7 May – 5 June


“Surely there is no square mile of earth’s inhabitable surface that is not beautiful in its own way, if we men will only abstain from wilfully destroying that beauty.”  William Morris

The ground beneath our feet has never felt less solid than it does at the moment – yet our awareness of it has never been more acute. As the evidence mounts up revealing how much we have destroyed the earth – painting, poetry, drawing and sculpture can offer some sort of marker in time – visual metaphors for our Grand Awakening.

In this show we want to consider how our relationship with the environment is now at the forefront of our thinking towards solutions.

Common is the ground we stand on, and perhaps what is now taking place is a shift in our own aesthetics, based on that common knowledge that is helping us to see and appreciate our landscape through subtly different filters. Increasingly gone are the clipped landscapes and instead here are the swathes of wildness along with a new appreciation for the interconnectedness of soil and plant; the seen and the unseen. That material has become in a word, more beautiful, or perhaps our sense of beauty has been opened up to it, we have learned to love a different idyll.

The value of art as an advocate for Nature was central to the work of Common Ground, the pioneering art and environmental charity that is also a touchstone for this exhibition. Established in 1983 by Roger Deakin, Sue Clifford and Angela King, it attempted to sound the klaxon about where our negligence was leading, long before most people cared. The mission of the organisation was to work closely with artists, writers, poets, playwrights and music-makers – bringing together art and science in a way that is now widely promulgated, but in those days seemed almost anarchic.

The artists presented in this show – Hannah Brown, Chris Drury, Laurence Edwards, Shaun Fraser, Lydia Halcrow, Tyga Helme, Kurt Jackson, Chrystel Lebas, Yan Wang Preston, Stephen Turner and Antony Williams – share the interconnectedness of art and the landscape and its relevance today. In so doing, they extend the legacy of Common Ground and are arguing, in turn, for a new way of seeing in landscape art – a genre once nearly declassified from contemporary relevance.

It is a powerful and beguiling message that stitches together the language of aesthetics with a message that is fundamentally about our changing relationship with the environment. This exhibition seeks to distinguish how aesthetics are shifting to celebrate the unkempt in the landscape, that which was once unloved, airbrushed out of the pictorial landscape.

Ground here is both conceptual and compositional material in the process of making. The messaging again is layered within the beguiling imagery and is more meaningful for it. This is both an adaptation and evolution of William Morris and the Arts and Craft movement. “Truth to nature” is so suggestive of a source of veracity, but it feels like holding a candle to what nature offers, there is a clear expression of distinction between viewer and object. Today that line feels as if it is becoming more blurred. It might align more closely today as Truth in nature, suggesting a more symbiotic relationship and perhaps even humility in our approach to the ground we stand on.

The exhibition will be supported by a wide-ranging programme of talks by influential environmental thinkers and activists. This will include: a panel discussion with Tideline artist Julia Lohmann, Ann Light (University of Sussex/ Malmö University) and Brenda Parker (University College London) talking about the eco-systemic benefits that arise from seeing social and ecological systems as having common interests, and the role of creative practitioners in driving change; an in-conversation event between exhibiting artist Chris Drury in conversation with David Buckland, Founder and International Director of Cape Farewell, discussing their shared commitment to art that addresses ecology and climate, readings from eco-poets Kay Syrad and Clare Whistler, and a talk with Sue Clifford, founder of Common Ground.

Kurt Jackson

A dedicated environmentalist and true polymath, Jackson’s holistic approach to his subject seamlessly blends art and politics providing a springboard to create a hugely varied body of work unconstrained by format or scale.

Jackson’s artistic practice ranges from his trademark visceral plein-air sessions to studio work and embraces an extensive range of materials and techniques including mixed media, large canvases, print-making and sculpture.

The son of artists, Jackson was born in Blandford, Dorset in 1961. While studying Zoology at Oxford University he spent most of his time painting and attending courses at Ruskin College of Art. On gaining his degree he travelled extensively and independently, painting wherever he went before putting down roots in Cornwall with his wife Caroline in 1984.

Jackson’s focus on the complexity, diversity and fragility of the natural world has led to artist-in-residencies on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, the Eden Project and for nearly 20 years Glastonbury Festival which has become a staple of his annual working calendar.

Over the past thirty years Jackson has had numerous art publications released to accompany his exhibitions. Four monographs on Jackson have been published by Lund Humphries depicting his career so far; A New Genre of Landscape Painting (2010), Sketchbooks (2012), A Kurt Jackson Bestiary (2015) and Kurt Jackson’s Botanical Landscape (2019). A Sansom & Company published book based on his touring exhibition Place was released in 2014.

Jackson regularly contributes to radio and television and presents environmentally informed art documentaries for the BBC and was the subject for an award winning BBC documentary, ‘A Picture of Britain’.

He has an Honorary Doctorate (DLitt) from Exeter University and is an Honorary Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford University. He is an ambassador for Survival International and frequently works with Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. He is a patron of human rights charity Prisoners of Conscience. He is represented by Messum’s in Cork Street, London and is an academician at the Royal West of England Academy.

Kurt Jackson and his wife Caroline live and work in the most-westerly town in Britain, St Just-in-Penwith where in 2015 they set up the Jackson Foundation. They have three grown children and seven young grandchildren.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?


Finch twitter, fly buzz, tree groan, 2020 is from the Greenways series produced during the Spring/Summer lockdown of 2020.


The beginning of the pandemic and that first lockdown, the tragedy of it all, coincided with one of the most magnificent springs leading into mid-summer that we can remember in recent years. And I think that, combined with the reassessment that lots of people went through; of their immediate locality, their surroundings, the environment and with nature as well, was a helping hand to get through those difficult times. I think we suddenly all realised the potential nature has for wellbeing and maybe survival. This body of work wasn’t planned, I didn’t plan to make a body of work let alone one called the Greenways. I had no idea what I was going to do during lockdown, I knew I was going to paint and work and sculpt and everything else because that’s what I do every day anyway. But basically, I made a first piece that came about as a result of walking through this patch of woodland that Caroline planted about twenty years ago, that’s the route from my house to my studio crossing two fields, one of which Caroline planted and has now become an area of seemingly old natural woodland.


We were I suppose trying to shape our life following our ethics and principles which are all about sustainable living. And that means a whole host of different things and I guess twenty years ago as well it was quite early days for many people in trying to establish what that meant and how to go about that. Our domestic lifestyle and my studios etc, that was all planned as essentially carbon neutral or even carbon positive. But it seemed to go along with that, that while we were doing that, we should be planting trees. I think probably the reason we did that, yes it was about carbon change, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, but it was also about rebuilding a habitat that had disappeared from that area of West Cornwall many years ago. By positively working to enhance a habitat and restore a habitat, in this case woodland, you are also maximizing biodiversity, so you’re bringing more animals and plants to an area. And this to us is very worthwhile. But also, as in this case, it feeds into making art, because a lot of my art is about the environment but it’s also about my and our environment, this place, me and Caroline.


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?


Works start life en plein-air; the direct contact and experience of nature and the elements at first hand is an essential part of my practice.

Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?


I have known and been involved with Common Ground and their ‘team’ for many years and respect and recognise the valuable contribution they have made to the appreciation and conservation of the natural and cultural habitat of Britain. In 2017 I did a years residency with Common Ground and The Woodland Trust studying a single tree in West Cornwall, the resulting work was shown at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park and then The Jackson Foundation.  


Hannah Brown

Originally from Salisbury, Wiltshire, artist Hannah Brown now lives and works in London. Her paintings draw on the omnipresent legacy of the English landscape tradition. Working within and against this framework she presents carefully edited interpretations of seemingly bucolic scenes.

Brown favours sites away from the well documented vista; views that have something a little strange about them, even if it is just in their banality. She describes the reason she visits the places she paints is not because of the wish to make a truthful record of the topography but for the need to spend time alone in nature, “For me nature is a refuge and when I’m painting, in part, I’m replaying the experience of being in the landscape.”

Alongside painting, Brown makes sculptures using plaster and clay with lacquer, paint, Liberty print fabrics and curtain tassels added. While her sculptural work is very different to her painting, the two elements share the exploration of symbols of nature and how these may be brought into the domestic sphere.

Brown is a graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (BA hons Sculpture 1999) and the Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture 2006).

Recent solo exhibitions include: I Stood Still, Frestonian, London and Before Long, Union Gallery, London. Recent group exhibitions include: The Forest, Parafin, London, Companions, Union Pacific, London, and This Muddy Eden, two-person show with Christopher Orr, Broadway Gallery, Letchworth. Her work has been selected for the John Moores Painting Prize 2020 and 2012, the Whitechapel Open 2018 and is held in both public and private collections including the V&A, London.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

The works in the exhibition are oil sketches of a site in the mid-Devon town of Crediton that is soon to be developed. I have been photographing this site (Pedlarspool) for a number of years and when I became aware of the planning application, I knew I would like to make a series of paintings recording the site before it is built on.

I have previously painted another site in the town that was developed but that site was much smaller and less controversial.


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

I start by taking photographs of a site which are then edited, and sketches are made from these images. These particular works are made alla prima on gesso panels and help me decide which images to make into larger paintings.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

I don’t feel I have strong leading influences; I try to respond to the landscape I see in a way that feels natural to me. However, it is impossible to not be affected by the history of landscape painting, in particular the work of Alexandre Calame, Johan Christian Dahl, Samuel Palmer, and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. I admire these artists strong use of colour, depictions of light and atmospheric conditions.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

I hope to engage in a dialogue about our landscape; our use and appreciation of it and need to protect it.

Shaun Fraser

Shaun Fraser is a sculptor and visual artist based between the Scottish Highlands, London and Amsterdam. He is a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art. Fraser’s work frequently explores notions of landscape, place and identity through a practice which takes in bronze, glass, print and canvas. The Scottish Highland landscape in which he was brought up provides a constant source of inspiration. Landscape has always featured heavily as a part of his notion of self.

Fraser’s practice questions how the landscapes, spaces and places which we inhabit form us and can be translated through personal engagement, privileging one’s own memory as a principal source. Through this he acknowledges that memories of landscape, recalled with clarity when first encountered, can over time shift to become completely obtuse and non-linear, they become part-remembered-part-imagined places. In particular, recent work has been evidence of his attempt to recall, through visual means, a fleeting sense of a specific place and time.

He often finds that he is as interested in the idea of a place as the place itself and sees the actual and the imagined versions equally valid. His practice attempts to tap into some of that disposition. Including peat and local soils into his sculpture gives the work an innate link to the landscape. The ability to evoke a sense of place is essential to his practice.

Fraser’s work has been featured in exhibitions internationally and has received several awards. Notable recent exhibitions have included at The Fine Art Society, Groundwork Gallery, No20 Arts in London and Galería Carles Taché in Barcelona.

He often finds that he is as interested in the idea of a place as the place itself and sees the actual and the imagined versions equally valid. His practice attempts to tap into some of that disposition. Including peat and local soils into his sculpture gives the work an innate link to the landscape. The ability to evoke a sense of place is essential to his practice.

Fraser’s work has been featured in exhibitions internationally and has received several awards. Notable recent exhibitions have included at The Fine Art Society, Groundwork Gallery, No20 Arts in London and Galería Carles Taché in Barcelona.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?


 My work frequently comments upon notions of identity, links to landscape and connections with place. My practice questions how the landscapes, spaces and places which we inhabit form us and can be translated through personal engagement, privileging ones own memory as a principal source. Through this I acknowledge that memories of landscape, recalled with clarity when first encountered, can over time shift to become completely obtuse and non-linear, they become part-remembered-part-imagined places. In particular, much of my most recent work, some of which is shown in ‘Ground’, has been evidence of my attempting to recall through visual means a fleeting sense of a specific place and time. With many of these works I’ve attempted to distill my experiences of place down to their residual essences.


‘This Parcel of Land’ is a work which questions the value and importance of land and ownership of it. It depicts a mound of soil cast in Prince Edward Island in Atlantic Canada – a region which was the destination for many Scottish Highland emigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. The legacy of the events of the Highland Clearances still resonate in the north of Scotland and ownership of land remains a politically charged issue. This work reflects upon the process by which Highlanders, some of whom were forcibly displaced, were cleared from the land in Scotland, only to then establish themselves in the New World and displace the First Nation peoples there. It’s a work which questions to whom these places belong.


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?


 My practice is intimately bound to place and I spend much of my initial creative process based somewhere and exploring a locality on foot as much as possible. In this sense the landscape itself is an extension of my studio. I have an art education which is rooted in material processes – sculpture, glass and metal casting. I’m fascinated by the alchemy of matter and how this can be harnessed through the making process. I frequently incorporate soil and other organic matter into my work.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?


My foremost influence is the landscape which surrounds me on a daily basis, like most artists I respond to my immediate surroundings and am a product of this terrain. In terms of other artists, the most important influences upon my practice have been Richard Long, Will Maclean, Tony Cragg, Andy Goldsworthy, Katie Paterson.


I adore Julie Brook’s fire stacks, the most poetic works I’ve ever encountered.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?


Including peat and local soils into my work gives it an innate link to the landscape, something which I believe to be very important in my practice, the ability to evoke that sense of place. The veneration of landscape and its impact upon us is central to my practice. In this sense environmental concerns are now critically germain. I believe art plays a role in raising awareness and guiding a narrative.

Yan Wang Preston

Recognised for her expert ability to excavate humanity at the heart of landscapes, Yan Wang Preston (b. 1976, Henan Province, China) has created numerous acclaimed series which explore the mercurial relationship between people and place. Wang Prestons combined interest in photography and mountain climbing have had a transformative impact upon her practice; initially inspired by climber and photojournalist Galen Rowell, she has become known for her adventurous photographic projects which encompass a variety of physical and conceptual terrain.


After moving to the UK and attaining an MA in Photography at Bradford College, Wang Preston began a practice-based PhD in Photography at the University of Plymouth. This was the genesis of her breakthrough work, the documentary series Mother River.


Over a period of four years (2010-2014), she travelled the entire 6,211km length of the Yangtze River, exploring the link between Chinas topography and identity. According to the careful design of her project, she captured an image every 100km; these restrictions forced her to avoid several of the rivers beauty spots, enabling her to create a detailed, nuanced portrait of the Yangtze which challenges its conventional image. A related series of performative work, Hé-River Together, enlightened Wang Preston to the active force of the Yangtze and inaugurated her embodied connection to its vitality.


Projects such as Forest (2010-2017), a series of images depicting reforestation in China, continue Wang Prestons focus on the association between humans and nature. Photographs of mature trees domesticated by the shopping districts and transport stations of Chongqing are juxtaposed with haunting depictions of deserted model townlandscapes in Haidong Development Zone, emphasising the moral complexities at the heart of industrialisation. Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing environment, her work invites the viewer to dwell within an experience of place, examining their own relationship to the delicate transience of naturaland urban worlds.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

The three images are from a long-term project called ‘Forest’ (2010-2017). To investigate the complexities in the constructed natural environment within an urban setting, I spent eight years photographing the journeys of transplanted old trees in new Chinese cities. The trees were uprooted from their villages or older towns. They were then traded and planted in shining new cities to provide a sense of nature and history. Towards the later stage of the project, I went on to photograph how new land was created as part of this nationwide ‘greening’ movement. In a small town called ‘Haidong’ in Yunnan Province, China, I found an extreme version of such greening effort. Hundreds of working mines and quarries were ordered to cease operation. Gigantic ‘ecology recovery’ projects then moved in to clear the debris before spraying everything with a kind of bright-red, semi-artificial soil. The soil was mixed with grass seeds and covered by green biodegradable netting, which served as a protection before the soil was stabilised by the grass roots. The visual effects of such an ecology recovery project, in their unnatural colours and astonishing scales, highlight a range of contradictions between the natural and the artificial, between the organic and the unsustainable, and between our love of a healthy ecology and our impatience to nurture it. It is for these contradictions that I made these images. The project, Forest, won the 1st Prize in Professional Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards in 2019 and the 1st Prize in Professional Commission, Syngenta Photography Awards in 2017.



Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

I typically work on long-term projects that investigate a set of questions from multiple angles. The projects are demanding physically, emotionally and intellectually. For example, apart from the Forest project, I photographed the entire 6,211km Yangtze River in China at precise 100km intervals for the Mother River project (2010-2014). For a recent body of work, With Love. From an Invader., I walked to the same rhododendron tree every other day for a whole year and photographed it in an identical manner. Photography is my primary output, but my process can often be performative, involving actual embodiment in the physical landscape. Recently I have also started working collaboratively and exploring other ways to present work. For example, With Love. From an Invader. is presented as a four-panel projection with an original soundscape written by my collaborator. A large-format film camera is my favourite, but I also use digital cameras, drones and even infrared cameras.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

This is quite hard to narrow down since there have been so many influences. I would say that I’m influenced by a set of multicultural philosophies and aesthetics traditions from China and the West. Within the contemporary era, I’m inspired by conceptual arts that include landscape photography, performance and land art in the 20th century, particularly since the 1950s.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

The truth is that I was not familiar with the particular work of Common Ground, since I was raised in China and trained in Clinical Medicine. I only began to pursue fine art photography as a career since 2010, five years after I moved to the UK. However, my long-term interest in the landscape means that my work is within the same context of Common Ground, art and the environment.

Tyga Helme

Tyga Helme trained at Edinburgh College of Art and The Royal Drawing School in London, where she won the Machin Foundation Prize. She uses nature as a metaphor for feelings of being overwhelmed. Helme couples minute observation of the teeming forest floor – where the emerald green of a bramble leaf sits in stark juxtaposition to an array of cold blue silver leaves – with the flux and movement of unceasing growth. She switches from the micro to macro and a particularly favourite subject is a clump of Douglas firs near where she lives which she views from underneath, highlighting their dark and jagged canopy against the azure sky.

‘The untidy areas are the exciting bits,’ says Helme who lives on the Wiltshire Downs where she seeks out the uncultivated corners of fields or patches of woodland floor to paint. ‘Things really do spring up in one day and everything constantly shifts around,’ she says. ‘Grasses and brambles make way for animals; a shoot is there one day and gone the next because an animal has eaten it. A mushroom suddenly appears from nowhere. Everything is in a relationship with everything else.’

A rising star in the new British Landscape movement her works embodies an awakening to the importance of the ground beneath our feet.

Although Helme lives and works in the UK she won an Erasmus scholarship to study at the L’Ecole Nationale Superieue des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg and for more than a year taught at the International Institute for Arts, Modinagar in India. Her work is held in held in a number of important collections including the Royal Collection.


What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?


Over this past Winter I have been returning to a patch of brambles. I am drawn to edge-lands, hedgerows and forgotten undergrowth and while most things are dying back, brambles seem to keep their life force. Some leaves turn brown and dry up but some leaves stay green and the dark reds and purples in between feel like interconnecting jewels floating above quiet winter soil and fallen leaves, each unique and surprising. I love their tangled growth and how they grow anywhere and everywhere. They seem to feel their way across the countryside, much like how I work, feeling my way across paper or canvas.


What are the processes involved in making your work?


All of my work starts with drawing from life. Changes of light, temperature and weather bring a sense of urgency and excitement to the work that I cannot get in any other way. Working directly from life destroys any preconceived ideas of how nature works or what things look like and forces me into the present moment. These panel works intensify this by making me focus on small areas at a time without thought for the whole. Every mark or mixed colour is a direct response to how I saw something in that moment. I have returned to these brambles over many weeks and I hope you can feel the build up of multiple viewpoints and sense of time. I am allowing the tangled growth to dictate where the painting goes, I almost feel like a passenger being taken for the ride.


Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?


Nature is my biggest influence and being outside is when I can see things anew, whether I’m drawing, walking, swimming or lying in long grass with an empty mind. If I am lost in my work it is normally because I haven’t allowed myself these connections for a while. Reading also helps me think about these experiences and taste them again. I am indebted to Nan Shepherd, Robert Macfarlane and Rilke for making me notice and feel more. Artist’s use of colour and drawing influence me more than their subject matter. To name a few… I keep coming back to Vuillard’s use of colour and pattern, a distillation of observation and memory, which I find constantly surprising. Sargy Mann and Maja Ruznic also hit me in the gut with their use of colour and in terms of drawing I am inspired by Julie Mehretu’s large scale work and the work and teachings of Catherine Goodman.


You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?


I hope my work slows people down, slows their looking and encourages them to see more in the often overlooked or unnoticed. In noticing more we might care more.


Laurence Edwards

One of the few sculptors who casts his own work, Laurence Edwards is fascinated by human anatomy and the metamorphosis of form and matter that governs the lost-wax process. The driving force behind his work is bronze, an alloy that physically and metaphorically illustrates entropy, the natural tendency of any system in time to tend towards disorder and chaos. His sculptures express the raw liquid power of bronze, its versatility, mass and evolution, and the variety of process marks he retains tell the story of how and why each work came to be.

Edwards’ practice has long been preoccupied by the entwining of man, nature and time and Yoxman embodies that fascination; he is part tree, cove, cliff and figure.  Organic matter is built into the casting process; a detritus of leaves, branches, stone and rope. The patina and colouring of the sculpture will, in time, reflect the nearby cliffs. Drawing together the movement of time from the ancient past through the present and looking towards the future.

Laurence Edwards recently installed a 26 foot sculpture at the side of the A12, called Yoxman. As with many of his works “in some ways this figure deals with the crossover from a kind of male triumphalism to a more reticent, unsure confused state, battered and freighted by history, this evocation of maleness looks towards the ground, muffled, buckled and scarred, bearing witness to a complicated history evaluating what role is possible in the future”.

Based in Suffolk, he trained at Canterbury College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, where he studied bronze casting  and sculpture with Sir Antony Caro. After winning a Henry Moore Bursary, the Angeloni Prize for Bronze Casting and an Intach Travelling Scholarship, he studied traditional casting techniques in India and Nepal, an experience that not only influenced his treatment of form and technique, but also gave him the necessary tools to establish his own atelier.

Laurence Edwards_Ground Q&A


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?


It’s the story of bronze and it’s the story of the bronze age. It’s the story of all the cultures that have used bronze and the figure. It’s always struck me that bronze is like an art metal for centuries and millennia, right from the beginning, and most cultures seem to have arrived at the figure form through the metal. That is what I’m really interested in addressing.


It comes from all cultures, it comes from Greece, from Italy and the Renaissance, it comes into Northern Renaissances and it comes from the French late 19th century and early 20th century, from Richier, and then England with the postwar British artists who were influenced by the process of lost wax casting such as Turnbull and Chadwick, Paolozzi and Butler, all of whom used bronze in exceptional ways. They were influenced by Giacometti, Richier and by Rodin, and it goes back on that trajectory. I am moving away from French influences and late British postwar influences and thinking about Northern European and German late Renaissance. I am half German, so I think there is an ancestral link there. I am looking at northern European cathedrals, rude screens, churches, I am looking at the expressive head.


The spine of influences has always been bronze, the spine is metal, and spine is the figure.


And landscape, that’s my art influence, my landscape here and the writing around landscape which has been just as influential as any artist. My main avenues of thinking are definitely landscape, my connection to landscape and my connection to the writing about landscape. I constantly read writings about landscape. Sebald was a big influence 20 years ago. He walked right through my landscape and opened it up for me and shaped it and showed how you could extrapolate from walks in the landscape to thinking globally through time and history, through moods and states of mind, and psychology, and through literature.


I am a Suffolk person, my mother was German, my matriarchal line is German and my paternal line is just Suffolk back to mediaeval times, so it’s my people as it were, my tribe, and I make tribes, I make tribes, groups of figures, collections of people, communities, which is certainly an occupation of this landscape.


I am a big walker, I walk every day in the landscape. I live in Suffolk and am surrounded by nature. I set off on journeys and buried sculptures in the landscape. It was very much echoing the ship burials that took place 1500 years ago here with the Saxon populations. There were Saxon cemeteries visible from my studio. I was very aware of different peoples and different psychologies and different consciousnesses occupying the landscape here and I was very keen to take him to all that. The vague archaeology of the landscape is important.


And the church, my family history connected to the church. I rejected it completely, but those buildings dominate this landscape and my first real experience of sculpture in this landscape was the tombs, and lying figures in churches, stone carvings of characters lying with dogs at their feet, and I made that lying man sunk into the marshes. It seems to me that that’s the journey, the beginning of the journey, a combination of those experiences.


I was brought up in Snape, I also had Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore at the bottom of my garden basically so there was that kind of modernism with sculpture all around me as well as well as those churches and the architecture, and the archaeology of the landscape. And Ted Hughes, and Dylan Thomas.



Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

I photograph a lot in the landscape, and I collect wood. It’s good to have a studio where nature is coming in, and you can see how this is influencing my sculpture. This whole studio is immersed in growth and all this growth invades me every year. It’s always here, it occupies my thinking constantly it’s much more of a subconscious mindful existence, and it’s important to have it constantly needing to be dealt with as a problem. Nature invades the studio, all the plant life outside breaks in and makes life very difficult. The windows are difficult to close, I saw ivy in the fridge the other day, it’s quite wonderful! It’s that kind of entropy that I’m interested in, it’s almost malevolent, a creeping kind of Triffid, it affects my life. I was worried when I left the studio in the marshes but it’s in me, it’s there planted, it’s all part of me, the landscape is still here, and I’m still here. This studio has a completely different relationship with landscape, it’s much more personal, it’s more about penetration, it’s more about invasion, about dealing with a co-inhabitor, it’s dealing with living alongside nature and looking at it and thinking about it as an abstract thing. Leaves will fall on the back of my sculpture tonight and I will have to make decisions about those leaves in the morning, so it is quite wonderful to have that, nature is a bigger part of my life than it was then. It’s a symbiosis with nature, a relationship where we feed off each other.



Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?


The Seekers

The landscape with the kind of poppyseeds, it’s been seen as slightly apocalyptic, as though ash has descended upon the wood, a kind of nuclear waste land. I didn’t quite see it as depressingly as that but it is quite depressing, there is carcass in there, there are poppies. I made it nearly 20 years ago so it was an early work. I was making tableaus. I was definitely thinking about landscape in a much more illustrated kind of way. It was the time I was reading people like Sebald but there was definitely a literal depiction of landscape. I was creating tableaus of woodland, of wasteland. And I was having kids. There’s a kind of spinal object in the sculpture which is actually from one of those wooden kits of a dinosaur the kids put together. It’s the kind of detritus, the things that were around my life at the time. There’s a carcass of a deer in there. I was driving through the forest and woodland all the time and picking up roadkill. I was drawing carcasses and learning about anatomy, drawing deer carcass and butchering meat. So, it’s a kind of collage of events of being a father and playing with kids toys, and the carcass, and body, and skeleton, a kind of a weird view of life, and a connection to nature, and driving through woodland every day and pine forests, empty soulless places really inhabited by deer and not much else so there is kind of a melancholy there. It’s definitely a woodland landscape, thinking about the landscape around me and woodland.


Modern Nature

Modern Nature is a tree in a very famous wood around here, one of the most ancient woodlands in Europe called Staverton Thicks, which has got thousand-year-old Oaks, it’s like a Tolkien landscape with trees dying and falling over. I went into the wood, the deep dark forest, and I took clay and my modelling stand to see what it would be like to model a form which had no skeleton and no muscle and no tension like you do in a body. That tree came back to the studio, that Modern Nature tree, it sat in my studio and I used it often.


Staverton Man

Staverton Man has a figure coming out of the tree, the body emerges from the tree, the tree in Modern Nature. I was very much getting involved in the northern Renaissance and looking at Dürer, and the famous melancholia etching of the artist he’s got all his strewn tools around him and he can’t use them. It’s the frustration of unrealised potential. It’s the the shape of melancholic thinking, the shape of pathos and unrealised potential, and loss. I began to make those shapes, and draw those shapes, what I call Dürer solids. I love the idea that shape can evoke temperament, and shape can evoke mood, and I want my feelings for that tree to be like a fungal growth on that tree, that symbol, that emblem of unfulfilled potential. It’s what the Greeks called pathos.


Vision 1 (Carrier) and Vision 2 (Heft):

I draw maquettes and try to place them quickly into landscape, painting sculptures into landscape, to feel the effect and to feel how landscapes can be affected by them so these are examples of that kind of working method. They are not specific landscapes, they are emotional landscapes, they are art landscapes. I project sculptures into landscapes rather than doing computer rendering like Photoshop. I would rather paint and draw them into landscape and have that kind of agency, that human activity, that’s what I am. I don’t need to rely on technology to do that.



Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?


I am a human being trying to make work about responding to my environment, to nature, and the fact that I’m a member of a tribe, of a community, and my psyche is shared and my way of inhabiting the world is shared. I might be documenting that kind of experience so that people can share that and connect with it in a certain way.


There is a performative aspect to the work which I really love for example, ‘The Creek Men’ coming through the landscape was a massive moment for me. These figures came down the river and were floating outside the Maltings and at high tide the ankles were above the reeds and their bodies had risen to almost superhuman status, and at low tide they were in the mud, sitting below the mud, so there was this extraordinary relationship like a pressure valve, like a barometer of the environment, a barometer of time. It was all about the water, about the mud, about the landscape, about the environment, about the synergy, about their relationship, and also with the stars, the cosmos, the moon controlling the water. The spring tide was their way in, they couldn’t leave until the October winter high tide, and although there was a fight to get them removed, they couldn’t be removed. The land between low tide and high tide was called no man’s land and they were occupying no man’s land. It was a powerful, powerful time, they became a cause célèbre, people battled their way to see them, and they return to see them. Loads of people wanted them to stay, there was this wonderful feeling of impermanence, but permanence as well, just like us. They were floating, not connected to any land but they were static, they never moved, they were like anchors. So, it was wonderful, and stumbled upon by accident so they became a core document for me, and I don’t think you could ever match it again. Robert Macfarlane wrote beautifully about them. They really epitomise that relationship, and the legacy one would want to create, and the relationship that one wants to evolve, it’s about that stuff that hits you in the gut that, that you connect with emotionally, it’s not really about art, it’s about human connectivity.


It is definitely important for me that I have modelled the figure, and I have made it to experience the making, going through a journey with the making, impregnating it with a kind of psychology, a consciousness, it’s important to have that journey embedded in the sculpture something that a scan or a 3-D print would not achieve. I have to have this journey, this torturous long folly, which is really where the soul is injected into the objects and that soul is left to omit through good locations and good placing, it can actually hum in landscape, just emit for a long, long time, that is my ambition.


Stephen Turner

Stephen Turner often spends long periods in unusual or abandoned places, noting changes in our complex relationship with the environment. Working across the UK and internationally, his projects are rooted in research using a variety of media and methodologies, including performance, drawing, painting, sculpture and video.

He has an enduring relationship with the estuaries of the Thames & Medway. In 1994 he began living in a small tent on the north Kent marshes, resulting in many installations that include ‘Tide & Change’ (Darnet Island,1998) and ‘Time & Tide’ (Millennium Festival,1999). His Seafort Project was an occupation of the ruined Maunsell Seaforts six miles out in the Thames Estuary in 2005, reprised in the exhibition ‘Estuary’ at the Museum of London in 2013. ‘Escaping With Magwitch’ documented his journey in a small inflatable boat with writer Carol Donaldson for the Estuary Festival 2021.

Materia Prima was a research project for Falmouth University in collaboration with the Camborne School of Mines and Mining in 2006. In a Cornish landscape contaminated with heavy metals from a 3000-year history of mining tin and copper, Turner set out to seek the transformative ‘materia prima’.

‘Natura Prima?’ was a collaboration with Bow Art Trust in London and the Fondazione Bevilacqua la Masa in Venice. Following a residency on Giudecca and solo exhibition at Palazzetto Tito during the Venice Biennale of Art in 2019, London elements of the project with the artist’s Exbury Egg, were completed following the disruption of Covid in July 2021.

Stephen Turner studied fine art and the history and philosophy of science at Leeds University (BA Hons Fine Art 1976) and was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study in Canada at the University of Regina (MFA 1979). He was a Fellow in Painting at Exeter College of Art & Design 1980-82 and won the Hunting Art Prize for drawing in 2003.

Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

In 1897 at the height of the industrial revolution Paul Gauguin titled his last major work ‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? In our post-industrial age these questions resonate all the more. I am concerned at the increasing disconnect in our relationship with the rest of nature and in a world of hubris, of the urgent need to re-acquire humility and respect.

Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

I often spend long periods alone in unusual and/or abandoned places, noting changes in the complex relationship between people and their environment. Projects are rooted in research using a variety of methodologies and media including performance, drawing, painting, sculpture, video and site-specific responses where I always endeavour to tread lightly on the land.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

Drawings from Hoo Fort Window

Between 1994 and 1998 I spent 423 days on Hoo Salt Marsh and Bishops Ness, unoccupied muddy islands in the Medway Estuary whose abandoned circular Victorian forts were built to defend the naval dockyard in Chatham upriver. Both are ruined and sinking into mud that will eventually claim them as climate change drives the seas higher. Six metre tides infiltrate shorelines poorly protected by abandoned hulks and driven wooden stakes. It’s a landscape in perpetual flux, assailed by water flow and the unrestricted sweep of wind and rain. Tangles of thorny hawthorn have overgrown each fort’s perimeter as nature endeavours to surround and envelop them.

This is the context for my sequence of drawings looking out at the 360-degree view afforded by the gunport windows of Hoo Fort in 1997. Paper was left on the river bed to acquire a unique patina and then used as the starting point for my own interventions using watercolour made from mud and charcoal from camp-fire driftwood.

Materia Prima

Materia Prima was a research project for Falmouth University in collaboration with the Camborne School of Mines and Mining in 2006. I assayed the six-mile valley of the River Carnon, from source to its meeting with the tides at Restronguet Creek. In a landscape contaminated with heavy metals from the residue of a 3000-year history of mining tin and copper, I set out to seek the mythic transformative ‘materia prima’.

Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

I worked for Common Ground between 1987 and 2000. I remember being pleased we both had copies of ‘Walden Pond’, HD Thoreau’s early critique of over-civilisation and the rewards of wilderness. Of many memorable quotes, I always liked ‘Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?

Chris Drury

Chris Drury has been described as an Eco-Land Artist but he himself says that he seeks to make connections between:

Nature and Culture

Inner and Outer

Microcosm and Macrocosm

To this end he collaborates with scientists and technicians from a broad spectrum of disciplines and technology and uses whatever visual means and materials that best suit the situation. Context is everything. Context gives rise idea, form, method and material.  Context can be a piece of land or an idea from science. Running through all of it is a sense of the fragility of our planet and the need to live and work lightly. His work on paper, digital, photographic and drawings together with installations, are the works shown in Museums and galleries, throughout the world

His has made works outside on every continent on earth, including Antarctica, where he was artist in residence with The British Antarctic Survey in 2007. In 2016 he completed three large commissions in Western Australia, Montana and South Korea. During Lockdown he collaborated with a Japanese artist/Zen priest on five Kanji – Earth, Wind, Water, Fire and Kokoro (Heart/Soul/Mind). Last year after lockdown he worked with a small community in the Vercors, France to produce the work Passage on the top of a mountain pass and this year he is working on a new retrospective monograph book with Thames and Hudson and a work outside in Brittany.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

Boletus Print – This is a spore print made onto a glass 35 mm. slide – blown up in an enlarger and made into a screen print. I have screen printed mud from the river Ouse through it onto white paper. This work is about the connectivity of mycelium in the soils.


Howling at The Universe – A homage to Kurt Schwitters – Schwitters was the first installation artist – I admire what he did. He was entered during the war on the Isle of Man. Every night he would put his head out of the window and howl like a wolf. Also he used to collect all the uneaten porridge and make sculptures out of it. In time these would rot and drip through the floorboards. Someone asked me to make a piece in honour of Kurt Schwitters, so I took the  boletus mushroom spore print screen print I already had and screen printed Readybrek through it onto black paper.


Common Bent and Plantain – These binary works were made during a project with 3 organic farms in Dorset for Cape Farewell. Kay Syrad and I worked with these farmers intermittently for a year. The end result was a large hand bound leather A3 book chronicling this process and called Exchange. In the course of doing this we buried a shief of 100 pieces of A1 paper in the soil of one of the farms for 9 months. We also took a piece of turf from the same farm and extricated about 60 different plants and scanned them into a computer. These plant images were monoprinted onto the buried paper and formed the bulk of the book. A few extra – like these two pieces, we framed. One of the farmers pointed to the work and said “this is the essence of our farm – everything goes back into the soil and that life force is drawn up through the roots and into the plant which our cows eat. They in turn manure the ground and we eat and drink their milk products which are a direct result of this earth and these plants”.


The Worm Forgives The Plough is the title of a book by John Stewart Collis on farming during the second World war.This piece takes a finger print of one of the farmers and draws it in soil as the basis for the work. The fingerprint is the microcosm of the hand of the farmer but it also represents contour lines of the land, ploughed furrows and weather lines. Inserted into this is a map of Sydling St Nicholas woven together with The British Isles and a part of Europe – again a nod to micro/macro. the work has no particular meaning I am just playing with ideas.


Soil Library –  Over the course of my working life I have visited every continent on earth including Antarctica. I have made a practice of collecting a handful of soil from each place I have had anything to do with. Some of these soils I have used as a pigment in map works etc. a few years ago I had these shelves made and put all the soils into labelled jars and they now in themselves form a work – the result of 45 years of making work about our planet.


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

My work is always context based. The context gives rise to idea, material, scale and method of working. As a result what I do is very diverse. I have made a living making site specific works in their place where the work stays in its place, is made of the place and I am paid at the point of making. Every so often I work with a museum or gallery and makes works for the walls and installations. I have made works with maps, with soil, with photographs and particularly with fungi, which has been a persistent interest throughout my life. My concern has always been to live and work lightly on the ground. Not to destroy or disturb anything and to make everything I do eco-intelligent.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

I have no particular influences – John Cage – lead me to Fungi, Long and Fulton, who I sometimes walked with were an early influence who I have long since parted company. However I have worked with all sorts of indigenous small communities, and with scientists and clinicians to explore our relationship to the earth and our place as something very small within it all.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

Yes I knew Common Ground in my earl years particularly with Medicine Wheel. I was in their book Second Nature, but really their focus was on Andy Goldsworthy, while I was ploughing my own furrow. I have no intended impact for my work I simply let it speak for itself.

This is what Jeff Lockwood said on my work Carbon Sink 

‘ It takes an artist to demonstrate that sometimes (perhaps often), “less is more.”  Chris Drury did more to foster public understanding and discussion with his uncomplicated arrangement of logs and rocks than all of the technical reports and scientific papers about climate change generated by university researchers.’  and again –

‘A quiet plea:  Let’s face it, Carbon Sink was a silent, ground-level piece of art that couldn’t really be seen until a person was next to the installation.  There was no trumpeting of accusations, no declaration of an environmental crisis, no signage explaining the political and economic corruption of the state’s corporatocracy, no explicit questioning of how each of us contributes to climate change through our consumption. The art simply whispered a dire warning to those who paused and contemplated the layered meanings.’ 

Antony Williams

“When Williams paints human faces and bodies in tempera – whether his own, or that of another sitter – he makes the viewer intensely aware of surface detail. One sees, more insistently perhaps than one does in life, the little marks of wear and tear, the furrows and wrinkles…

Williams’ still lifes and portraits – like much art – underline the passing of time and mortality. This was the reason no doubt why his fine portrait of the Queen caused controversy. Inevitably, his method, his close vision, revealed that that these were in fact the face and hands of an ageing woman. That is not how everybody chooses to think of the monarch. But as a work of art, and an exercise in sober, careful truth – telling like the best of his work – it was indeed, very impressive.”

– Martin Gayford, art critic and writerWilliams works almost exclusively in egg tempera – a painstaking, exacting medium in which egg is used instead of linseed oil as the binding medium. While oil allows for a degree of flexibility and manipulation of the painted surface before it dries, many days after initial application, this technique does not easily allow for alteration. All his work is based on intense observation, particularly of human flesh, creating as a result a heightened sense of realism.

He trained at Farnham College of Art and Portsmouth University and is a member of the New English Art Club, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Pastel Society.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

The inspiration for the two still lifes in the forthcoming exhibition ‘Ground’ is my continuing engagement with still life painting, represented by an interest in texture and detail of both naturally occurring organic forms in conjunction and in contrast with man-made objects such as the toy house and toy tree. The toy house inhabits an almost surrealist landscape composed of twigs, leaf debris and sweet chestnut husks, with a striped sky, acting as a portent of some unknown threat.

The still life, which appears to be a random section of forest floor, with leaves and bark, is composed in the studio from debris collected from Chobham common, with a single parakeet feather within the pattern of leaf and bark, and possibly alluding to the fragility of existence.

Beyond the Pines is one of my first forays outside the studio and is an attempt to paint a landscape but with a figurative element, represented by the figure walking towards the trees, possibly suggesting an implied narrative.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

My influences as an artist have always been those artists with an engagement with reality based on an acute observation of it, whether they’re painting landscape, still life or portraits; but who also bring some other dimension to their work, whether through interpretation or the use the paint.

Lydia Halcrow

Lydia Halcrow’s work focuses on collaborative and experimental embodied processes that make with a place to form matter maps that re-map a landscape in the context of the unfolding climate crisis.

Her recent body of work began through a series of walks along the Taw Estuary in North Devon – a place overlooked by her grandmother’s house, a place of so many childhood memories. The walks grew into a seven-year project that marked the onset of her grandmother’s dementia and the last years of her life. They marked out too, a gradual understanding of how this and every place is rapidly changing through rising sea levels, coastal erosion, increased storms, and human debris washing in on every tide. The work holds different records of the material encounters with earth, textures, and debris through her walking body. Together it forms a series of alternative maps that offer textural/temporal/material records of a place predicted to be underwater within her lifetime. These ‘matter maps’ are made with rust, carbon, graphite, aluminium, human debris and 350-million-year-old earth pigment Bideford Black unique to this place. They span painting, drawing, print and installation.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

The works are part of a larger body of work that is the culmination of seven years walking the Taw Estuary in North Devon. It was a place that I knew well as a child – my grandmother lived overlooking the estuary until recently. I returned to walk there thinking about the end of her life and the fragility of this stretch of coastline that like so many others, is under threat of flooding as sea levels rise.

My inspiration is the place and its materiality experienced through slow and repeated walks. As the riverbanks erode, I collect the earth that falls after storms and high tides before it is washed out to sea. I often work with the earth pigment Bideford Black that is unique to this place and forms one of the materials I make into pigment and ink to paint, draw and print with. I also work with rust fragments from a series of abandoned ships that line this stretch of coast – they feel to me like relics of an industrial age and speak of our human relationship with stuff that is so often discarded when it is no longer of any use and left to slowly decay back into the earth forming a new layer upon the earth’s crust.

Trace’ is made from rust residues from abandoned industrial structures within a section of the North Devon coast. These structures are both relics and markers of the era of the Anthropocene. The works hold a fragility as an echo to the place of their making. They will continue to flake just as the structures continue to leak and crumble into the ground and the estuary waters that are now too polluted to bathe in. This low-lying land is forecast to be under water within my lifetime as sea levels rise because of human induced global heating.


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

My work explores trace and residue – human trace in our places and the complex and tangled meeting points between this human trace and the materiality of more-than-human worlds. The processes carry a trace of materials found along my walks or the textures made between my hands and feet and the earth beneath and the surfaces I touch. Some of my processes are formed by attaching metal plates or paper to my body to make expanded drawings while I walk. Others are made with human debris and marine plastics I collect along each walk – the traces of which I transfer onto paper using inks made from eroded earth.

Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

So much of my work is a close and slow exploration of ‘place’ particularly through its textures and materiality. I was particularly influenced by Julie Mehretu’s ‘Grey Area’ work that closely explored the layered history of Berlin and brought in influences of W.G Sebald’s writing – his book ‘The Rings of Saturn’ has been a strong influence connecting walking as a way to tune into the many layers forming a place, layers that are geological but also temporal and framed through different memories. Michelle Stuart’s earth and seed works have also been an ongoing influence – her close engagement with the materiality of place and the grid. I’m interested in the meeting points between Counter-mapping and materiality – and finding ways to work with a place as a mode of collaboration.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

Sue Clifford and Angela King’s writing has been something I have returned to often – particularly the quote: “Places are process and story, as well as artefact, layer upon layer of our continuing history and nature’s history intertwined.” Common Ground is an incredible movement with a long and rich legacy. I make this work as a way to think about how we humans treat our places (through the lens of many repeated walks and a close and slow exploration of one place), as a way to think about my own human impact in this and every place and how we face up to the environmental damage evident in the now and unfolding daily.

Quote: Sue Clifford and Angela King, Local DistinctivenessPlace, Particularity and Identity, Common Ground, 1993

Chrystel Lebas

French visual artist based in London, Chrystel Lebas is interested in encouraging a wider understanding of the complex encounter between humankind and nature. She employs photography, the moving image and sound to explore and reveal histories concealed in landscapes, investigating a variety of sites to which she returns over extended periods of time during key moments of change. Her works highlight the complexity of these places, observing natural phenomena occurring at specific time and place. She has been exploring landscapes during the twilight hours, using analogue photography and long exposures to reveal the unseen and the slow colour shift during the crepuscular. She produced large and immersive panoramic images in forests and wildernesses considering notions of the sublime and our relationship to nature.

Lebas is a graduate from the Royal College of Art and her photographs and films have been widely exhibited. Her latest work ‘Regarding Forests’ (2019-21), combined large photographs, sound, and scent to create an immersive installation commissioned and exhibited at the Wellcome Collection during the ‘On Happiness Season’ (2021). Further exhibitions include a major one person show at Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography, Amsterdam and at De Pont Museum, Tilburg; The Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Impression gallery, Bradford; Maryland Art Space, Baltimore; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, Croatia; The Collection and Usher Gallery, Lincoln; National Media Museum, Bradford; Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris; Nichido Contemporary Arts, Tokyo; Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

Works are held in several private and public collections amongst them Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography Amsterdam, The Scottish National Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris, The Collection and Usher Gallery, The Citigroup Private Bank, Vital Art and The Wilson Center for Photography. She has published three monographs: L’espace temps-Time in Space (2003), Between Dog and Wolf (2006) and Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archivespublished to accompany the exhibition at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam (2017) and recipient of the Kraszna Krausz book award 2018.

Q. What is the inspiration behind the specific works in the exhibition and how do they sit within the context of your work?

In 2011 the Natural History Museum London commissioned me to make new work inspired by a collection of anonymous glass negatives depicting the British landscape, from the beginning of the 20th century.
After extensive research, a name scratched on a glass plate revealed the identity of the photographer, the famous British botanist and ecologist Sir Edward James Salisbury (1886–1978).
E.J. Salisbury journeyed through Great Britain with a notebook, a vasculum and a camera, meticulously documenting landscape and its flora with utmost precision. In these photographs, the endless pine forests, the ‘wandering dunes’ of Scotland and Norfolk appear rugged and empty, just as one might imagine these places to be, though in actual fact, nature in these places is under active management of public and private conservation and environmental organisations.
Walking, searching, GPS in hand, I attempted to find the exact locations where Salisbury stood when he took his photographs at the beginning of the 20th century. I was not so much concerned with a literal comparison between the landscape as it was then and as it is now, but more with defining my own role and vision as an artist alongside that of the scientist Salisbury.
‘Re-visiting’ combines photographs, texts, sound and moving image work that highlight complex issues in relationships between humans, plants, and environment in Salisbury’s time and now.

Visiting the places Sir Edward James Salisbury photographed between 1914 and 1933 in Scotland, Norfolk and Devon, I looked at how the landscape has changed over nearly ninety years. A complex quest as nothing is as simple as it first appears. I gathered evidence from Salisbury’s photographic records and his notes, local information, botanical sources, and topographic evidence.
Changes in the landscape can be caused by climate, humans and/or animals (for example, a bird might be carrying a seed from A to B hence a new species might appear in an unfamiliar habitat).
Is all this valuable information enough to account for what has happened to these landscapes in the intervening years?

The photographs are accompanied by texts extracted from Clive A. Stace, New Flora of the British Isles, the botanist’s bible, and Salisbury’s own lyrical writings where the poetic meets scientific accuracy.
A map shows the locality, and the global positioning system shows the precise point where photographs were taken.
Walking the landscape with Kath Castillo (biologist and botanist assigned to the project by Dr Mark Spencer, at the time Senior Botanist at the Natural History Museum in London)
was key to the project as we worked in parallel to understand what constitutes the landscape.
Looking closely at the botany and identifying locations, Kath explained basic notions of botany and introduced me to new words including locality, habitat, specimen, and plant community.
It is only when I started to work alongside scientists that I began to understand that my remit was very different from Salisbury’s.
He was, after all, a photographer disguised as a scientist. Was I becoming a scientist disguised as a photographer?


Q. What are the processes involved in making your work?

My work examines the complexities of mankind’s relationship with nature. Through my photographic, film and sound work I investigate various landscapes and sites over time, documenting and revealing the various changes brought about therein by the interaction of both human beings and of nature itself. Working often in limited light and utilising the ‘uncertainty of the falling darkness at twilight’, I produce large format, often panoramic and enveloping images of nature at its most remote, beautiful, and enigmatic works reflecting upon ‘notions of the sublime and our relationship to nature’.

The recent installation ‘Regarding Forests’ exhibited at The Wellcome Collection combined large analogue photographs with sound and scent of the forest floor after rain.

The work selected for ‘Ground’ is composed of large chromogenic prints with lightbox and printed text.

For the photographs in the exhibition: Using analogue photography, I print my own colour photographs up to a size in my darkroom’s studio and work in collaboration with a printer in Amsterdam to produce the larger prints.


Q. Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?

More than one artist/writer/maker has had an influence on me, and it would all depend on the time and place and context of the works. However, Gaston Bachelard writings have always been in the background and influenced the way that I perceive landscape. I have also been looking extensively at the paintings of David Casper Friedrich and the ideas around the sublime.

My influence for the ‘Re-visiting’ project is mainly looking at the use of photography in science and its challenges, as photography in its invention wasn’t an accurate tool however contributed to asking questions around representation.


Q. You may be familiar with the work of Common Ground in the 80’s to link art and the environment. What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?

When I was introduced to the E.J. Salisbury collection at the Natural History Museum, I had no idea which direction I would take, what I would focus on, and it was only after discussing with Dr Mark Spencer, the botanist that worked at the Museum, that it made sense to try and travel to the places depicted in Salisbury’s photographs and maybe to re-photograph the locations. And, of course, the photographs I would take might show environmental change, because I would be walking in Salisbury’s footsteps some 90 years later… It wasn’t that easy at first, as the glass plates sometimes contained only a few elements to guide me through a location: the plant species, date and location names might just be readable from Salisbury’s handwriting, engraved or written directly on the glass plate. Walking together with a scientist and discussing the photographs afterwards would inform the way I would eventually photograph, however resistant I would be sometimes to re-photograph a view – which wasn’t necessarily the one I would have agreed to focus on in the first instance. This sparked some discussions about “the view”, what is the “best view” or interpretation of the landscape – his or mine?

Sometimes the Salisbury photographs would be left aside, and I would walk without having to constantly look for his views but find my own.

I had a very calculated approach, at first relocating the places Salisbury had photographed, using maps and GPS coordinates I became a detective and maybe a little obsessed with the task of finding the exact “view”, but sometimes I would look at this landscape through my own eyes and record it, when possible, during twilight. It just happened that I often found the places to photograph at the end of the day, making it appropriate for me to record the shifting time of day, bringing a layer of uncertainty to the image. I wonder what we will find in these places in 100 years’ time?

My work is increasingly focusing on these particular issues around the environment and how we, human beings, influence it, however sometimes it is more complex than it appears and that is why we need science to step in and demonstrate the urgencies we face. In my photography and film works I am pointing out at the issues, hopefully engaging with a wider audience to share my findings and at the same time asking questions that might just provoke a reaction or a dialogue. My photographs are accompanied with GPS coordinates so that the locations can be retraced back and observed years after my photographs and Salisbury’s were taken, hence the recording of potential change in the landscape will continue.