3 colours to save the world

a ceremonial painting action for…

HEVVA! HEVVA! . The Core Building . THE EDEN PROJECT . 5412

Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to the opening evening of HEVVA! HEVVA! – an exhibition at the Eden Project, as part of the BIOTIK programme, to celebrate the ShortCourse/UK/Cornwall[i] expeditions organised by Cape Farewell and University College Falmouth in 2011 (see previous posts[ii]). Particular thanks are due to Bryony Stokes[iii] for co-ordinating the show, to Saffron Orrell[iv] for making fabulously-filling packed lunches for everyone and to Jan Nowell for bravely leading the mini-expeditions to the ‘cockroach infested’ Tropical Biome in the thick of night, and of course to the (noisy but often elusive) tree frog who graced us with her presence. The exhibition is an incredibly rich and accomplished display of our incredible diversity as creative practitioners.

hevva! hevva! exhibition; ‘hevva’ trott from eastenders; sue bamford’s wonky bunnies; ‘ian beale’ lizard, tropical biome, the eden project (2012)

Despite popular opinion the exhibition was not a tribute to ‘Hevva’ Trott, who recently made a tragic exit from the British sitcom Eastenders (- as misunderstood miscreant Ben Mitchell realized what he had done, he screamed “HEVVA! HEVVA!” Other references were to be found in Sue Bamford’s poignant naming of her 400 marvellously handmade wonky bunnies, ‘George’ (yes every one of them!?)[v], after Hevva’s sadly orphaned son, and the fantastic green lizard with turquoise eye-shadow I met in the Tropical Biome on Tuesday who insisted his name was ‘Ian Beale’!). Nor is Eastenders in any way a cultural response to climate change as some would have us believe! (Or is it!?) As Siôn Parkinson of Cape Farewell so poetically postulated, HEVVA! HEVVA! is in fact a reference to the ‘hue’ Cornish fishermen would historically cry from the cliffs as they spied shoals of pilchards ‘bluing the sea’ – drawing our attention to the powerfully dependent relationship we have always had with our immanent environment.

However, this exhibition, nor to my mind the ethos of Cape Farewell and the ShortCourse/UK expeditions, is not about Art or for that matter Science or History or any other discipline we might care to mention, but the response we might make as communal beings to the overwhelming global environmental catastrophe we are presently facing, whether that is seen as climate change, the economic crisis, ocean pollution or increasing social injustice – they are all of course a result of the same malfunction in our misled civilisation. So, this is not a time to pontificate about past poetic preference or continue conflagration for the sake of cultural aggrandisement. The work and conversations engendered by our experiences on these multi-dimensional expeditions, of which this exhibition is an expression, are more about how we as artists, scientists or whatever, may work together, in an informed and creative way, to discover, communicate and catalyse the means by which we may rise to the challenges we are facing. It is time to get to work! It is time to get our hands dirty!!

My own contribution to the event took the form of a participatory painting ceremony using natural materials gathered in connection to the 3 expeditions we were lucky enough to enjoy. The action was originally conceived and performed on St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly during the SC/UK expedition in May 2011[vi]. It is my belief that part of the necessary response to our present ecological situation is to reinstate, re-enchant and deepen our more spiritual connection to the earth on which we depend. This spirituality is not some fanciful romantic notion of otherworldly divine intervention but a recognition of the profound practical connections and respect we must assert within our material existence on this planet in order to survive. While Art alone may not offer all the answers to such demands it may in its modest way offer some useful suggestions.

Gary Snyder[vii], mountaineer and so called ‘poet laureate’ of the Deep Ecology movement[viii] said, “The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is.” It is hoped that the processes of my own art may share such an ethos. This simple ceremonial act peformed as part of the opening event, and also to create my installation for the show, represents and celebrates both the ShortCourse/UK/Cornwall expedition and our relationship with the substance of this earth.

 3 colours to save the world, participatory painting action at HEVVA! HEVVA! 5412 (photos courtesy saffron orrel 2012)

The materials used were gathered from places visited during the expedition:

  • The rock is 400+ million year old Igneous Serpentine from Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula. In April 2011, the SC/UK expedition visited the Marconi Museum at Poldhu[ix] also on the Lizard, where Marconi sent messages across the Atlantic using the invisible medium of radio waves – a fantastic metaphor for how our intent as artists may be communicated through our work.
  • The white pigment is kaolin based (granite run-off) china clay collected from a disused quarry site near the Eden Project. China clay is still used as a whitening agent in paper production.
  • The brown pigment represents the 40000-year-old iron rich glacial ‘ram’ (topsoil) from St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly[x].
  • The black pigment (Bideford Black)[xi] represents the carbon locked in the earth. It was gathered on the North Devon coast near my home. Bideford Black is a coal-based clay and was mined commercially until 1969 (used for many things including the boat building industry, for artists paint, for camouflage on tanks in WWII and even by Max Factor in the manufacture of mascara). This 350 million year old coal based clay was created in logjams of semi-tropical tree ferns, similar to those seen in the Gardens of Tresco.

It is hoped that the enormous time scales expressed through geology may give some perspective to the crises of our own age, and our own significance in the grand scheme of things.

 mayan mural; zapatista army of national liberation, new mexico

I recently watched a documentary about the prophecies of the Mayan culture of Central America[xii]. Contrary to popular Western opinion, the contemporary Mayan people see 2012 and the crises we are presently facing not as the ‘end of the world’ but as the beginning of another era and as an exceptional opportunity to come together with each other, the planet and ourselves, to actually live as the truly incredible potential we are as part of this wonderful planet.

This ceremony has been devised to focus our attention on actions we might take towards such aims.

Participants were asked to concentrate on something they might do towards ecological reconciliation as they marked the stone and paper with pigment. The painted stone was then placed in the Tropical Biome as a legacy to the ShortCourse/UK/Cornwall expeditions that began here last April and as a totem of our response to climate change and in thanks for our experiences and sustenance as part of this incredible planet. The paper will be retained as a document of our experience…

 3 colours to save the world, hevva! hevva! group painting 5412 (earth pigments on laos elephant dung paper)

PW 2012

[i] http://www.shortcourseuk.org/

[ii] https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/shortcourseukcornwall-day1/

[iii] http://bryonystokes.com

[iv] http://saffronorrell.carbonmade.com/

[v] http://www.bunnylove.co.uk/

[vi] https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/shortcourseukcornwall-iii/

[vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Snyder

[viii] Deep Ecology is a philosophy based on the premise that human beings are merely an aspect of the universe rather than that which it revolves around. Norwegian born Arne Naess coined the phrase in 1973, since when it has been the underpinning principle of much of the environmental movement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_ecology

[ix] https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/shortcourseukcornwall-day2/

[x] https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/shortcourseukcornwall-iii/

[xi] https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/earth/

[xii] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwvpsVsawMg&feature=share

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