‘Nature as model, nature as measure, nature as mentor’ - Janine M. Benyus
Examining our relationship to the natural world, I focus on concepts of entanglement and abstraction. Constructing hybrid anatomies, for example a wooden sculpture comprising the bone of a whale jaw and a praying mantis arm. These sculptural ideas find their way into paintings, creating scenes of interconnectivity. Mimicry in nature inspires abstract form, delving into the realms of emotion, intuition, and the subconscious - depicting where the tangible and intangible fuse. My work explores that sense of deep entanglement I feel with organic life forms, both human and non-human. What lessons can the 'more than human' teach us about ourselves and what it means to be alive.
My work in the last few years focused on species such as the Whale and the Mantis. A Whale, with a lifespan nearing a century and the mantis living for just one year, contribute immeasurably to the ecosystems they inhabit, yet human activity jeopardises their existence. These two seemingly disparate species represent the paradoxes that exist within life - the whale embodies strength and endurance while the mantis exudes grace and lightness; the whale journeys vast distances whilst the mantis remains mainly motionless.
My fascination other species, particularly insects was heightened when examining my own mantis. The mantis is a revered symbol of stillness across many cultures. She would shed her skin, the walls that house her, enabling renewal each time. I would study her skin under a microscope, her delicate velvet-like exterior contrasted with protective spikes. These spikes resonated with me; as a woman I sometimes feel we need spikes. Perhaps the mantis is also a symbol of protection and self-preservation: do these spikes represent the inherent strength and resilience present within all females?
Other photography works focus on Beetles. Taurhina (Neptunides) polychrous fasciicollis – it is named “Neptunides” because [of] the head of the male is said to resemble Neptune's trident. These beetles adapt to their environment in chromes, their surface mirroring their surroundings. Some scientists believe beetles developed metallic colours that mimic the appearance of raindrops on leaves to help them camouflage - warping, misshaping, distorting perspective to protect themselves. Can we mimic water like the beetle in our minds? We warp, misshape, distort to camouflage also, perhaps for protection too.
My research in natural history draws me to bones as they connect us to the animal kingdom and our ancestral lineage. In their fossilised state, bones become storytellers of the past, allowing us to unravel the narratives of our human and non-human predecessors. Through the study of skeletal structures, we gain a visual representation of the direct mimicry found within living organisms, for example the shapes found in our rib cage can be found across many species. Works have integrated new technologies such as 3D printing and seven-axis robot arm combined with traditional craftsmanship to create sculpture. For example with ‘What Remains’ I used 3D scans of logs, rough cut them on a robot arm, then carved them by hand, leaving details of the robot arm touch - preserving the connection between artist and machine. The spalted wood, originally collected in Sheffield and dried for over 12 years, bears witness to the captivating stories of fungal colonisation. The fungi, extracting nutrients from the wood, leave distinctive and unique marks.