November 2020 - June 2021
Louise Lahive - Cranberries on Mars, 2021
Cloud 9 Residency, Eastcheap Project Space, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire.
The work Cranberries on Mars, by Louise Lahive was created in the Eastcheap project space, Letchworth Garden City as one of a series of Cloud 9 residencies supported by Arts Council England project funding in Spring 2021. For Lahive, it seems, the installation does not so much pose a question as whether there ever were, are or ever will be cranberries on Mars, but more the non-relevance of asking the question itself.
The work locates itself, for me, in the realm of drawing; an installation of a large stretched white canvas placed on the floor of the gallery butted up against the white wall. Suspended above this are 104 balls of compressed, red baked paper pulp rolled, squished methodically and cooked in the artist’s home oven, making them into ‘cranberries’. The repetitive, methodical production of these objects resonates with the matter of fact statement in the work’s title; Cranberries on Mars. These are not cranberries and they are clearly not located on Mars. Here we are reminded immediately of the endeavour of every artist to make work out of material which comes from a sense of something felt but unseen; something urgent which evolves through process and material and which connects with an often, personal experience of things around us. Things are important to Lahive; the process, the making, the repetition and the gaps between things which she infers connects every thing to every other thing.
When we take the title at face value and accept the connection of every thing, we begin to know we are on Mars and those are cranberries. They are suspended in time, falling cranberries or hawthorn berries or sloes or gooseberries. They are red, purple, green and blue. They are every colour of every berry we can name and those we cannot.
Lahive has been drawing trees she cannot name; over and over again in the same drawing. One tree is unlike another and it is the other and itself simultaneously. They are not cranberry bushes or vines, but trees of our time and of all time. Lahive’s small work on paper, Untitled, 2021 is a graphite traced wobbly line drawing of trees, punctuated with visceral red spots or marks. It is a synchronic layering of trees within trees; all similarly different, inspired by one bright, berried tree which Lahive photographed in the winter landscape in 2021.
The berries hover; do they belong to the tree(s)? This playfully takes us back to where the title of the piece Cranberries on Marsis at odds with the work again, because the work emerges as the balls (cranberries) appear to hover, suspended in never straight lines and do not sit ON the surface of anything.
One might stare at Orion’s Beltin the clear night sky; three stars in a straight line and marvel at the straightness of the line. ‘How bright and beautiful and straight,’ On another night we may marvel again, ‘How bright and beautiful and light years apart the stars are in three dimensions’. From different perspectives, we attempt to piece together one view to comprehend things, yet it seems that all these views are equally true.
John Vincent’s recent film of Lahive’s installation playfully interprets some of these perspectives and the contradiction in the title by utilising the changing daylight and artificial light in the gallery to bring us something of a shifting set of viewpoints. Using time lapse shots interspersed with video, the wobbly impossibility of straight lines in any dimension is accentuated. The ‘cranberries’ are eclipsed by other spheres and an illusion of perspective gives greatest size and dominance to the nearest object to the camera. As the camera pans around we see the spaces between these objects from another viewpoint and the straight line is disrupted again. Almost spheres become momentarily elongated or flattened through cast shadows, depending on the changing and artificially created direction of the lighting. The film illuminates this in more ways than one, through the time lapse images offering us something otherwise hard to describe or indeed infer. This may seem like stating the obvious because that is what time lapse photography does, but here it seems to fill in the gaps with vibrant light matter, making the cranberry spheres more obviously interconnected for short moments of time in an otherwise liminal and unperceivable space, which seems to me to be an important element in the work. Vincent’s film adds a dimension of gravity to the lightness of the work.
In her book, Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett refers to the Chinese tradition of the shi.Theshihelps illuminate, ‘…namely the kind of potential that originates not in human initiative but instead results from the very disposition of things.’ and that this can operate in obvious or subtle ways at the ‘…threshold of human perception or more violently.’ (2010, p.35)1. Lahive is trying it seems to lightly jolt us here and Vincent’s film is affirming this; adding weight; making it slightly more perceptible.
Bennett states her belief that, ‘…encounters with lively matter [can] highlight the common materiality of all that is, expose a wider distribution of agency, and reshape the self and its interests.’ (2010, p.12)
With Cranberries on Mars, Lahive, it seems to me, is suggesting we can look differently at every-thing, start without a question and try to lose our hierarchy in the scheme of things; be part of the stuff itself so that we are, for a short time, vibrant life matter with the cranberries on Mars.
Dr Anna Fairchild, March 2021
1. Bennett, J, Vibrant Matter, a political ecology of things, 2010, USA
CLOUD 9 OPEN CALL
Cloud 9 is a series of artist residencies at Eastcheap Project Space funded by Arts Council England.
Eastcheap Project Space invites two Hertfordshire based visual artists to apply for the current Cloud 9 Residency - a 10 day fully funded residency concluding with a 4 day solo exhibition in Letchworth Garden City. This short time scale residency opportunity allows the artist the option to realise a piece of work that they have been wanting to make or to use the space in a more experimental way to further develop their practice. During their stay we will offer the opportunity for an informal discussion with the current Eastcheap Studio Artists. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, and who work in sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, film media, printmaking and performance.
This residency will take place in the Project Space, where the artist will have access to the gallery and reception room. This opportunity is a paid residency of £1155.
Depending on Coronavirus restrictions , this residency will either finish with an online presentation of the artists’ completed work across Eastcheap Project Space’s social media and website or a physical opening with covid safety measures in place.
To apply for this residency, please send up to 5 images of your work, a CV, short biography and a brief statement of intent (no more than 200 words) to email@example.com
*Applicants must be based in Hertfordshire, England.
Deadline for applications is 6th April 2021 selected applicants will be informed within 7 days from deadline.The residencies will take place on 10th -23rd May and 24th-6th June.
All applicants must be available on the proposed residency dates.
IN CONVERSATION: JACK ANTHONY TAYLOR
ON THE CLOUD9 RESIDENCY ‘IN THE HEAVENS, ON THE LAND, UNDERNEATH IT, BEHIND MY EYES’.
By Krystina Tyrtania
Jack Anthony Taylor, 25, is a visual artist living and working in Letchworth Garden City. Jack is the second artist from Eastcheap Studios to take part in the Arts Council funded Cloud9 Residency programme at Eastcheap Project Space, in Letchworth. Jack has been working in the Project Space for 10 days, developing a series of paintings.
How has this residency opportunity developed your practice?
“Being in a space dedicated to just developing pieces that have been in the works for a year or so now has been great. It’s been a continuation on from what I’ve already been doing and given me the space to work. The main change in this is that the work is large scale and it’s allowed me to get back into what I used to do a lot which is painting.”
Did you used to work large scale a lot?
“Yeah, I used to work quite large scale and before this residency everything was a lot smaller. The images I’ve been making in the build-up to this residency have been quite small. But I’ve been making these quite large props and other objects to use, and I suppose one thing I would say and one thing I haven’t done for a while is work at this pace which I think has been quite good, actually.”
Would you say it was quicker than usual?
“Yeah. I had the base colours and patterns and rough form of what I wanted to do down on small first anyway but changing that from smaller images to larger ones is something that really developed the works in earnest. I had to think differently from just having a small print out onto quite disposable images done in pastel and in five minutes, compared to applying paint to prints that aren’t so disposable. You really have to dare yourself to lay things down, even if it is already in your mind what you want to do. You feel like you want to be tentative with the image and not take away from the photograph, which is already there, but at the same time you want to make it work as a painting and tell a story. In terms of that, I think I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve.”
Yes, I’d agree you’ve achieved that. There’s definitely a strong narrative and storytelling element going on in the pieces.
“Yes exactly. For me the visual style is really important, and I certainly have been able to develop that in this work, in the way I hope other work will come out in the future. It’s rare you get the opportunity to have a space like this so you have to respect it, make the most of it and cherish it.”
Was a change of scale something you wanted to utilise being in the space?
“Yes, definitely. It’s funny, I wrote my dissertation on the studio and it being like the scaffold that holds you. Like a playground for an artist. I was looking outside my flat window where I was living on Edgeware Road at the time and there was scaffold there, and I was really stuck writing, I didn’t know where I was going to go with it. Seeing that simple structure which you see everywhere and reflecting back on when I was a small boy, when we were having some work done on our house and that scaffolding became my playground. It’s interesting how it’s a functional thing, but as a kid, it can be a castle, a ship, a skyscraper, a battlement or whatever. I think I wanted to look at the space I’m in no matter what space it is as a playground and approach it in the same way. That’s why the way I’m working at the moment is using that same idea of the space being the scaffolding and what is the surrounding as well as you being in it. That’s how you make your work and design what you do around it. That’s why I went to making and using props.”
It’s interesting that idea of construction of environment. The imagery in each of the works ties in with you conjuring up this imaginary environment and illustrating something very fantastical.
“You find yourself influenced by things which you just gather over time, you can’t just pinpoint it. You always reference things that intrigue you and you think aren’t relevant. It allows you to reflect in colourful ways. I think I’ve managed to do it with this residency, trying to illustrate these abstract feelings that everyone has. The light and the dark, and that everything’s a bit unnerving and uncertain at the moment.”
You titled your residency ‘In the heavens, on the land, underneath it, behind my eyes’. Can we talk a little about the imagery in your work and the titles that you give your pieces?
“I want to weave poetry into the images, so they’re like pages of a book as well as visual work. I was thinking about frescos in Orthodox Greek or Byzantine chapels, and when I went to Rhodes and they were everywhere, you get so engrossed in these images and you don’t necessarily know what’s going on. You can follow it even though you don’t fully understand it. That’s what I want to translate into my work. There’s a habit in the artistic world now where an artist makes something and can’t let it simply be. They have to intellectualise it and its this intellectualisation of artwork that actually suffocates imagination for me. People get bored of that. The ordinary person won’t be enthralled by being told what it is or what it’s about.”
It’s like having room for nuance. The best artwork, every single person who looks at it has a slightly different interpretation of it.
“Yeah exactly. I’ve moved back home from London where I was living and studying and happily forgetting about where I came from. Especially over the past year we’ve had, and life events, like my grandfather passing away this year. Lockdown had happened and I was really absorbing myself in how pretty it was around here. When you’re by yourself, you’re just wandering about and your imagination runs wild. When your hands are tied in what you can do you become more creative and it allowed me to reflect on the place I’ve grown up. It made me excited for what I can do in these environments and how to give them a mysticism. It’s all ingrained already in folklore and tradition and town names – this idea of utopia and green space, especially in Letchworth. I want to be able to reflect things that could be anywhere and take characters I’ve made to go into the work and transcribe them into other places and have them have a different relationship or similarity. It’s a unifying factor. For a lot of people in my age group in the artistic community, Brexit was a big blow. Especially in London and the London centric circle, when you’re surrounded by people from so many different places you have a desire to travel to those places and see something new. But now we can’t do that, so you have to make something new now for your eyes and senses.”
I see, so making environments that could be anywhere and nowhere.
“I’ve been very influenced by folkloric images. Whether its Arthur Rackham, who did fairy-tale illustrations in the late Victorian era and being exposed to that from a very early age, as well as Tolkein and other books and myths. I used to listen to audio cassettes to get me to sleep of Greek myths. They’re hazy now but they were fascinating. The same with Norse myths, which I’ve been into more recently. It’s nice being able to grapple with the ideas they contend with. The gods are quite immature sometimes stupid but incredibly powerful. Like politicians now. There’s that idea in all good religious or mythical stories that there’s a beginning and an end and its interesting seeing where they differ and where they crossover. Like in stories in Christianity and then Pagan cultures of Europe. The stories are cultural traditions and are millennia old, but they’ve taken on a different guise and that’s reflected now. In that same spirit I wanted to be inspired by and take images that these stories conjure up and use them myself.”
But none of these images are explicit representations of stories. You’ve taken something you’ve read and then made it different. For example, the middle piece in this triptych titled ‘Yggdrasil did burn and will burn as it did’.
“Yggdrasil is the world tree in Norse mythology, at the top is Asgard where the gods reside, midgard is where humans live on earth in the middle of that tree and hell is at the bottom. From this I’ve only included the stump of the tree. Thinking about ends of things like Armageddon or Ragnarök – there’s always an end of things looping round. Like the great flood after the ice age or Noah’s ark would have felt like an end. These myths are stepped in reality. Forests in brazil are burning and these forests are our life blood, so these parallels are drawn even in modern day. But I don’t see this burning tree as the end…”
When you were painting it, it made me think about the burning bush from the Bible. The story from what I can remember is about believing and seeing to be able to believe. The bush randomly sets alight during a point where there’s disbelief. They see this miracle in order to suspend their disbelief.
“That’s an interesting perspective because I didn’t see it like that. But I guess for me sometimes you have to see to believe or accept it’s happening, like with wildfires. You might not be able to actually do much about it. I suppose it’s an acceptance thing. But we know it’s not the end, it’s perhaps a new beginning.”
Well, ash is a great fertiliser for the ground isn’t it?
“Yeah, it’s the best. I guess the arsonist in us all just loves staring at the flames, don’t we?”
Let’s talk about the making of these images for you.
“I took these images in local woodland with a friend I was bubbled with. I think with the limitations of where we are at the moment, it means my work has often been with one person in the image. It’s either a figure, disguised with masks in some way, or it’s focusing in on the environment or a scene using the props. Even if it’s not a living being, it takes on being a body or a figure in this space. With the last image in this triptych, I wanted to try and tie what was going on in the big negative space behind the sun to what was going on in the base. When I started it, it wasn’t going to be a snake. But as I painted, it became with other living being to contrast the other being in the piece. Snakes are interesting because they rejuvenate and shed their skins whilst also being this monstrous figure.”
The snake here is almost like an apparition.
“It might not be a real snake – it might just be something you see in the clouds. I always try my best to reflect on the nuances of what you see in your day to day and on the ground you’re on. Same thing for the clouds and the birds as well. You know, I always get amazed seeing seagulls this far in land from the sea.”
My Grandpa used to work as an engineer on boats that transported bananas, and he told me when I was little that seagulls fly this far in land when it’s rough at sea. Which come to think of it, I don’t think its true… but I’ve always then associated seeing seagulls at home with it being rough at sea, which is quite poetic really.
“Despite whether it’s true or not, it’s beautiful. We probably don’t reflect on those things enough. We need a bit more mystery in our lives, we always want to know everything and we’re too greedy. Let a bit of poetry happen.”
Do you want to talk a little about your influences?
“The artists that have really been influencing me over this period include Anselm Kiefer, Tel R, Peter Doig, Roger Ballen, Patrick Woodroffe who did these beautiful illustrations, really quirky and sexy images, but pure fantasy. He was Cornish and it really played on the whole by the sea fantasy. Fish and fishwomen, birds with human faces, that kind of thing. Tal R I only discovered recently, does these really colourful and particular images, some of them I really don’t like at all, and others I adore massively. When I see them all together you don’t care whether you don’t like some because they’re all part of that collective images. They’re very pattern based, and the images are broken up, they’re very intense to gaze at. I took a lot of influence from him. And Roger Ballen as well, especially when going ahead with the photographs, I wanted to reference Ballen. I’d never really looked at his work before, but when I went to Thessaloniki in the summer of last year, I was already working with photos but more with a scanner to make work. I never finished developing it, because I got depressed, so it’s nice coming round to doing work on that stuff because you discover these artists in your practice, and it excites you again. It can be hard to bounce off artists in a similar state of flux to you sometimes, so good to discover artists like that who really excite you.”
With the limitations on time we’ve had in the studio over the past year has affected a lot of artists’ practices. We’ve had our studios closed, reopened, then closed with measures in place, and now we’re really lucky to be able to come in and remai
n socially distanced in order to work. It’s important in order to continue your practice that you still feel like you’re getting that stimulus from somewhere else. With your show being solely online now, how have the limitations of online only viewing affected the work?
“I was a bit less precious about the space it was in. Normally I start painting and I get excited about how to display the painting and what about the space and creating an installation and painting within that, that’s part of a space. But I think context is everything for a space and images and if you don’t have an audience to go an
d see that context then it changes. I would have liked to create more of an environment for people to be in the space. There’s a lot of amazing things you can do with online exhibitions, like an app where its floating in your room or a totally imagined gallery space and you can do that with the online environment, changing the traditional four white walls of a gallery space. Perhaps this is something to think about for the future.”
For artistic enquiries Jack can be found via Instagram @taylorjackanthony or his website www.jackanthonytaylor.co.uk