The print is an etching made on a zinc plate by drawing with a needle into soft wax and then etching the lines in copper sulphate. Ink is rubbed in to the etched lines and then printed on wet paper.

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“My idea is to print root sections and plant drawings on to plant papers. I want to combine ancient techniques of papermaking with the latest microscopic images in a way that will highlight the plant’s diversity and engage people in how plants can enrich soils as well as provide food.

“For papermaking, the most successful fibres so far have come from maize stalks from the Living Field garden. These are chopped and simmered for several hours in soda ash to break down the fibres. The long fibres are then bashed further in a Hollander beater like a large grinder. Sheets of paper are then formed on a mould and stacked for printing or casting. Wet paper sheets can be pushed into plaster moulds of the plants and roots and when they dry the plant is embossed into the paper.

“So it’s a long process but I am currently working on a latex cast of a plant root and it’s been successful so far. It may even be useful to scientists as a way of preserving the fragile roots in a way that means they can be handled without being damaged.

Sources/contacts

Jean Duncan on this web site (with links): art/jean-duncan

The original microscopic cross section of a root was provided by Robert Baker of the Department of Botany, University of Wyoming http://www.robertlbaker.org and http://www.macromicroscopic.com

Here it is.

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And thank you for allowing us to use it on this site.

[More to follow from Jean’s experimenting ….]