• The Archaea

      Rushton, Stephanie; University of Derby (2017-05-19)
      Stemming from a fascination with plants and focussing on 'intelligence in nature' Stephanie Rushton will talk about her recent digitally manipulated photographic imagery 'The Archaea’. Visually inspired by the jungle imagery of the 20th Century Surrealist artist Max Ernst and underpinned by a diverse and wide ranging enquiry the Archaea considers our genetic link not just to other animals, but to all of life. Humanity often believes itself to be separate and superior to all other life forms, despite evidence that we have evolved from or alongside every other living organism and are interconnected and interdependent in surprising ways. Responding to Andre Breton's 1924 'Manifesto of Surrealism' Max Ernst published a collection of 34 images under the title 'Histoire Naturelle', a series created with an automatic technique he coined Frottage. 'The Archaea' imagery pays homage to this work and to the playful spirit in which it was created. Ernst, who weaved aspects of alchemy, animism and shamanism into this work, was embracing surrealist automatism, and simultaneously attempting to regain a spiritual harmony with nature that he felt had been lost with increasing technological advancement and rationalism. Attempting to connect to Ernst's surrealist methodology, Rushton collected plants and other 'found' vegetal flotsam from the garden over given periods of time to juxtapose in her digitally created photographic tableaux. This has resulted in a series of darkly constructed botanical still life imagery, which refer to the landscape with a suggestion of anthropomorphic figuration. The imagery is subsequently manipulated with various Photoshop techniques that lend the work a painterly quality not unlike the Frottage method, but simultaneously depict a cellular or scientific feel that reinforces the molecular link between animal and vegetable; the resulting images succeed in being both menacing and simultaneously humorous.