Water Damaged Pencil of Nature

Water Damaged Pencil of Nature — Plate V

Metallic chromogenic print
Image size: 850 x 570 mm (h x w)
Edition of 1 (+ an artist’s proof)

Water Damaged Pencil of Nature

The idea for this work stems from water’s binary relationship to photography as creator and destroyer. In analogue photography water is an essential part of the creative process, yet from an archival and conservation perspective water is the enemy. This work aims to explore this binary in a digital context.

For this work, water is the essential creative element giving it its unique aesthetic. In doing so it destroys any figurative element in the process. The figurative elements in this instance are the plates and pages themselves from William Henry Fox Talbot’s the Pencil of Nature. Each newly created work is an abstraction based on a plate from the book as indicated by the work’s title.

Pencil of Nature is credited as being the first serial publication to include photographs. It was published in six instalments between 1844 and 1846. It is an illustrated and didactic text that announces and explains the possibilities of this new art form at a time when the concept of photography was unfamiliar. To quote the text:

The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation.

H. Fox Talbot

By creating new abstracted work based on existing historical images, I am interested in viewing formal and aesthetic echoes that might exist between the works. Further to this, I am interested in how water acts as a primitive lens — basically subverting the optical quality of precision photographic lenses to create washes of watery colour.