Down to Earth

Down to Earth

28 October - 21 November 2020

Laura Ellen Bacon | Forest + Found | Tanya McCallin | Patricia Swannell | Kazuhito Takadoi

Down to earth, rooted in the ground and reaching to the sky, the trees -the lungs of the earth- connect us to both past and future human generations. In this show, the works stem from this life-giving earth.

Laura Ellen Bacon’s willow sculptures are often created on site. In them, the willow is twisted, wrapped around architectural structures, trees or immersed in water, allowing it to flow. On the contrary, in Quietly Stirring, the willow is confined in a box. Laura has woven the piece completely inside the box. Two forms are wrapped, embraced, cornered in the space, creating sensual shapes, intending to escape this confinement. Laura’s infrequent smaller works are more intimate, of domestic scale. Lately these have been enclosed in boxes as if opposing the expanse of the landscape they usually inhabit. Her willow has woven structures at Chatsworth; Somerset House; the V&A and New Art Centre at Roche Court. Laura has just completed Natural Course, a monumental stone undulating installation on a natural slope in the gardens in Chatsworth, using local stone and the craftsmanship of dry stone wallers. Laura was a finalist in the BBC Women’s Hour Craft Prize in 2017.

Abigail Booth and Max Bainbridge created Forest + Found when they met at Chelsea College of Art. Although their practices are different, both use the forest and the found materials in it as their starting point. Traditional techniques of woodworking, patchwork and quilting, together with a deep knowledge of materials, allow them to create pieces that are rooted in craft traditions.

Max Bainbridge collects felled trees and turns them into beautiful vessels or wall pieces. Sycamore, maple, ash, walnut, alder, pear, Max generally uses wood from British trees. His work halts the natural decay of a tree, allowing it to live, to be transformed and attain a new life.
For this show, he has created offering bowls in sycamore where the wood is turned to an almost dangerous thinness. An even wider lower one in sweet chestnut conveys rich bluey black hues alongside a large wall piece made from burnt brown oak.

Back in her garden studio in North London, Abigail Booth combines the found leaves, bark, roots, branches and stones in the manner of an alchemist, burning, boiling, cooking them, blending them together with pieces of calico, resulting in pieces rich in pigments, colours, tints and paint. Then patiently she will hand sew these coloured fragments onto natural calico creating large textiles. Although her works are immersed in the tradition of quilting, embroidery, tapestry, her pieces are as much as abstract paintings, where the grandiose gesture and the brushstroke is replaced by the quiet stitch and burning. A large piece with fragments dyed from timber from the New Art Centre in Roche Court will be show alongside some smaller paper works exhibited for the first time. Forest + Found were selected for the Jerwood Makers Open 2019.

Tanya McCallin’s making is based upon craftsmanship, skill and material enquiry, in a way seeking out the essence of the stuff, using porcelain, stoneware and earthenware clays, some highly refined, others betraying their geological origins.
Stoneware and earthenware clays are more robust, expressing their nature as raw earth, and can be worked upon by the application of organic materials and oxides - earth metals, and transformed by the heat of a kiln to produce objects that are individual. The forms are simple, elemental and essentially universal. Some are open bowl forms, others are tall, thrown and assembled cylinders. The processes are many and risky but it is the combination of idea, time, craftsmanship and material knowledge that makes a rewarding piece. Tanya is interested in the edges of pots, the balance and poise of their form, structure and surface, but also in their group dynamics; in their relationship to each other and the architectural spaces they inhabit and rest upon. The elements of light and shadow upon convex or concave surface of pots and the resulting perception of their sculptural complexities give objects vitality and resonance; their place and purpose.

Patricia Swannell’s drawing of a Cappadocian Maple from Regent's Park was made during the Covid 19 lockdown, when she was confined to home and not able to visit the tree as she usually does while working on a portrait. Tree portraits have been part of her practice for many years but this portrait felt particularly significant. The experience highlighted an element of longing that inspires the drawings, encompassing both nostalgia and hope. Thinking of the many challenges and crises any mature tree must have endured with a patient, quiet progression through the seasonal cycles creating a model for working though the current situation. The tree celebrated in this drawing became a symbol of memory, of hope and of endurance.
Patricia’s works are a meditation on time as reflected in the trees that we encounter every day, the time embedded in the environment we inherited and the legacy that we will leave. Her graphite drawings portray with subtlety the passage of time with the repetition of each tree’s characteristics – common name, Latin name, location - echoing the endless repetition of seasons through time. Her detailed drawings materialise the passing of time and give concrete form to ephemeral moments in the natural world. Each drawing matches the current profile and circumference of each tree. At the centre of each drawing is a seed or cutting from that tree that represents both the starting point of the tree and its future.

Inspired by the rich woodland surrounding his birthplace of Nagoya, Japan, Kazuhito Takadoi grows and hand picks grasses, leaves and twigs from his garden, sowing each blade through the paper. As the grasses dry and mature they embark on a subtle colour shift, comparative to seasonal change.
Kazuhito’s work is a collaboration with Nature, taking materials that Nature offers and with them he tries to convey aspects or moments of it. Nature is ephemeral and his aim in a way is to interrupt the natural process of decay. With his works, he steps in to halt that decay.
SHINTOU (Osmosis) is made from hawthorn twigs, In this piece he has integrated two works, one either emerging from the other or alternatively being absorbed by the other. He collects the hawthorn, cleans, removes all the thorns and allows it to dry naturally for at least a year. Only then he is ready to start the work. Then a slow process of tying thousands of small knots to hold the structure in place begins. The work is about time, time to collect the twigs, clean, dry them and then shape them together with innumerable knots, the result of a serene and quiet process.
A pair of works made from grass grown in his back garden is shown alongside. The green grass is embroidered through the Japanese paper. In time, the grass will eventually turn into a golden colour, allowing the shadows to become more prominent.
Kazuhito trained in Agriculture and Horticulture in Japan the US and in the UK, before studying Art and Garden Design in the UK. His works are in important private and corporate art collections. In 2019 Kazuhito was awarded a Special Mention at the prestigious Loewe Crafts Prize and his work is now included in the Toshiba Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.