Still, They Are Speaking is an exhibition of expanded drawing practice developed in and with post-fire landscapes of the Okanagan valley.
In 2003 the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire spread across more than 250 square kilometres and consumed 239 homes on the edge of Kelowna. In land still scarred by that fire, blackened trunks dominate the skyline with a now-familiar stubble, while up close thriving ecosystems regenerate and continue despite encroaching urbanisation. Walking these hillsides, the stark beauty, richness of surface and visible traces of loss and regeneration found there, fascinate me. The thick fire-resistant bark of the Ponderosa Pine in particular, carries the marks of that past fire as charcoal that has become part of the living tree’s story, written in its skin. These marks speak of complexity and fragility, of sacrifice, resilience and renewal. They are a written language, present in the land, describing forms of knowledge that exist independently of us. Acknowledging this is an exercise in humility that requires us to imagine beyond the human.
My drawing practice demands a haptic engagement with materials and a physical immersion in place. Through touch and presence, I renegotiate my relationship to knowledge as an experiential form of understanding, beyond the bounds of language, and closer to that of the non-human. In making the drawings for this exhibition a collaborative contact of surfaces transfers charcoal marks from tree to paper, to become a record of conversations that have taken place between fire and land, footstep and ground, body and tree. This experience of drawing as an act of engagement with place, is translated into new physical encounters with drawing as object, installed within the gallery. Time and labour have been invested in repetitive and cyclical processes to develop complex, active surface. The use of paper, an inherently fragile medium, grounds the work in the temporality and physicality of the here and now. These drawings can be read, as maps, or experienced, as terrain, but they insist on presence.
I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the land and trees of this small part of the Okanagan valley, on the unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. It has been a privilege getting to know this place, working amongst this land and responding to its stories.
- Book of Ponderosa, 1:1, Okanagan Edition, burnt Ponderosa Pine bark on rag paper, 36” x 60”
2. Wake (Ghost Limb), burnt Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir bark on mulberry paper with mixed media and rice paste, dimensions variable
3. Aestas Sacrum, burnt Ponderosa Pine bark on rag paper, 36” x 180”
4. Inseparable (Pelt), hand-cut digital photographs on Enhanced Matte photopaper, hand-cut mixed media drawings, Ponderosa Pine needles, approx. 72”x 72”
5. Interface (Pelt), burnt Ponderosa Pine bark and compressed charcoal on paper, planed pine, mulberry paper and cotton tape, 96”x 150”