Following the SustainRCA discussion about the “Rights of Nature and the nature of value”, my antenna has been alert to the role of artists as protagonists in defence of nature. So I was drawn to the latest portfolio, Cartography, from the House of Fairy Tales (with support from TAG Fine Arts) that is currently on show at the House of Barnabas, a charity helping the homeless back into work, supported by a members club in Soho.
I have a love of maps. They speak of adventure, romance, fairytales, and tell the story of power. Often what is left out, says more than what is left in. Cartography encapsulates these wonders. The portfolio consists of 12 screen prints and lithographs on the theme of the ‘lay of the land’ from whole continents, and wildernesses, to more familiar, but perhaps equally foreign inner world. Sir Peter Blake and Rob Ryan are among the distinguished role call of artists.
Of the portfolio, I was drawn immediately to Claire Brewster’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ (pictured above). The mix of collage and painting on a 1965 map of Aldabra Island in the Seychelles creates an exotic landscape for an imagined journey. The birds, flowers and insects cross over boundaries with ease, immune to the clinical lines of the map. A dual metaphor depicting the contrast between a cartographer’s precision and the vibrant, unruly real world, as well as showing the limits of man’s efforts to tame and contain nature. The piece is typical of Claire Brewster’s work with obsolete maps to create beautiful paper cuts. Retrieving the discarded and celebrating the unwanted.
Susan Stockwell’s work also finds hidden treasure in waste, recycling everyday materials to comment on issues of ecology, geo-politics, and global commerce. Maps allow her to illustrate society’s networks of power and communication. The Red Road Butterfly screen print (pictured right) portrays a city’s life-blood as its road network with flows of goods and people in and out. Butterflies are a popular motif of transformation. Their fragility, transience, and beautiful.
These works, and others, ask us to pause, and prompt inquiry into our relationship with the world around us. They tell a story that is the beginning of a conversation about community, society and environment.
Sales from the Cartography Portfolio support of the work of the House of Fairy Tales, an artist-led charity that champions creative play for all, including the disadvantaged and marginalised. Established in 2006 by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk, House of Fairy Tales combines artists, educationalists, performers and scientists to create events and materials that coax individuals and communities to explore a love of curiosity, learning and doing. In the pipeline for later this year is the HOFT Examiner, a children’s online player creating a new mythology of forests in conjunction with the Forestry Commission.
The exhibition runs until the end of June and is available to view by appointment at the House of Barnabas and Home House. So find a moment to enjoy this fantastical world of Cartography while you can. TAG Fine Arts will exhibiting other works by some of the artists at stand 37 of the London Print Fair opening on Thursday 24th April at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Picture credits: The artists courtesy of TAG Fine Arts