"I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life-bios graphically on a map"
_ Walther Benjamin, A Berlin Chronicle, 1978
MAPPING A backbone for my visual art work and photography, a vehicle to embed the story.
It has been my long-term plan to develop a series of images that reflect the art in science, to develop art and multidisciplinary collaborations, challenge the norm and provide a safe place to explore new research. This is where it all began for me, as a student geologist mapping the Sub-Alps close to Castellane and the Gorge du Verdon in the Haupte Provence region of France with a 35mm film Pentax camera. The folding and gravity gliding structures of the La Batie Limestone mountains providing a vessel and metaphor for later research. Who would have known I would return to these images years later and the beginning of an investigation into photographic 'Mapping Projects'. The projects create a backbone for my visual art work and photography, a vehicle to embed the story.
MAPPING I-III. The Biological, Geological and Evolution are a collections of images that can cross-over, a connectedness that guides the visual experience. Using a multidisciplinary and often collaborative approach, I combine different photographic and mixed media techniques to map the biological and geological over time. The collection experiments with layering, deconstruction and reconstruction. It tests boundaries both human and environmental and reflects on the affect of those distortions upon our well being. It reveals an intrinsic and subliminal feeling of how our internal and external worlds collide, just as art and cartography collide in map-making. The abstraction provides a safe place for the audience to view the art. The images ambiguity often foreshadows the future, sometimes complex and often placed amongst a fluid and liquid environment.
Artist Review on the Series: Mapping I
As both a sculptor and a sufferer of M.E, writing this review clarified for me what a personal and subjective experience viewing art is. It is exciting to see the relationship between science and art - which are both interests of mine – being explored in a visual medium.
As an M.E. sufferer, 'Mapping 1' was an unfamiliar journey into the familiar. A visual exploration of something which is not typically palpable. Yas Crawford's work is an invitation to see this little understood condition through an artistic lens; to take an, often discomforting, journey down the rabbit hole of chronic illness. Each image sparked a sense of recognition and yet ventured into a complex, varied and seldom trodden landscape, allowing me to witness the beauty of an illness which has been so physiologically detrimental.
This exhibition beautifully documents an attempt to glimpse the unseen; to visualise the fragile and dynamic relationship between internal and external. And, fascinatingly, to express the otherworldly nature of inhabiting a body which has become an alien environment. The micro and macro is beautifully communicated and highlights a relationship which is so crucial and yet so often overlooked.
There is an unsettling edge to the images, as I think there should be - the subject itself is unsettling, especially, the cyclical and often inescapable nature of chronic illness. The progression from natural and biological to medical and technological in Yas’s work accurately mirrors the journey experienced by chronic illness sufferers.
When it comes to communicating the nature of the illness, the strength of the images lies in their fractures, the repetition, the overlaying of one thing on top of another, the meeting of the internal and the external and their inherent other-worldliness. For me personally, the bleaching of the colour palette, contrasted with the sudden shocks of colour very effectively expresses how I experience the world as a woman with ME.
I think the audio ‘Living at theTideline’ creates a bridge between the micro and the macro, allowing the audience to engage with something at a very human level. It is an effective starting point, allowing the audience to relate to someone, in many ways like themselves, before going on the intricate journey of Yas’s exhibition. A grounding in the familiar is useful, especially for audience members who have no experience with illness and very little with science and medical technology. Whereas, a human voice and a human story, is something we can all relate to.
In short, Yas Crawford’s work offers a way in, a way to view the abstract beauty of a world which is unfamiliar and often intimidating to many. Mapping 1 provides a platform for further questions, research and discovery. Questions which must be asked. Research which is direly needed. And discovery which, with the aid of time and attention, can only be inevitable.
Nicola Rigby. Artist, Contemporary Figurative Sculptor.
Living at the Tideline, Nicola's Story