January 23, 2023
This week we recognize Liz McGowan, and her nature-based practice in the United Kingdom.
"I work in conversation with the Norfolk landscape, exploring the meeting points between inner and outer landscapes.My inspirations are the detail, pattern and processes – reed, mud, wind, wave, erosion, tideline, that combine to form a particular environment.My personal concerns are about containment and expansion, about cycles of growth, change and decay, and about the shifting relationship between us and the world in which we are immersed."
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Inside Outside was a reed installation sited on the Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail, 2014-2015 (above), which is a fine structure of walls made from reed that meanders and curls in upon itself to form a hide. When the act of seeking shelter–under a tree, in a cave–becomes the act of making shelter, there is a fundamental shift in the way in which one perceives the world: ‘outdoors’ happens because we have made an ‘indoors’. Once we are ‘inside’, we experience ourselves as no longer visible to us, no longer a part of the ‘outside. The ‘outside’ becomes ‘other’, a place of potential menace that we need protection from.
In McGowan's Spirit Wraps Around Me series (above), each of her cloaks is made with materials from a specific Norfolk habitat – tideline, reedbed and barley field. The cloak mediates between the human body and the landscape it emerges from. It’s an invitation to immerse oneself in the more than human world, like plunging into cold water. More than that, by referencing ritual cloaks, it opens up the possibility of a connection with the genius loci, the deep spirit of the land.
McGowan's Chthon earthworks series (above), refers to the Greek word for 'earth,’ referring specifically to that which is under the earth. In English, ‘chthonic’ describes deities or spirits of the underworld. These works are the result of playing with saltmarsh mud in liquid and solid form, to create patterns and sculptures, exploring what it does and how it moves.Tidelines, made in 2018 (below), was inspired by the fluid patterns carved into their spindle whorls by the Haida people, a coastal seafaring nation of North West Canada. Using plastics collected from the English and Welsh coastlines over many years and set on repurposed plexiglass the work was influenced by Indigenous designs that spoke to McGowan, who is also an island dweller that spends her time by the sea whenever she can.
Liz McGowan has worked with natural and found materials for over two decades, creating responses to particular environments through installation, sculpture, drawing and conversation. Her focus is the meeting point between inner and outer landscapes, where personal creativity is given inspiration and form by those elements – stone, reed, tree, earth, tideline – that combine to form a landscape. lizmcgowan.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Liz McGowan, Reed Fans, 2017, reed installations at Cley Marshes Visitor Centre; Inside Outside, 2012, reed installation by Liz McGowan and Jane Frost for Aisle and Air, a curated exhibition at Cley church and surroundings; Tideline Cloak, 2021, Spirit Wraps Around Me series, The Yare Gallery, Great Yarmouth; From Tree to Apple, 2022, earth, apples, shrew skulls, raptor feathers (apple becomes shrew, shrew becomes windhover, becomes will-a-wix, becomes buzzard) Chthon earthworks series, work on paper; Tidelines, 2018, found plastics, set on plexiglass; below, portrait of the artist, wearing Chalk Stream Cloak photographed by Harry Cory Wright.