Oysters and Islands

With Judith Schalansky’s ‘Atlas of Remote Islands’ fresh in my mind, I was looking at some of the oyster shells that Lorna has used in her work. I imagine it was this happy coincidence that led me to think of them as islands, well, that and my love of all things miniature of course.


I have been tracing the contours of all the uninhabited islands in Judith’s book, there are 19 of them. I am testing out different ways to play with these lines, layering them up to create abstract and yet cartographical-like drawings. I am experimenting with different materials to fill those contours, with layers of clear PVA and paper reliefs.


About the same time, I watched the documentary on the BBC about the rise and fall of British whaling, which featured the abandoned whaling station in South Georgia. I am interested in abandoned structures on inhabited islands. Structures with a clear function or use other than home. Power plants, military bases, whaling stations, weather stations etc.

Some of those lonely islands had rich communities which were evacuated or simply disappeared. Most of the islands featured in the book (50 in total) have fascinating and troublesome histories, made all the more powerful by the tiny geographies in which they happened.

I can only think of them in relationship to the sea that surrounds them, the distance that separates me from them, both in history but in the ‘here and now’.

And looking back at the oyster shells, with their craters and strata of crumbling material I daydream of their. They are fragile in my hands. Islands disappear. Some are too small to appear in ordinary atlases. I try to inhabit my oyster-islands, by giving them a protagonist or by turning them into floating islands, filled with the remnants of human activity that is no longer active, no longer accepted, or perhaps simply trying to remain unseen in the vast ocean.

These are some sketches I have been doing in plan for larger drawings:


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