Earth Drawing Language

Earth and Paper. Earth and Drawing. Mediums apparently so different, how could they function in similar ways? Others have made links between earth and language, loosely suggesting that both are generative. Within my practice making, language and drawing overlap. I have long used earth, text and drawing in parallel, wondering how they can come together, how they share a place within a practice and within a philosophy of making. Firstly, these common materials invite a sort of meddling touch. They are low materials; poor materials which ask to be poked and interfered with. Materials which invite a sort of interaction that lowers the status of art-work to play-thing. Familiar earth and familiar white paper; cheap photocopies; a biro; correction fluid.

Earth and Paper. One heavy, crumbly, compressible, life-supporting, nutrient rich; a seed bed. The ground beneath our feet, the soil of our bodies.

The other light, flat, white, blank and prepared for the mark that comes. A surface beneath our hands, the ground of our imagination.

When drawing, a line emerges that is not what the eye first saw; imagination and the body intervene. A complex drawing process can attempt to eliminate this intervention, can attempt to remove the play of imagination and the influence of the self. This is a drawing process that is designed to mould a subjective act into an objective methodology only to further reveal the self in all its imaginative fluidity.

When ramming earth, it is compressed into a solid block; matter is compressed through force into a battery of bulging, latent energy. Heavier than the eye can determine. Through the treading of my feet the earth is forced into form and once rammed, the earth blocks further access. My body is blocked; its energy transferred into immoveable, unimaginable weight into which I (my self) can no longer enter.

When there is an invitation to others, the multiples selves (the multiple Others) bring their multiple narratives and multiple bodies to form the work. There is an invitation to participate and share a view point, but also an invitation for the Other to correct perceived inaccuracies. Their corrections mask but do not remove, instead the correction fluid redefines the original line in an act that is simultaneously destructive and creative. Veracity. Accuracy. Failure? The Others join me to both build and erase, but see how their erasure is another way of building? There is addition here – supplementation – that eventually becomes an excess of material, of participants, lines, layers and words.

We tread down the earth and build it up and build it into things; it reminds me of something found filled with earth in a muddy field. Yet this is no gentle sedimentation over time, rather it is a force which fills every nook with body-beating pressure. My heavy footsteps do not lead anywhere but around and around as the path is beaten into a block. My drawn line also leads into a tangle (of roots), impenetrable and multi-layered. The plant whose roots were of the earth and leaves were of the air now hangs uprooted; inverted. The earth blocks have been forced down, the air forced out and the material deadened. The growth of the plant and the processes of the earth are made static, silenced, blocked, mute through the weight of the layers of excess.


This text will be published alongside images of work as part of the KFI project led by anthropologist Tim Ingold. The text and images will be part of the publication by KFI researcher Elizabeth Hodson, whose work in KFI focuses on contemporary art practice, principally in two locations: Iceland and Scotland. Her research addresses the specificity of particular artistic mediums, in particular drawing and painting, through an ethnographic focus on the working practice of artists. Her curatorial work for KFI has involved two exhibitions: ‘Beyond Perception’, held at the University of Aberdeen (2015) and ‘Drawing the Anthropological Imagination’, University of Durham (2016).

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