The artist and cultural commentator John Berger has said, “We who draw do so not only to make something visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.”
I maintain that the work presented in this show is the outcome of such acts of drawing, despite the fact that it is an exhibition of collages and monotypes. I consider each work to be the offspring of a ‘drawing out’, a cultivation of sorts, a tillage of predominantly found materials that, in the spontaneity and hard graft of the art-making activity, coalesce their visual and semantic nutrients into new figurative outgrowths, rootings and sproutings, interments and dehiscences.
The Autochthonous Cities, in particular, are the result of a kind of stewardship, on my part, of intimations of newly born landscapes and settlements as they emerge from the detritus of print media produced by civil society. They are fictions, for sure, since the cities are only implied in the pushing and pulling of matter above and below the surface, that edge between earth and atmosphere, soil an air, the chthonic and the celestial, where human life plays out. But, if you let your imagination run free across the topography of each work, you’ll encounter the nascent evidence of transformation, the continuing duet of entropy and cultivation: building and dilapidating, constucting and excavating, piling and hollowing, towering and penetrating, reaching and nesting.
Human cultures for millennia have recognized value in the success of this dance, in this partnership, in the balanced give-and-take between human and world. Until, that is, the industrialized world began to coerce and dominate its dance partner, drain it of its energies, consume its gifts without reciprocation, and burden its once vital limbs with the increasing residue of selfish exploitation. The visions of cities explored in the collages on display are not nostalgic, they are intended to be vital and burgeoning, transformational, underway, becoming. Their titles reference deep etymological roots in the language human beings use to name their relationship with found terrain, in this case, since I am from England, the Old English terms that refer to land conditions and which have become embedded in thousands of place names, from the humblest homestead to the greatest cities, amidst the setting in which I was born and raised.
Alongside these city studies are a series of connected mixed media canvases that together betray a primordial ‘emergent landscape’, aqueous and fluid, a land still in formation in which the vulnerabilities of the human species are revealed in the tentative structures fashioned from earth and water that purport to provide sanctuary for our fallible human actions.
Also on show is a series of monotypes exploring the sectional condition of the earth, above and below, surface terrain and depth, both natural and human-made, including seams, faults, crevasses, excavations, shafts and tunnels.
The grid of 25 collages is a small selection of work taken from my graphic journals in which it’s possible to sense their gestational role in bringing the autochthonous cities into being. It is through these daily collage-making endeavors that the potential of found paper fragments, hand-printed papers, graphite lines, horizonal studies, investigations of depth and layering, all activated by the force of spontaneous creativity, are realized and brought into visibility, taken at least part way, I hope, towards their ‘incalculable destination.’