You And I Are Earth

Climate Project 2022

‘You and I Are Earth’ is the culmination of a year-long project on global climate change weather events, a series of paintings based on the portrayal of these events through the TV news and social media. The objective is to record an entire year of reports, effectively freeze-framing the fleeting images we are fed through various media, allowing time for appropriate reflection of their serious nature and then collectively observing the entire picture of climate change over 12 months. With this in mind, the intention is for the collection of paintings to be exhibited in its entirety in chronological order, with patterns of weather moving sequentially across the paintings, a repetition and rhythm will become apparent. In exhibiting all the work in this way I feel there will be a power in the magnitude of climate change, which will resonate with the viewer. I hope that a clear realisation and urgency to act will emerge as people see the sheer spread of locations, with rich and poor countries being united in the issues.

I have used the photos as starting points, translating them through interpretive colour and expressive brush marks to represent my emotive response. Using a limited colour palette of four colours, I have so far completed 46 paintings and will continue through January 2023 in order to paint events which occur in December. Upon completion of the project, I estimate there will be 50 paintings of 30 x 40cm, oil on braced birch panels. The limited palette creates a unification across all the work, tying them together as one. Currently I have paintings of the major issues of fire and flood, but also drought, historic storms, snowfall, war, deforestation, erosion, the rise in tornados and warming of the Arctic.

The project came about after a long artistic block when I saw a report on TV of the aftermath of cyclone Idai. The footage was of a man wading through a flood looking for clean water. The composition echoed a painting I’d made previously so I took photos of the screen and painted it. I didn’t realise how this painting would change my work at the time but it interested me to paint something moving and so immediate. I began collecting similar images in a folder on my phone; screenshots of videos, news reports, storm chaser and amateur recordings of extreme natural events. I paint from my own photographs and when searching for something to paint I returned to this folder and began to work from more of these powerful images. The initial explanatory title of Climate Project 2022 was applied when I decided to paint an entire year in this way. In the title of each piece, I named the source, place and date, along with the image being captured.

The revised exhibition title ‘You and I are Earth’ comes from an inscribed plate dated 1661, found in a London sewer and which is now exhibited in the Welcome Collection. It explains in one perfectly formed phrase, our connectivity to nature, how it isn’t there to serve us and that by ignoring its messages we are effectively harming ourselves. The title succinctly conveys the overall meaning and purpose of my paintings and the aim of this project.

“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”

Andy Goldsworthy 

December 2022