Positive anthroposcenery #3

The engine compartment of a car may seem a peculiar choice for this series because, although the anthropocenality is self evident, where are its qualifications as any sort of scenery never mind one with a positive angle?

As regards being scenery, I am on thin ice here, an unintended pun that I promise I will explain. It’s hard to see it as still life and it certainly isn’t portraiture but at a push you could squint your vision and see it as a kind of landscape. I’ve been looking for examples but come up with none so I’m left thinking possibly my memory is of low budget sci fi series’. I did find Theo Kamecke though, who describes his work as “evoking the ancient with materials collected from the fossil bed of technology.” It’s exquisite but nothing like the under bonnet of a car.

The bottom line is that this is a Leaf; a fully electric car with no internal combustion engine*. Both its name and its values project a mitigating approach to climate action and take fuel-related particulates off the streets.

This is a preliminary sketch in charcoal on primed cartridge. I’ve used water to thin the lines down and wash them into some of the spaces. After looking at it for a while, I began to see a landscape with lakes and waterfalls amongst the hardware.

This is my first pass, using paint from my palette to make structure and applying some mirror foil to a lake area. This should set my mind towards a tension between the artificiality of it and the fantasy of living things inhabiting the space.

Here, I’m blocking in larger areas with colour more or less commensurate with its real world or fantasised role. I’ve also applied a coat of polymer varnish to the whole surface for fluidity of subsequent brush strokes. As ever, I have only a broad plan, I’ll be waiting and watching to see what emerges.

Today’s iteration (September 3rd, 2021) includes some deepening of the dark areas and highlighting with silver acrylic, some of the metallic parts. The mirror foil is becoming fish, as is a piece of solidified paint from my palette at bottom left. I’m reminded of Kandinsky’s fish which have a cartoonish look about them and I think I might riff on that theme. There’s a narrative building from this – a hybrid of fantasised life forms and structural engine parts, although to avoid enraging EV purists, I must point out that there is no actual engine. So far, I can see fish and worms, falling water and foliage, none of which, were it sentient, would be aware of the location of its world.

9th September. Was there ever such a mess? There are some halfway decent ideas here but ultimately it’s the dog’s breakfast even a labrador would turn down. My reaction has been to paint pieces of driftwood, making landscapes of the lines in the wood and sealing them with furniture polish. As an ultimate economy, I’ve used both sides.

* That’s the ICE of the pun but it loses its humour when it refers to being ICED – blocked by a parked ICE vehicle – at charging stations.

I’d like to say I saved this with painterly witch-work but I didn’t. I’ve abandoned it and begun something with much greater simplicity.

This is the somewhat erratic hockey stick curve that illustrates global warming, the last uptick causally coinciding with human activity, specifically post-industrial revolution. The three small pictures are watercolour pencil drawings of a gradually submerging wind turbine. I’m thinking this needs a very simple but unrelated ground – like bland wallpaper – and maybe steps instead of the flowing line. The tiny drawings are quite difficult to make so I’m tempted to draw them bigger so I can see what I’m doing then reduce them to thumbnails in my photo edit app. The counter argument is that the clumsy naivety rather reflects our position. I think this composition qualifies as mitigation because, although we seriously need to step on it, there is increasing effort being put into renewables.


For some reason a curtain, a kind of aurora borealis of 1970s pale check tweed we all seemed to have felt imperative as a fashion item. This was something about threads and hidden or unfaced truths. I muted it with a wash of white and left it overnight.

11th September and what a day this is. In 2001 I was picking up my puppy from a neighbour’s house when I heard the curious news that ‘something’ had hit the World Trade Centre. By the time I’d walked back home carrying my baby dog, the TV was just beginning to report on an event so unimaginable and horrendous it was hard to comprehend. The subsequent images, stories, emerging accounts of courage and self sacrifice, and our implicit realisation of the fate of those trapped above the fire line and later beneath the buildings are recurring nightmares to be attenuated by distance but never forgotten.

And so on we go.

When I went into the studio this morning I found this:

Butterflies don’t last long. This one had been in my studio, hidden somewhere up on the white beams, then died and drifted down onto this page. It struck me that its serendipitous positioning reflected the butterfly’s wing notion of chaos theory, though in this instance it maybe was a harbinger of the track we were on and that we are still inadequately addressing. I’m not at all sure what to do with it now.

Ok, terrible, moving on!

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