Anthropocene, or ‘the age of humans’; Anthroposcenic*, human intrusions into the natural world.
There is hardly anywhere we are not. Hardly a place where we haven’t left our mark. Nowhere we haven’t influenced. Often for good but almost always in our own interests as the priority. This is the theme of the assignment pieces which follows a series of exercises that make proxies of bodies and here is extended to proxies of human presence.
Intrusion #1 – footprints
The idea came about after using the mirror foil earlier and I thought to do that, basing the shape on an outline of my feet set against the green of the cascading vines under the pergola. It’s the first time it’s been so prolific – a tumbled combination of grapevine and climber that turns red in the autumn. On that day, it was the coolest place in either the house or the garden.
I began with a bright yellow wash over an acrylic primer and then printed the feet from a trace painted onto tracing paper then transferred to another sheet of tracing paper to be applied to the canvas board on top of the mirror foil cutouts.
Shortly after, I removed the mirror film because it wasn’t performing as I wanted, even though I wasn’t too sure what that was.
Since then, I’ve collaged some large teasels into the right hand side, painted them with a new medium – aquacryl, suggested by my tutor (I only bought white + some medium in case I didn’t like it, it’s truly expensive) and enlarged the cut-out of the intrusive feet. The background is multi layered, some of it gloss varnish, and some watercolour mixed with gloss varnish and blown across the board to create tendrils.
While I liked what happened in many parts of the image, the big dark blob of green in the middle increasingly looked like thick mud so I decided on a white-out over everything but the feet and a new start.
I know this time what to avoid, and a bonus is texture borrowed from the previous iteration.
This moved quite quickly with a lemon yellow acrylic wash, some very dilute acrylic drifts and pushes, dabs of more solid colour suggesting flowers and leaves, and a ‘paint-over’ of the foliage on the right. Once that felt right, I glued in the feet, pulling down one of the leaves to make room. This revealed the painting beneath and so I pulled more leaves down and left them loose, again, and opportunistically, recalling the 3D element of this module.
I’m beginning to feel that these – I have some more ideas along these lines – belong in the parallel project rather than the assignment for this part of the course. But I’ll start on another and see how that pans out. The theme is intrusions – things that don’t quite belong in nature – and the plan is to make each of them large, photographic, and collaged into the impressionistic scene to reflect their impact and manufactured intrusiveness on the natural world. Nothing heavy then!
June 28th and 29th. Intrusion #2 – Surveillance
Yesterday was busy – a PC being ‘talked down’ from crashing under slight pressure (lots of emails from techs) then having its Windows reinstalled so it can be returned), and the British Gas engineer here to coax my aging central heating system into coughing up whatever was stopping the water circulating. Which is a wordy way of saying I forgot to take any progress photos of this piece.
The focus is a wildlife camera at the bottom of the garden that gives me bursts of fox, hedgehog, and cat activity down there. It’s particularly handy for the last when I’m trying to get a straggler in – caught on camera and I know it’s a good time to call them in. They think I’m psychic.
But, like my feet, it’s a thing of the Anthropocene era and although my feet can’t be described as manufactured, they’re representative of our footprint in our ecology. The camera is another intrusion even if it’s arguably there for reasons related to ecology.
I began with a white primer prep then a pink wash because I knew I would want this image to be dark and to add further washes of orange, burnt sienna, and green in layers. I drew out the leaves first with charcoal, added colour in dilute acrylic, then began to paste in some pieces of the photograph, using parts unrelated to the item being pasted into – a deep brown/magenta pot serving as part of a branch for instance. I like using clips from different parts of a photograph to serve as proxies for given areas of a painting, and sometimes they come from totally unrelated photos. Their job is not necessarily to substitute for brush work, although that does happen, but to provide structure and texture and also hints of the way I want the paint to work. This piece is a real case in point as I removed some of the photographic material and totally obscured others areas. The end result is much more painted than collaged but with a huge and very obvious photo in the centre, cantilevered out from the board by two pieces of rolled up brown paper tied with brown string, soaked in glue and stuck in place by leaving all of it flat the whole night. I don’t know how long it will last once vertical.
There is a piece of adhesive backed mirror foil on top of the camera’s lens so that the world outside the camera is reflected in it.
The image is quite dark and my camera always compensates for that by brightening it up. I haven’t found a way to stop it doing that yet so this is more colourful than it appears in the real world. I may run it through Paintshop Pro to see if I can produce something closer to the image I see on the easel.
The next two intrusions are a chair and a mirror. The chair is one that’s stalled in transit between the front of the garden and the back, and fetched up between an elderberry and a mock orange, the mirror is an artifice I fixed to the back of a shed to give an impression of a longer track down the side of the garden but which I have to lace with sticks to stop birds trying to fly down it.
Intrusion #3. Derelict.
Actually, I believe this is plural; it’s a small stack of chairs that were once white, painted green, and are now reverting to type. I quite like the entropy of that and the faux camouflage that I sometimes see on high street ‘military’ pants.
This is a wash of phthalo blue and burnt sienna. There’s something about those chairs that was bringing to mind rusty girders and a very rough mix with partial pigment distributed across a flat brush seems to make lines that evoke that kind of context. The colour will underpin the leaves and that starkly derelict chair.
I think this lacks subtlety at the moment but I like the way the collaged leaves make a statement of their own at the bottom and I’m looking at a different way of placing that chair. I have an idea about there being several (now I’ve realised there are two!) and I’m also finding a creeping influence from nesting osprey with chicks and spiders carrying their young around in sacs under their abdomen.
Went for the stack but preferred the spider.
I need to darken the background now, once these are dried; that will let the chair come forward but not quite as far forward as the bright green leaves at the front. They’re fig leaves – the fig tree is just to the left of the chair and out of shot.
I’ll let this dry off a little to see how it settles.
I’ve moved the ‘offspring’ further back under the parent chair – whatever they were, they wouldn’t be out in the open at this point in their development. I’ve also marked them with black conte – an outline and a black strip down the middle where the back of the chair lies. This mimics osprey chicks whose plumage makes them superbly adapted to blend in with the surrounding foliage and debris from bushes and trees. I like the way the white of the large chair is not only indicative of its disrepair but also acts as a kind of camouflage while still being quite luminous. It could be a patch of bright sunlight cast through scrambled foliage.
July 1st. Anthroposcenic #4 – Mirror Mirror on the Wall/Reclamation
First pass, a burnt sienna wash with puddles of water shot into it with an old syringe (for long ago cat meds before anyone asks!), yellow pigment and red pigment added to the puddles then left to create a tide line as it dried. I helped it along a little with some paper towel then added some brush strokes in less dilute burnt sienna.
I’ve applied some collaged pieces taken from the gloss and the plain paper photos, then begun drawing in some structure with charcoal. I’ve changed how this appears with a wet brush and also added some pigment to both the photographed leaves and the areas where leaves will be. Some of the flowers represented aren’t precisely in this area but are in the locality – rape seed and some kind of brassica brought by the birds, and yellow salvia. The leaves are holly and viburnum bodnantense, which sounds like something out of Gulliver’s Travels. There are also pink spirea and himalayan honeysuckle, which often houses white spiders, a few feet away. This could be a bright and busy piece.
Again I’ve used pieces cut from plain paper and gloss copies of the original photo to make structure then painted into and over them. I’ve also used black conte to make some definition marks which look like scratches or tracery. In the process of photographing the process, I saw myself again in the mirror foil and this changed the nature of the work so that it became much less about the intrusion of humans into nature and more about nature reclaiming its space. The human, the viewer, is trapped in the mirror behind the enveloping foliage.
What I like most about canvas board is the way acrylic glazes the surface and dries there so that more glazes can be layered on top. There’s a transparency to these layers – and I choose transparent media to maximise this – so that further applications can be swept into the shapes I need. I’m also very fond of a flat brush; largeish or smallish depending on the circumstances; because these make lovely flat but rounded marks and they can dot a cross-line too, as in the red spire flowers to the right of the mirror.
These paintings are all built from an initial notion which is less an idea, more a sense of something emergent. I don’t know what it will be or what it needs until it begins to take shape and I’m developing the confidence to let that happen. Each stage is a platform that has to be left to settle before it can take the weight of something else.
These, I think, are the pieces of work for Assignment 3.
In the meantime: *Anthroposcenic. I thought I’d invented this word but David Matless got there in 2018 and may not have been the first –
Through the “Anthroposcenic”, this paper explores how landscape becomes emblematic of processes deemed to mark an Anthropocene epoch, beginning with a detailed discussion of Simon Roberts’ photography of Somerset floods. The Anthropocene, whereby the human species is held to have made a distinctive mark on the geological record, has received extensive scientific and public commentary, and the Anthroposcenic indicates a potential point of correspondence with landscapes, both real and representational. The paper discusses the temporality of the Anthropocene, and forms of image work carried out around it. The paper then examines various forms of contemporary Anthroposcenic landscape imagery concerned with coastal erosion. Recent years have seen a proliferation of coastal art practice, with the meeting point of land and sea being an apt site for reflection on the Anthropocene and climate change. The paper also discusses imagery evoking undersea lost lands, including the North Sea’s former “Doggerland”. The paper sets current art practice alongside the imagery of scientific research, and within a genealogy of narratives of coastal change.
The more I think about this, the more I feel it’s a fit for my parallel project, perhaps with a magical or surrealistic element. Anthroposcenic seems to focus on landscapes which include evidence of human presence. There’s a fusion of science and art which appeals to me, and a growing ecological undercurrent which also suits my drive to make art that communicates something. It’s quite a new area of investigation – most of the links below lead to the same papers or authors although some are only accessible by subscription.
The Anthroposcenic: Landscape in the Anthroposcene | Issue 10 – November 2018 | Issues | British Art Studies
Google search : anthroposcenic – Google Search
The Anthroposcenic: Landscape in the Anthroposcene | Issue 10 – November 2018 | Issues | British Art Studies
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers – Wiley Online Library
The Anthroposcenic (readcube.com)
The Anthroposcenic – University of Leeds (exlibrisgroup.com)
The Anthroposcenic (researchgate.net)
Climate change stories and the Anthroposcenic | Nature Climate Change
Next the Sea: Eccles and the Anthroposcenic – ScienceDirect
[PDF] The Anthroposcenic: Landscape in the Anthroposcene | Semantic Scholar
Robert Welkie – Anthroposcenic: Animals | LensCulture
“The title of this work is Anthroposcenic. It is a play on words with a fairly new word and an old word. The old word is scenic. The new word is Anthropocene. The British pronounce it An Throp a Scene. Our old geologic epoch is the Holocene. The Holocene had the benefit of about 12,000 years of stable climate since the ice age. The Anthropocene will likely have a different flavor.
We are now in a period when human influence on the planet is an important geological consideration.
A working group on the Anthropocene was started in 2009. In 2016 it recommended that the International Geological Congress declare a new epoch, the Anthropocene that began with nuclear testing during the 1950’s. That benchmark is convenient for geologists because humans at the time managed to blanket the entire planet in a sedimentary layer of radioactivity. And carbon dating will tell if something happened in the Holocene or the Anthropocene.“
Artist | Russell Carey (russellcareyartwork.com)
Outside In: Reflections of British Landscape in the Long Anthropocene | Issue 10 – November 2018 | Issues | British Art Studies
Ecomimicry: the nature-inspired approach to design that could be the antidote to urban ‘blandscapes’ (theconversation.com)
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