The artworks displayed in this area of the University are part of an ongoing collaboration between staff and students from the School of Earth Sciences and visual artists based at Spike Island studios in Bristol. The idea for the exhibition space grew out of a Leverhulme Artist in Residence grant to Rodney Harris in 2015 which culminated in a new interpretation of William Smith’s 1815 geological map, on permanent display in the Earth Sciences common room.
The Earth Gallery can be viewed by visitors to the School of the Earth Sciences, or as part of the Wills Memorial Building tower tour.
Jo Lathwood has been researching the possibilities of shaping and casting molten rock in a project called ‘Is it Magma?’. Through alchemical experiments and support from geologists, volcanologists, artists, founders and materials scientists, Jo created a selection of sculptures which are presented in the gallery.
Jo Lathwood’s interest in using molten rock as a sculptural material comes from a keen desire to understand and explore processes. The majority of works on display have been created by heating up Andesite (a volcanic rock) to a molten state and then pouring it into bespoke moulds. Much of the skills required to execute this work have been transcribed from a background in metal casting. Video footage depicting some of the processes used to create lava sculptures can be seen as part of the exhibition.
Also on display are broken pieces of casting and laboratory equipment showcasing the incredible power unleashed in high temperature or high pressure experiments.
Emma Stibbon, RA, has a continuing interest in landscapes undergoing transformation. This has led her to visit several locations situated in areas of geologic activity including Hawai’i, Iceland and Italy.
The showpiece of Emma's mini-exhibition is 'Stromboli', an intaglio print made from ink drawings incorporating actual volcanic ash collected in the field. Stromboli is constantly active with minor eruptions emitting ash, lava fragments and gas; the atmospheric effects of the ash plume are the focus of this print.
Alongside Stromboli are sketches from her field exploration of volcanic terrain in the two adjacent display cases.
One display case is dedicated to Emma's work on Iceland, in particular the 1973 lava and ash eruption of Edfell volcano (Heimaey Island, Iceland). This eruption destroyed over 400 buildings and forced the evacuation of the town’s 5,000 residents. The stark, white houses contrast with the black volcanic landscape, an effect captured by these carbon sketches by Emma, who used real volcanic ash to add depth and realism to the images.
Also on display are sketches from Hawai'i, focusing on the intersection of volcanoes, the natural environment and human spirituality. This is done through a series of sketches of Ohia trees, which grow directly out of basaltic lava flows from Kilauea volcano; furthermore, Ohia trees resonate deeply in Hawai'ian mythology, and this is brought to life through Emma's work.
Rodney Harris' rendition of the William Smith map, 'Rock Map', which uses crushed rock from each strata is normally on display in the School common room, and well worth a view.
However, Rod's work is currently on loan to the Oriel y Parc Landscape Gallery in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire. There it is part of an exhibit entitled 'Gwir Liw'r Graig: Celf a Daeareg / The Colour of the Earth: Art and the Material Landscape'. Please do go and check it out.