Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Brownfield Research Centre - Brownfield Artists of the Day: Joanna Whittle, Penelope Cain and Jonathan Halls

In our ongoing series highlighting Artists and works submitted to our Brownfield Research Centre, each day until July 22nd, we will be highlighting the work of artists submitting to our Open Call.

Joanna Whittle - Back Behind and Wild Concrete

Joanna Whittle has a strong interest in Brownfield sites and the simultaneous processes of dereliction and regeneration occurring through succession. As buildings and foundations deteriorate, nature regenerates. They are sites of flux with time pulling both backwards and forwards. In addition to this, aesthetically they provide a setting for exploration of the contemporary ‘ruin’ and its romantic and picturesque associations, with limbs of buildings emerging from rubble and vegetation. Many of her paintings are imagined scenes, with buildings displaced in wastelands and mud. This undermines any certainty of time or placement.

Some of the structures in more recent paintings become more transient and fragile, such as tents or temporary structures associated with festivals or fairs. Placing them in brownfield settings both enhances their vulnerability and temporariness. These are future ruins at inception. The paintings are predominately miniatures, in contrast to the often wide ranging scale of the places depicted. This serves to give them a preciousness, an attention to detail that forces an intimacy with the viewer, a requirement to focus.

Back Behind, Oil on Linen, 2017 and Wild Concrete, Oil on Linen, 2017 are exhibited inside the Research Centre at AirSpace Gallery, 4 Broad Street, Stoke-on-Trent.

Twitter: @_joannawhittle_
Instagram: @jowhittleart


Penelope Cain, Dust for the Antarctic

Landscape, in its widest terms, is central to Penelope Cain's practice. She is interested in the landscape of the Anthropocene - the current geological era marked by human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems. There is a 19th century German word that almost predicts this cultural and geographical moment - ‘Kulturelandschaft’ - a landscape created by human culture. To Cain, this is the landscape of the Brownfields.

In recent research, Cain has been using 18th and 19th century traditional landscape imagery as a pivot point to generate new propositional landscapes, to test and dissect thoughts around contemporary concerns with power and land. This work attempts to engage with ideas around the politics of urban space and colonialism both historic and contemporary, through the museum/ gallery gaze.

In her current line of research, she has been bio-mapping lead contamination from mining activities in the remote town of Broken Hill, Australia, through bees, saltbush and children's national school test scores.


Jonathan Halls, Fear of the Foreigner 


Jonathan Halls is an environmental artist who, having trained as an illustrator, explores the perceived value of nature through drawing, installation, discussion and workshops. This diverse approach to his practice allows Halls to work ethnographically to engage deeply with the locality, culture and history to create a response that is sensitive to the context, rather than an imposed perception by himself as artist. 

Through this ethnographic approach, his work aims to generate conversation, question current modes of thinking and challenge people’s perceptions of nature so that they question the underlying values that drives our approach to the natural world. Halls believes that these questions will activate the audience to these values and through them, the current orthodoxies can be challenged to make the world a better place for all. 

The project Fear of the Foreigner is born out of the Brexit-induced xenophobia that exploded around the vote, and explores the effects of foreign species in the UK through their impact on the brownfield sites of the Thames Pathway. In this work, he questions the ideology of extermination to ask why the plants flourish in Britain and what they offer. Through this analogy, Halls hopes to challenge the argument of immigration as disruptive and destructive, and show how foreigners benefit the country.

Jonathan Halls
Fear of the Foreigner

Instagram: jonhallsillustration

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