Theories of the Earth Offers Compelling Insight into Climate Change & Our Understanding of the Planet

Shaun Fraser, artist, Flow Country peat project

GroundWork Gallery’s latest exhibition Theories of the Earth, offers a fascinating insight into climate change and the theory of time. Four artists deep dive into the earth’s mysterious histories and geological formations to investigate our understanding of the changes to the environment. Young artists, Wayne Binitie, Flora Bowden and Shaun Fraser come together with the more established King’s Lynn artist, Kabir Hussain, to explore the theory of deep time and the elemental and physical matter of the earth. Stone, peat, bronze and ice provide the ‘core material’ of the show through the use of glass and bronze sculptures, drawings, photography, cutting edge video and audio installations and jewellery, to create a fully immersive experience for the viewer. Occupying multi-sensory realms of the representational and the abstract, the exhibition speaks about the histories and futures of human inhabitation and its impact upon the earth.

The show’s title is taken from a Scottish Enlightenment publication, Theory of the Earth, written by the 18th century geologist James Hutton in 1795, and the subject of Flora Bowden’s research. Exploring the theory of deep time, it transformed our understanding of the age of the earth through the observation of geological formations across Britain. This narrative or ‘story’ of the earth has been developed and reimagined further by the artists through their long-term engagement with environmental history – and demonstrates how art can be used to help people discover how they experience the world around them..

Flora Bowden’s work comments on the language through which we understand the earth and its changes, through the making of jewellery and drawings. She uses Hutton’s images to create a new vocabulary of forms that not only take on the power of symbols and tokens but also offer a new way of imagining environmental belonging.

Wayne Binitie’s work imagines what it would be like to hear see and feel the climatic atmosphere of the glacial past through his haunting audio sound-scapes and collection of ‘water manuscripts’ on paper and canvas. Based on his research with the British Antarctic Survey’s Ice Core archive, intermittent ‘voices’ of compressed 800,000 year old ancient ice core will play throughout the gallery, permeating the space with the Antarctic’s historical glacial presence and interacting with the viewers through auditory and visual perception.

Shaun Fraser shows a series of glass sculptures cast from peat, which he has both sourced and cut personally. His work – transforming soil into glass – comments on the physical impact and changes to the earth, ‘conversing’ with Wayne Binitie’s glass cores from the Antarctic. By interpreting peat as glass he is connecting the viewer with the ancient and precious qualities of both materials. Today peat is still used in some communities as a fuel-source and in years gone by it was effectively a life-source. Transformed into a translucent new material, his work provides the ‘material language’ that poses questions about historical and cultural value and hierarchy.

King’s Lynn, Suffolk and London based artist, Kabir Hussain, exhibits bronze sculptures inspired by the landscapes of Norfolk, India and Peru. He is a different generation from the other artists, trained at Leeds and Chelsea art colleges and exhibiting since the early 1980s. Originally from Pakistan, his responses to landscape are both physical and cultural and form a slow unfolding drama of his relationships to the earth and of his perceptions of time. His delicate bronze casts of ground and landscape, some tiny enough to be held in the hand are evocative of the evolving processes of geology, movement and environmental change. He compares the process of heating bronze as a kind of ‘speeding up of the ageing process’ and links it to the changes we are currently experiencing. His aim is modestly descriptive: to inform the viewer about what is happening and record it. The result is tender and poetic and shows how we can play closer attention to the details of what we experience and hold those memories close.

The main show is accompanied in GroundWork Gallery Upstairs, by, Colour in Nature. This features recent work by established artists working in different media, who are inspired by the colours of nature. It is not intentionally underpinned by theory, yet there is a thread of ideas and approaches common to all the artists. Resourcefulness is important to all of them and an attention to the potential nature offers. While they might be drawn towards an interest in aesthetics and pleasing forms, each one has a sensitive response to the possibilities which lie between their chosen material and its expression as physical artefact. Heightening of the aesthetic is especially powerful in the case of Barbara Howey’s Poisoned Idyll paintings, in order to represent the dangers nature faces from the seepage of some of the evil materials which cause pollution.

The exhibition will be accompanied by special events which will consider the implications of the exhibitions in terms of environmental understanding.

Oct 13– Dec 16 2018

Theories of the Earth

From Deep time to glacial water

Glass, bronze, sound, drawing, painting, jewellery by Wayne Binitie, Flora Bowden, Shaun Fraser, and Kabir Hussain

Upstairs at GroundWork

Colour in Nature

From pattern to poison

Glass, paintings, textiles and ceramics by Stewart Hearn, Barbara Howey, Laura Huston, Femke Lemmens,

IMAGE: Flow Country by Shaun Fraser