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Interview: Lucy Kent — 08.02.21

Documenting The Changing Nature And Exquisite Movements Of Roots: With Lucy Kent






Interview MARYAM ARSHAD
Artist LUCY KENT
Images LUCY KENT



Inspired by the interconnected and complex systems that roots have, Missed/Tentative Connections by maker Lucy Kent explores their movements and changes through visual art. Using paper as the main material–resembling the interconnectedness between nature and humans–the ethereal lines, dots and contours reinforce the blurring between reality and the imagined.





What was the vision behind Missed/Tentative Connections?


The project actually started when I was creating a piece for a separate project – 19cm2 – run by my friend. You can check out the project here, @19cmsquared on Instagram. This artwork was the first where I just used a needle and paper. It allowed me to explore a very simple method of making and referenced my ongoing project Eroding Time that explores root systems and human intervention in the landscape.

At the time of making this piece in March, I had been reading Feral by George Monbiot. In part of the book, Monbiot discusses land use and how some forms enclosure/closure can be damaging and extremely destructive for both the ecosystem and people/communities. The Missed/Tentative Connections project was an extension of the consideration of space and land ownership. I was also thinking about the sculpture Outclosure by Andy Goldsworthy. The sculpture is an 8ft high circular dry-stone wall with no entrance or point of access. Dry stone walls carry the connotation of a landscape that has been heavily affected by human interference, reshaped to serve people. The piece was made in consideration with the enclosure of land, the form was inspired by a photogram of roots, as well connotations of roots as a structure that is part of preventing flooding and erosion.

This work was the starting point for Missed/Tentative Connections where I further explored root formations and they became more abstracted from their original forms. I was interested in how all these ideas could be considered within this new body of work and I wanted to explore spaces both real and imagined. The method of distancing roots from their organic form was somewhat reflective of the experience of this year. There has been a lot of time to think but it has also been quite isolating.

I didn’t really go into the project with any expectations, but it has been good to see how people have responded to the work.






Does Missed/Tentative Connections have any relevance to crucial social and environmental issues we are seeing?


The project is connected with all these issues and it’s hard to view any of them individually. Missed/Tentative Connections focuses on the intertwined nature of climate change and politics. It also acknowledges the fragility of the world we live in or alternately the fragile conditions we require as humans to be able to survive on the planet.






What themes and materials have been incorporated as the key elements of Missed/Tentative Connections?


The project has been influenced by environmental concerns. I wanted to explore the relationship we have with both seen and unseen elements of our environment.

All the works have been made on paper. I began the project using paper made by Khadi papers, I love the quality and texture of it. I was using a cotton rag paper which has quite a soft quality, especially the lighter papers. I am currently using paper from the company Two Rivers. The paper is thicker, and they use linen in the mix which creates a harder surface. This results in a sharper line when pierced and I am not as worried about it tearing. Working with the different paper qualities is part of the process and I really enjoy learning how to work with a material. Working with paper also allows me to work with a natural material that has been formed through man-made processes, linking back into a lot of my work exploring the interaction between nature and humanity.

The project is connected to the environment, nature, landscape and touches on ecology. In my series Eroding Time I focused on human interaction with the environment and the effects of erosion. With Missed/Tentative Connections the pieces are more deeply centred on the power of root systems and act as a grounding to my previous work.

The most challenging part of any project is communicating what inspired the work. I’m also planning to continue exploring working with different paper types and seeing how this effects the quality of line and marks that I make.




ERODING TIME, 2019-2020.



Your art appears to make use of lines, and is almost reminiscent of more fluid and ethereal map contours and topography. Is that an element of this project?


The project has been influenced by environmental concerns. I wanted to explore the relationship we have with both seen and unseen elements of our environment.

All the works have been made on paper. I began the project using paper made by Khadi papers, I love the quality and texture of it. I was using a cotton rag paper which has quite a soft quality, especially the lighter papers. I am currently using paper from the company Two Rivers. The paper is thicker, and they use linen in the mix which creates a harder surface. This results in a sharper line when pierced and I am not as worried about it tearing. Working with the different paper qualities is part of the process and I really enjoy learning how to work with a material. Working with paper also allows me to work with a natural material that has been formed through man-made processes, linking back into a lot of my work exploring the interaction between nature and humanity.


We understand that you work predominantly with natural and recycled materials, how significant do you think this is as an artist? Especially in terms of the need for more sustainable changes?


I think art is very powerful. It has the ability to change perceptions and permits a level of understanding that sometimes cannot be communicated through words. I visited London in 2018 to see Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing’s Ice Watch. This was a spectacle and part of Ice Watch’s purpose was about giving as many people as possible the chance to experience glacial ice. This also connects to Land Art and how destructive art can be. To acknowledge the implications of transporting the icebergs, they partnered with the charity Julie’s Bicycle who monitored the project’s environmental impact. It was estimated that the transportation of the ice blocks was the equivalent to thirty-three people taking a return flight from London to Nuuk to see the ice sheet in Greenland. I think that for artists to work in this way, considering the implications their work has is crucial, especially when you have a large following.

I think that it is key to consider what you’re making and putting out into the world. When I was studying at University, I started to look more closely at the materials I was working with and experimented with natural dyes, then moving to working with found materials. This exploration of materials has become part of my working process and learning new techniques is always exciting. For me, the materials that I choose to work with are significant because it’s such a focal point of my work. Using only paper for the Missed/Tentative Connections project has given me the chance to explore how much you can do with just one material. I can use paper over and over and every time achieve a different outcome.






You mention that you are influenced by the Arte Povera movement, which everyday materials do you incorporate into your art? Do you think this movement is crucial in challenging traditional art from an environmental perspective?


Most recently with the Missed/Tentative Connections project, the photograms that have inspired a lot of the lines in the pieces were created using roots and soil I had collected. In the past, I have worked with pine needles, berries, leaves, and paper which is normally used in some form in most of my work.

I feel like I still have so much to learn. I think that as an artist it is important to know where the materials you’re working with have come from. Knowing where the materials I use are from is part of the process, but knowing the source of what your buying should also extend beyond art.

I think that the Arte Povera movement was definitely important in challenging traditional art. The movement was in part reflective of economic challenges in Italy at the time, as well as challenging traditional art forms by working with unconventional materials. Arte Povera translates as ‘poor art’, reflecting the accessibility of the materials that were being used by the artists to create their work.

Within my own work, I was drawn to using everyday materials because I wanted to challenge what they could be.


What is your vision and intention behind the art you create? Does Land Art heavily influence all your work?


I wouldn’t say Land Art was entirely the focus of my work, more that it’s something I consider through the way that I make. Environmental art comes in so many different forms and, in some ways, I’m still figuring out where my work fits into that spectrum. I grew up close to The Yorkshire Sculpture park so seeing art in an outdoor space was something I was used to. I also remember in primary school we had a project to create artwork inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral pieces.

I’m interested in Land Art because it can be both destructive and intuitive. The Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt highlights a feature of the landscape which is very obviously man-made. Likewise, Agnes Denes’ project Tree Mountain is very obviously a human intervention and I like the notion of questioning what is and isn’t art. On a personal level I try to consciously adapt my way of working to explore how as a society we can be less destructive and more considerate.

I am also interested in the use of photography and art that lives on through its photographic documentation. This is quite common in Land Art with a lot of works being situated in remote locations or being performative or ephemeral. A photo can become a new work of art entirely because it has been confined to a single moment. I created a piece titled From Above and Below last year which was made using fresh and dried pine needles. I still have the work and over time the fresh needles have dried and started to lose their green colour. I would like to explore ephemerality more in future works and continue to explore how my practice incorporates photographic mediums.





THE ARTIST / LUCY KENT

Currently based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire in the UK, Lucy Kent is an artist/maker. Her practice is heavily focused on the environment. She works predominantly with natural and reclaimed materials, exploring how such materials are able to be transformed and altered through the processes of making. Drawing is elemental to her practice and underpins these making processes.

Through repetitive making and the ephemeral properties of materials, she explores how time can impact the environment. Within her practice she has an interest in how material exploration can allow her to engage more closely with the environment as a form of documentation. She is influenced by Land Art and the Arte Povera movement – where an emphasis is placed on natural materials and the processes of making.

IMAGES COPYRIGHT © LUCY KENT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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