4cd The Basket for the Crows, Chris Drury, crow feathers, willow and hazel, 118" x 12" x 1.5", 1986, $9,000
8cd Double Echo, Chris Drury, Inkjet print with UV coating, 54.25" x 46.25" x 2.75", 2007, Edition 2/4, $9,500
Double Echo combines a fragment of an echogram from Flight W34 over East Antarctica – a long cross section of the ice beneath the flight, made by radar pulses sent down though the ice and back up into a computer in the aircraft – and an echocardiogram of the pilot’s heartbeat, superimposed over the top. For some time I have been looking at systems in the body and on the planet, particularly systems of blood flow in the heart. In 2006/2007 I spent more than two months with the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica as artist-in-residence. The scientists were looking at what we stood on but couldn’t see – the structure of the ice and underlying land formation. In parts of Antarctica the ice is four kilometers deep and has been built up over 900,000 years – about the time our earliest ancestors walked the Earth. The ice is observed by radar, fitted to the under sides of the wings of a Twin Otter plane. One of the scientists, Hugh Corr, described the remarkable images that result as like a “heartbeat of the Earth.” Back in Cambridge, I worked with Hugh to make this data visible through art. Double Echo is one of the works that resulted. At the time, I was also working with the cardiac department at Central Middlesex Hospital in London. A surgeon there agreed to do an echocardiogram of the heartbeat of Dave Leatherdale, the pilot. An echocardiogram is very similar in technology to an echogram although it uses ultrasound rather than radar.
7cd Crossing and Recrossing the Rivers of Iceland, Chris Drury, Hand-written text in ink, on canvas-backed, peat-impregnated
paper. The text lists and repeats all the rivers crossed on a six- day walk from Porsmork to Landmanalauga in Iceland. The pattern is from a satellite image of a storm that hit us on the fourth day. , 74.75" x 30.625" x 2.625", 2003, $13,000
The story behind Crossing and Re-crossing the Rivers of Iceland is that my friend Phil, a climber who had developed a heart condition, came with me on this six-day walk from Porsmork to Landmanalauger in central Iceland. On the fourth day we were hit by a storm and waited out the night in a hut. The following day, the storm was still raging but a four-hour lull was predicted in the afternoon. Having a plane to catch, we started off for the next hut at 3:00 p.m. We crossed a cold river and climbed 2000 feet to a snow-covered plateau. On the top the storm returned and we were enveloped in a whiteout. My friend, who had gotten very cold and tired, announced that he wasn’t going to make it to the hut. He was, in fact, having a heart attack – I didn’t know it, but his heart was shutting down. I gave him some water, which he used to swallow pills given him by his doctor for just such an emergency. The pills saved his life and he was able to make it to the hut. The connection to this work is that blood flows in the heart in a double vortex pattern called a Cardiac Twist – the storm we were caught in had that same pattern.
The echocardiogram is digitally printed very large and then transferred to Fabriano paper by wetting the paper and laying the digital sheets on top, rubbing them and peeling them off. The fingerprint is enlarged in a computer and printed onto a clear film then projected onto the echocardiogram. The red lines are traced by hand using iron oxide from a geode, mixed with blood as a pigment. Iron oxide found in the earth is what makes our blood red. The whorls of the fingerprint allow us to experience the world through touch. Their patterns mirror all such flow patterns, like the bark of a tree or the movement of water in a river.
5cd Hand on Heart, Chris Drury, mono-printed echocardiogram onto canvas backed Fabriano Artistico 300 gm. paper, with a fingerprint in iron oxide and blood superimposed, 200 x 160 cm, 79” x 63”, 2002, $15,200
6cd Destroying Angel, Chris Drury, Digitally printed mushroom spore prints and hand written words in white ink and pencil on canvas. In three parts, each 170 x 170 cm , 63” x 63” 2002 - 2003, $67,640
I have a continuing fascination with mushrooms and their spore prints. Up until this summer (2003) when I saw two Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa) growing in the forests of Ontario, I had never seen one. Because of this I had to use its colourful relative, Amanita muscaria for the central spore print. If you cut off the stem of a mushroom and place it on a piece of paper overnight, covered with a bowl, it will drop its spores onto the paper in the pattern of the gills. The spore print here is digitally scanned and printed in three versions and altered by changing the contrast in Photoshop. The prints are glued and ironed onto the canvas which is built up in layers of gesso to form a surface for writing.
This radiating pattern of spore lines draws you in as a mandala would, but if you take a magnifying glass and follow one line from the centre out to the periphery then you will notice that each line branches and branches again like the limb of a tree. In making these densely written works this is in fact what I do: I follow the principle of the line that branches, only in densely hand-written words, in inks of different tones, with reed pens of different thickness, gathered from the banks of the river (everything flows here) and which have to be constantly sharpened and dried. The written words are repeated and hypnotic, like a mantra. The words cease to have meaning, the concentration is on the sound. A word that has a good sound is easy to write. It flows on to the canvas. The concentration is on the sound, the shape, the size, the colour, the tone, the branches. The words are the mantra that shape the mandala.
The mushroom Amanita virosa - Destroying Angel - is pure white and utterly deadly if you are foolish enough to eat it. Symptoms of poisoning may take 24 hours to appear by which time it is too late to do anything. Severe vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pains may last a day or more and are then followed by a period of recovery. The patient may think his ordeal is over and may be released from hospital only to die in agony within a few days from liver and kidney failure.
The name Destroying Angel has a strange pull and I have long wanted to make a work with this mushroom. With the events of September 11th and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seemed like now was the right time. The mushroom is symbolically paradoxical: mushrooms are agents of decay, but by breaking down organic matter into soil they create the foundation of life on our planet. I like this duality; the image of a destroying angel brings to mind the fearsome sword-wielding Shinto deity, Fudo Myoo, who by cutting through the ego, liberates rather than destroys.
4cd Detail Basket For the Crows
Selected exhibition venues and permanent collections:
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (solo exhibit); Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland solo exhibit; Kuntsuallen Brandts Klaedefabrick, Odense, Denmark; Tielt, Belgium (Beelden Buiten); Scottish Arts Council (touring exhibit - Orkneys, Shetlands Hebrides); Gothaer Kuntsforum, Koln, Germany. Vanderbilt University Art Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee (Chris Drury – Inside out, Outside In); Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England; British Museum, London, England; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; Henry Art Gallery, Faye G. Allen Center for the Visual Arts, Seatle, Washington.
Selected site-specific commissions: Okawa Village; Kochi Province, Japan; Botanic Gardens Copenhagen, Denmark; Arte Sella, Sella Valley, Italy.
Recipient: 2006-07 Artists and Writers in Antarctica Fellowship, British Antarctic Survey
5cd Detail Hand on Heart
I am often categorized as a land artist or someone who works with art and nature. In reality my work explores nature and culture, inner and outer, I travel and walk in out-of-the-way places, often alone. I have worked extensively with small communities in Europe, Japan and America, collaborating with others and making work that fits with needs of the community and is integral part of the landscape. I abhor divisions and categories; I use whatever method or material best suits idea and place. A defining characteristic of all my works is that they draw attention to something that is outside of the work itself; they are not self-referential.