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Across The Landscape ~ an exhibition of works by Melanie King & Jess Holdengarde at The Margate School, Margate, UK 

“ Science and art, matter and spirit, Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science - can they be goldenrod and asters for each other? When I am in their presence, their beauty asks me for reciprocity, to be the complementary colour, to make something beautiful in response” (Kimmerer, 2020)

Across the Landscape was a collaborative exhibition between Ramsgate based artist Melanie King and South African Glasgow based artist Jess Holdengarde. The show was a collection of natural based explorations that have culminated from the two artists sharing, exploring and building upon their existing sustainable practices with one another.

Through conversation, knowledge exchange and collaborative practice, Jess and Melanie’s work has weaved together - across landscapes and boundaries- new and undeveloped plant-based recipes for analogue processing, printing & toning. Coming together, through the landscapes of Scotland, England and the Outer Hebrides, Melanie and Jess present a series of new and existing work.

Jess exhibited some of her in-process works from her project, The Natural Process. This is a newly funded research and development project which explores the ethics of foraging, growing & harvesting local plant matter to brew, develop & test a collection of new & refined plant-based chemistry for analogue developers. The project had a specific focus on developing plant-based recipes from local landscapes & local plant matter available within Scotland. Jess’s sustainable silver gelatin prints on display are some of the examples of the new recipes that have been produced as part of this project. For the first time, she presented some of her deeper explorations into natural- based processes:

“Through working with local plants, I have drawn from personal healing methodologies including my own Reiki training, herbalism and somatic practices in the effort to open an effective embodied understanding of the more-than-human subjects of my work. From this, I have been drawn to the medicinal properties and folkloric traditions of the plants I have been foraging, photographing and developing with. In an attempt to have a more embodied practice , I have started working with plants at a more cellular and vibrational level. This has opened up exciting avenues with sound which can be heard in the collaborative work titled “Polymossphony.” The 35minute soundscape was produced through touch, singing, field recordings and the electro activity of moss which was amplified with a modular synthesizer. My hope with this body of work is to develop a more reciprocal and collaborative relationship to the plants I’m photographing & developing. I aim to provide my audience with the glimmers of what we have left in our current epoch so that we can consider the future”

Melanie’s project Acquaintance explored the creative possibilities of botanical cyanotype toning and sustainable photographic processes. This exploration considered how location-specific sustainable photographic processes can produce bodies of work that are materially connected to the landscape. This project was centered on the Peak District and surrounding areas, close to where Melanie grew up. This enquiry allowed Melanie to become reacquainted with the landscape, through the lens of photography and through the material engagement with plants identified in the environments she visited/​

The exhibition, through the display of recipes, conversational mediums, analogue prints, moving image and sound demonstrates how it is possible to produce works that are intrinsically and materially connected to the landscape and to one another’s processes. Through conversations, sustainable processes, methodologies and queer lenses of thought, Melanie and Jess give us an insight into the more-than-human experience. We see this show as a lens of intertwined, connected and sustainable methods of working as artists in an era of ecological ruin. The aim of the show was to encourage the ongoing dialogue around the future of analogue practices in the UK and more broadly.

This research has been supported by Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Curatorspace, Canterbury Christ Church University and Patreon subscribers.

Exhibition Text

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