4cd The Basket for the Crows, Chris Drury, crow feathers, willow and hazel, 118" x 12" x 1.5", 1986, $9,000
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; Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award, Pollack Krasner Foundation.
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.