Playing with shadows (Lichen)

Following on from my last experiment with shadows and fictitious wire maps, I decided to make a map from lichen – this time in the shape of the Braan path and the Hermitage at Dunkeld, where I gathered all the windfall lichen a few months back.

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When the map was complete, I hung it from the ceiling in my studio and tried a few different types of lighting on it.

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Above and below : Soft lighting using an anglepoise lamp 

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Using the torch on the iPhone

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Beautifully dark lacy shadows, but jagged and a bit sinister too

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Huge shadows which swamp the wall…would make a very dramatic installation if I had the right space for it

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These shadows are very powerful, although they don’t have the 3-Dimensional effect that the wire shadows have.  I will also have a go at videoing the map rotating, as it would be interesting to see how the shadows work with movement.

Playing with Shadows (wire drawings)

I’ve been experimenting lately with the use of shadows in my work, using “drawings” that i have made from wire and lichen – materials which allow light to stream through their negative spaces to create interesting effects.

Traditionally, the shadow can symbolise many things…darkness, evil, a ghost, a doppelgänger, an alter ego, or a false sense of reality.

In Plato’s Allegory of the cave, the people who are chained up and are forced to look at the wall, away from the light, perceive shadows to represent reality; as they have never seen the objects which cause the shadows.  To the viewer of the wall, all of reality is represented by shadows – a very skewed sense of reality.

Plato likens himself (as a philosopher) to a freed prisoner, who has “seen the light” of reality. He speaks of being blinded by the sun when he leaves the cave – this refers to the reaction of some when their beliefs are challenged or proved wrong…preferring instead to retreat back to their “prison” of what they knew before rather than to accept their new found knowledge or enlightenment.

Personally, this story raises mixed emotions – when wandering through familiar landscapes memories come flooding back. I think of how sometimes I would like to retreat back into the past…to happy, carefree times with no responsibilities, when my parents were younger and healthier, when I felt attractive and excited about what the future might hold. But the flip-side to this is the reality, the enlightenment, the ageing process, and the realisation of mortality.  For this reason, I feel that working with shadows is important to my practice – their ephemeral qualities also relates to some (but not all) of the materials I use, such as the lichen, ice and plants.

The first experiment of shadow maps I made was using the wire drawings of details in the landscape, which were grouped together and hung up before a torch was shone at them.

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One of the wire drawings which made up my part of my fictitious map

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First attempt at illuminating the wire using a small torch

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 Using the torch on an iphone…the shadows become much stronger

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   The shadows seem like they are engulfing the small space, blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality

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The shadows are definitely more dominant than the wire and when the torch is moved they seem as if they are a living and breathing entity

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The ephemerality of the shadows also resounds with the fact that these maps are purely fictional, although they have been created from existing features on the walks that I sketched. They echo the landscape which is transient and ever evolving through erosion, development, the forces of nature and the events which have shaped it and are continuing to do so.

See some footage of the moving shadow to get an idea of just how 3-dimensional they appear, as if they are coming out of the wall towards you:

The Exotic Seed Company

As part of my upcoming exhibition at Scottish Natural Heritage, BattIeby, I had the idea of creating “fake”seed packets of highly invasive and prohibited plants, which was based on the fact that in the past these seeds and plants were distributed in the US and Europe, long before it was realised what a devastating effect these aliens could have on our environment.  Also, in connection with the site of the exhibition, the grounds are listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, because of the fact that they have a very important exotic plant collection and arboretum, which were planted by and cared for by a team of 10 gardeners when Battleby House was owned by Sir Alexander Cross, between 1947 and 1963. 

I had a look at some vintage seed packets online and found a variety of beauties…

$_35These are from the 1950s….very colourful and well illustrated

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Love this anthropomorphism (above), but not really a route I want to go down                      for this piece

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8f0c48555a1954973bcecae688a6c01cKeep coming back to the two above…I think it’s the limited colour palette which I find appealing.

The Exotic Seed Company is a fictitious company which sells these seeds, and advertises them in a lighthearted and positive way, promoting these rogues as hardy, exotic plants which will last forever, with no mention of any regrets you may have later. The typeface is reminiscent of the 1950s, and the adverts typical of this era when political correctness was non-existant, and companies put a positive and most often sexist slant on marketing their products with no evidence to back up any of their claims, in an era when consumerism was on the up and society was ignorant of the detrimental effects these products could have to our health.

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 How ridiculous are these strap lines, yet consumers of the 50s would                   have no idea!

I designed three packets, illustrating the 3 current most invasive and threatening plants to our environment in the UK- Giant Hogweed, Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed. At my tutorial, I was a bit concerned that I may not have enough 2-dimensional work to show, so Caroline suggested that perhaps the seed packets could cover one of the walls, like a sort of installation. I toyed with the idea of this, and also felt that it was important to make the packets by hand, although I know that I could have made much more convincing packets with the aid of the computer, and made them much faster too. Having a love of printmaking, I decided that linoprinting would be a feasible option, so I set about drawing out my designs before getting stuck into the carving.

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Because the packets were relatively small, I soon realised that the lettering would not be easy, and although I managed to carve the plant variety, I felt that the Exotic Seeds lettering at the bottom of the packets did not work…in fact I hated it!

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Luckily, I have a box of alphabet stampers, so instead I opted to stamp Exotic Seeds onto the packets using these – with a much more pleasing result.

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I stuck to the green palette which I have been using throughout the work created for this exhibition, but used a different shade of green for each variety.

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Once I had created the seed packets, I decided that I would prefer to see them hanging up on hooks, just as they would be sold in a garden centre. I managed to source a suitable board and some metal hooks, and I painted a sign for the Exotic Seed Company using a 50s style font.

This was them fixed onto the board above the hooks, and the seed were hung up to finish off the piece. I didn’t put any seeds into the packets, although I did think it might make the audience curious, but was concerned that it might be detrimental to the packets, which were made from handmade Lokti paper.

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Finally, I made a two page ad for the Fanzine I am creating, in the optimistic spirit of 50s advertising…

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ZINE8 I feel that the end result is quite satisfactory, and hope that it raises questions/debates and provokes curiousity amongst the audience.