FRACTURED LAND | Earthquake work

I'm working on a sequence of drawings and paintings that address the profound wounding we have inflicted - and continue to inflict - on our earth. 

When it comes to matters of protest, my intention is always to find a way 'through the gaps', to communicate in language that evokes rather than provokes. I want very much to make work that acknowledges current realities in all their darkness and starkness and at the same time focusses in on beauty and wonder, mystery, poetry and lyricism. I hope to pose questions and, too, to peel back the 'layers of the obvious' revealing the subtler notes that suggest there's a 'world of more' breathing below the surface of everything we know; hope residing beyond what we can see and/or understand. This in part explains the unexpected appearance of X-ray-type imagery in these drawings. Identifying the point of fracture, vulnerability or dis-ease offers us the opportunity to heal ourselves and the land.  

This first one (Charcoal & Pastel on Paper) is titled Murmur -

There's a synchronistic little story behind the next image. This drawing was already well underway when I came upon The Sparrows, a poem by Christchurch-based writer, Helen Lowe. Helen had posted The Sparrows as her Tuesday Poem - one in a series she refers to as her Earthquake Witness
 sequence. Following the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch (2011), the birds fled the city, rendering the broken landscape all the more stark and surreal through the absence of birdsong. 

The opening and closing lines of The Sparrows resonated particularly powerfully for me and seemed to be speaking directly into/out of the drawing I was making at the time. I asked Helen if I could 'borrow' the opening two lines as a title and possibly also include the poem with my finished piece on an exhibition titled En Masse (a post-quake show curated by The Arthouse, Christchurch). She generously agreed (thank you, Helen).

"I meant it to be a poem about sparrows and the silence that followed. . . " is a charcoal, pastel & watercolour pencil drawing (CB - 2011).

The night before the first earthquake struck Christchurch on September 4 2010,  I had my own strange experience with birds. One of my daily rhythms is to put out fruit, seeds and sugar water for visiting birds. My home town, Dunedin, is 360 kms South of Christchurch. On 3 September, the tuis - ordinarily quiet by nightfall, refused to go to bed. They stayed up all night, fidgeting and clacking in the rata tree. At midnight, I went out onto my front steps to talk with them, asking them what it was they were trying to communicate and suggesting it was time we all settled down for the night. At 04.35AM, a 7.1M earthquake struck Christchurch. Birds are prescient. They knew.

                      THE SPARROWS |  Helen Lowe
                      I meant it to be a poem about sparrows
                      and how the silence that followed
                      the February 22nd earthquake
                      included their absent voices -
                      & not just sparrows but the starlings
                      and blackbirds, the finches and wax-eyes
                      that normally fill the day with their bustle
                      about the business of living ...
                            all fallen silent, 
                      hidden away, or gone further to find food
                      since half the city was covered
                      in a click of water and mud. I threw
                      old bread onto the island of grass
                      in our own grey sea and waited ...
                            and waited.
                      And then, finally, they came
                      their wings clouding the sun. 

                      © Helen Lowe, 2011

Homage to St. John's Cathedral, Christchurch 
Charcoal & Pastel on Paper


When the container ship RENA ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, I made several works saying something about the relationship between us - as a local and global community - and our world's waters. Unless we find ways to restore and sustain right relationship with the natural world and her precious and finite resources, we and our planet will continue to live at odds with each other. 

And the Sea? How she murmurs - how she murmurs. 
Charcoal & Pastel on Paper - CB 2011

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