On a very wet Summer Solstice we are featuring solar etchings by MA Sustainable Design student Solange Leon Iriat who has just won the Experimental Design Practices Reg Prize 2021: This prize is for work which has explored movement, change and flux. Below Solange describes her beautiful project.
An experimental Cyanotypes series (solar etchings).‘First there is nothing, then there is a depth of nothingness, then a profundity of blue [the boundless Void]’ – Gaston Bachelard
Movement has been principal to my practice. Throughout the MA in Sustainable Design, detailed observational moving landscapes have given way to more abstract gestural art pursuits, a form of embodied research in response to ideas. These explorative pieces inform and initiate in turn further research in an ongoing material conversation.
Societies asunder and economic inequality is rising with the present crisis. We remain concertedly divided and perpetually adapting. This work examines division, borders and movement in the sustainability framework, ontological complexities, collective and individual notions through art and design. The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted isolation and division while demanding a cohesive humanitarian ensemble to trust and move in a certain distant togetherness.
These bluescapes were born intuitively as a way of visualising and exploring concepts of social mobility, equality and interdependent relations, and the opaque and perpetually shifting nature of borders.
A precarious balance when attempting to resist and surrender to one another and our environment is centre to sustainable design. Can concrete system structures allow for adaptability and tolerance to allow for diversity and individual freedoms within a broader collective?
Furthermore, how to explore this with light?
Solar etchings are blue- the inner architect smiled- I happily chose to soak the question in these improvised and irreversible choreographies. Incidentally at the time of making these, I got lost in notions about inhabiting the shifting border in seaside urban enclaves, the thought-provoking nature of contemplating the movement of waves, and the necessity to trust and embrace the unknown if one is ever to navigate unchartered oceans creatively.
The research process included extensive technical information on the photographic process history and practice of cyanotypes, chemicals safety and environmental notions, testing multiple materials and time of exposure, objects, nighttime preparation of safely mixed liquids in a makeshift ‘Camara Obscura’ which comically included Christmas lights strips in the height of summer – having to improvise and adapt at a time of enforced home incarceration.
Despite our obstinacy, not unlike time, solar etchings are challenging to work with if not to command. Traditionally the photographic technique attempted to create archival historical material, thus requiring absolute stillness for the reproduction. The bluescapes examine instead movement and impermanence and occupy a crossover space between photography and fine art printing practices. The experience provoked also deliberation on the artificial nature of our industrial relationship to an otherwise indivisible empirical and ever-elusive Kronos.
The prints convey an ethereal and delicate set of complex overlapping shapes with distinctly indistinct borders that express the brevity of a moment in permanent form, where merging individual components in flux remain, however, recognisable.
The judges really enjoyed the opportunity to see such a range of interesting work exploring movement, and they were impressed with all the work submitted. The panel selected Solange Leon Iriart as this years winner. The judges really appreciated the photographic experimentation exploring how movement might be registered, and the ephemeral quality to the work. To view the work on the Digital Exhibition site click below.