Works by Gina Glover and Jessica Rayner
14 October – 16 December 2017
From glaciers to biofuels and from Iceland to N Dakota – images about nature, light and power, raising questions about energy use, over use and climate change
‘Fire and Ice’ included images of industrial intrusions into wild nature, melting ice-caps, and burning biofuels. It tackled tough subjects to do with the over use of energy and the stress it is causing to the environment. But while there are tensions around the subjects, they were visualised through beautiful work in photography, installation, film and drawing by Gina Glover and Jessica Rayner, and Upstairs, ceramics by Hilary Mayo (covered in separate pages). Following GroundWork Gallery’s emphasis on connections between art and environment, the exhibition was intended to be thought-provoking, leading, we hope, to a greater sharing of ideas between the art and science communities around climate change and energy futures.
Gina Glover and Jessica Rayner
Gina Glover and Jessica Rayner are artists who explore the melting, changing, landscapes of climate change. Underlying their beautiful images are the stories of the stresses to the environment caused by over demanding uses of energy. The artists who are mother and daughter, have developed complementary images in film and photography, and shared a dramatic exhibition project in 2014, The Metabolic Landscape.
Gina Glover is a photographer with a long-term interest in environments affected by human conflict and economic development. She is founder of the London-based photography organisation, Photofusion, and her interests have ranged from exploration of biomedical science related imagery, to the study of environments affected by human conflict and economic development. Among the works in the exhibition, was a series about fracking sites, and another of melting ice-floes.
The Metabolic Landscape, 2011 – 2013
These photographs were shot in Greenland, Spitsbergen and Iceland, where icebergs and glaciers confront us like watery monuments. They offer a distinctive aesthetic experience and a window into deep time. Some glaciers are hundreds of thousands of years old and air bubbles trapped within them reveal the chemistry of ancient atmospheres, providing the means of assessing past climatic shifts. The glaciers present faces of solidity, dignity and power, but this belies their increasing vulnerability. Over the last century glaciers have been in retreat due to rising air, sea, and land temperatures. These vast storehouses of fresh water are being released into the sea at an increasing rate, further raising the prospect of rising water levels.
Gina Glover Poisoned Water Runs Deep, 2013-2017
Fracking is an advanced mining process requiring pumps to direct enormous pressure to break up underlying rock formations thousands of feet below the ground, through the use of water, sand and chemicals. Forced into rock crevices, gas or oil is driven to the surface. The area of well drilled is referred to as a ‘pad’, either a well pad or fracking pad. The fracking process itself is short and after completion, drilling equipment and specialists move on to the next site. What is left behind and shown in these photographs, is a variety of ordinary looking equipment, water tanks, pumps and pipes, which collect gas which is piped onward from the site to a gas compression station. Mostly these occur on farmland, in some cases right beside where cows graze, or close to habitation.’
Gina Glover: Melt, 2013
Melt is a series of circular aerial images of the Greenland ice sheet, taken in August 2013. GPS references are displayed on each photograph. The ice sheet covers roughly 85% of the land surface of Greenland rising to an average height of 2.3 km (1.6 miles). The immense weight of the ice sheet pushes the centre of the island roughly 300 meters (1000 ft) below sea level. The icy expanse of Greenland, like the rest of the Arctic, is an important climatological indicator and performs a critical balancing role in the global climate system. Glacial melting is already an established fact. The current concern among climate scientists is that it will accelerate, to dramatic global effect. It has been estimated that, were all of Greenland’s ice to melt, the world’s oceanic level would rise by as much as 7 meters (23 feet).
Jessica Rayner’s interests range widely around the phenomena and mechanisms of light, power, perception and reflection. She uses the illusion of film, light and mirrors to make dramatic installations about sources of energy in nature. Much of her practice is based at the juncture between science and art and aims to examine notions of progress and our continual need to pursue knowledge, even as we move mundanely through our daily tasks. The artist’s assumption is that we produce unresolved questions when we look at things, and consequently, much of human inquiry in any field, is based upon inspired guesses or chance discoveries.
For this video piece Rayner rolled a bale of straw to the middle of a disused concrete road surrounded by fields and lit a match. Here is a bale of straw deliberately set on fire. It is transformed from its springy compactness into dry, dusty carbon. This work pursues Jessica Rayner’s continuing exploration of Biomass (a fuel that is developed from organic materials, a renewable and sustainable source of energy used to create electricity or other forms of power.) To extract energy from a substance, a process must convert it into a different state, the calorific energy of the bale is released through burning. In this video we watch the beginnings of a small fire and just as it gets to a point where the flames have taken over the bale we are turned back in time and return to the moments before when the structure of the bale of intact and purposeful. The video endlessly loops forwards and backwards making one look at what once was and what again will be.
Jessica Rayner: Solsten
For this work Jessica Rayner examined the mineral, Icelandic Spar. Icelandic Spar has optical properties akin to polarising lenses. Recent research showed that the Vikings used it in the course of their navigation at sea, to reveal the position of the obscured sun. Often, at sea, the sun is hidden by clouds, so through use of this mineral, the Vikings were able to judge their direction of travel, using the position of the sun as a guide. For the artist, this series of works encapsulates the way in which material experiments and discoveries can be used to overcome human limitations.
Jessica Rayner’s ‘365 Faces of the Sun’
In this piece, 365 photographs of the Sun were amassed, many from NASA, the US space agency, with others borrowed from amateur astronomers. As each of these 365 images momentarily passes in front of our eyes, we see that they can be quite different, which perhaps says as much about the different means of recording as the fact that the Sun never seems to wear the same face. Momentarily looking at the Sun, or taking a photo of the sun with a standard camera, affirms to us the familiar image of a yellowish, featureless disk. In fact the Sun emits light in all colours, but since yellow is the brightest wavelength emitted, that is also the colour captured by the eye and brain and camera. Specialised instruments, located in either ground-based or space-based telescopes, can observe colours far beyond those visible to the eye. The Sun is a dynamic object formed of plasma. As there is no hard surface no photograph of it can ever be the same as any other. In 1898, the scientist Charles Sanders Peirce, the creator of modern semiotic science and analyst of habit, wrote that a mental idea “can be roughly compared to a composite photograph”. He suggested that the predicate ‘yellow’, for example, refers to “a sort of composite photograph of all the yellows I have seen.” To follow Peirce, our mental image of the Sun is a sensory composite of all the images of the Sun we have ever seen. The shifting colours of the 365 ‘faces’ of this piece, along with the Sun’s visibly changeable physical form, might provoke in us a new composite mental image of the Sun, one that is no longer plainly yellow or static, but rather dynamic, complex and multi-coloured.’