Vicissitudes

November 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

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Vicissitudes

Somehow even the most scarred landscapes retain abstract and reformed beauty. Perhaps light, form or scale tricks our mind into associating a mountainous dump of waste material, or the carved and angular scaring’s on and within the earth’s skin have resemblance. Our eye sees the change or damage and somehow reforms our perception, finding aesthetic and  beauty within it.

Vicissitudes investigates these Landscapes transformed. Man’s workings, often over centuries, scarring, re-moulding and metamorphosing the environment. Mining has been a pillar of our development and progression, and the extraction of the earth’s resources have fuelled human evolution. Open cast mining cuts its’ impacts ruthlessly across landscapes. My first direct emersion into such a landscape, leaving lasting memories of mining at scale, came in Cornwall, at St Austell, a community built on the extraction of the earth’s gifts.

The Clay Tip area around St Austell now resembles a volcanic landscape. Dumped wastes forming manmade Eirgal’s with white coned peaks erupting across a vista. Amongst the valleys of the now White River, stained from the clay run off, at times becoming ancient hillocks, verdantly covered in woodland as Auvergne reformed. Sometimes new peaks towering over turquoise lakes formed within the deeper chasms, left in the earth's gums after extraction, and then Luskentyre ponds over the white mud trails on surrounding flat plains of levelled hillsides – there is beauty in these generations of mutation.

The scale of the workings are magnetising, days wandering within, around and over both old and existing extraction sites, some features more prominent and drawing attention. However among the undoubted impacts and scars of extraction and replacement, this landscape is accepted and embraced by its’ community. Perhaps no more so than at the Eden Project where consideration of our earth’s environment and human impact has been established in the site of one of these ancient mines.

In many ways St Austell acts as a reminder that we face exceptional and daunting challenges to our environment. That the impact of our needs for raw materials must be better balanced, both against financial and economic gains, local communities, and our demands for the resulting products.

But St Austell also offers us some hope, that we can build positive pathways from the remnants of our own destruction. And that there is beauty in nature’s reclaiming of its’ own.


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