A sensory exhibition of international artist-designer-makers connected to the natural world through process, material and a concern for the environment
ARKO - Rice straw
Laura Ellen Bacon – Willow
Sebastian Cox - Wheat and straw
Soojin Kang - Wild silk, cotton and linen
Fernando Laposse - Corn and sisal
Naoko Serino – Jute
Tim Johnson - Reedmace, jacinthe and esparto
Caroline Sharp – Birch and willow
Sarah Myerscough Gallery embraces the contemporary zeitgeist for new and alternative craft and design practices which express current socio-political and philosophical discourses, in particular those connected with environmental debates. As such, its aesthetic focuses on artist-designer-makers who have a formal and conceptual interest in natural materials and traditional craft skills.
CROP has been inspired by time spent this summer travelling around the British countryside and meeting with artist-designer-makers who are intuitively connected to nature. It informs their practices in many ways, for example through ecological concerns or an affinity with raw and organic materials and processes of making, which have been passed down through the generations.
Expanding the geographical focus of the exhibition, the show includes international artist-designer-makers working with different crops from around the world, to investigate the rich and varied narratives behind their works.
Several of the artist-designer-makers are engaged in social and environmental research and their work is a performative expression of their theoretical positions. Sebastian Cox recently completed his bold and insightful manifesto Modern life from wilder land, in which he asks that we take responsibility for our emissions and our wildlife. His thatched bread baskets for CROP are constructed by hand from heritage wheat, as opposed to chemically grown wheat that leaves fields bereft of wildlife. These objects reflect a more harmonious relationship between the domesticated and non-domesticated worlds; layered, diverse and wild.
Similarly, Fernando Laposse’s deals with important environmental concerns through his extensive research into the location of materials and their historical and cultural connotations. This has fuelled his passionate interest in sustainability, the loss of biodiversity and community disenfranchisement. The new sisal bench for CROP presents the material in its raw state to demonstrate the simplicity of process from plant to final product. Laposse harvests and crushes the fibres, combs and knots it by hand to make his hairy furniture pieces.
Naoko Serino’s felted jute sculptures are expressions ‘that contain light and air’. Her attraction to the material comes from the fact that it feels both transient and solid, akin to interior memories, thoughts and emotions. She uses it to translate these abstract mental sensations into a physical form, thereby transforming them into experiences that can be shared with a wider community.
Others in the exhibition are more solely focused on material and process. For example, Laura Ellen Bacon works with Somerset willow and has developed her own language of tying and interlacing soaked strands of this material to construct biomorphic forms that feel strangely familiar. Bacon’s immersive and physically demanding process of making is normally performance and installation based, so her organic bench form specially constructed for CROP represents the beginnings of an entirely new direction in her practice.
ARKO’s sculptures use rice straw, a by-product of the rice plant. It previously played a significant role in everyday Japanese life and was used to make items such as shoes, coats, blankets and food wrappers. Now its main use is in making traditional straw festoons, which are holy ornaments for Shinto New Year ceremonies. It has almost faded out from modern life, despite large volumes of rice crop still being produced for food consumption. ARKO’s practice aims to reinvigorate the material by creating something new with it, to inspire feelings of natural providence, which is often overlooked in today’s digital and commercially-oriented society.
Ultimately, CROP explores the rich tapestry of narratives around a deeply important topic; it celebrates the possibilities of the natural world and showcases the creative and innovative talent within this pioneering movement in craft and design.