J a n e t M c E w a n
A critical response by Mary Fletcher
‘Holding Movements:describing the farm’ Janet McEwan
Helston Museum 24th Oct to 4th Nov 2011
On entering this art show, having passed on the way various ancient implements in the Museum, evocations of a recent past, it is apparent that this room is something different, a display using a grid of unframed pale images held up neatly by clips, some objects in glass cases, a microscope etc, the realm of conceptual art, art that requires some work to examine rather than being immediately obvious.
There is a coat, the sort farmers wear at county shows and a rope such as they use to lead prize animals into the ring. There is a an animal pen enclosing framed images of grass in different states and colours, images also penned for display and sale in their frames.
The most surprising and impressive image is one made using a pinhole camera over many months which shows the sun’s movement across the sky, changing each day.
Other images are made directly using found grasses or objects in the field which leave their own indexical marks on photographic paper and are very delicate in colour, soft focus, a patient collection capturing something that requires time and sunlight.
The inclusion of James Stevens’ “A Cornish Farmer’s Diary 1877 - 1912” links Janet McEwan’s Cornish farm experience to his and the quote she has chosen to feature from the diary, “Farm as though you were going to live forever, and live as though you were going to die tonight” might make us think of how short our lives are compared with that of the planet earth.
As the artist is present I also hear her concerns about the adjacent industrial scale solar farm, which may not be the glibly accepted good thing that most of us assume it to be. At present this is a tentative questioning that I would have missed being aware of from the exhibition alone; perhaps Janet McEwan will go on to more overt examination of these sensitive matters for the local community and bring them to the attention of a wider audience.
As it is I am made aware of the importance of the sun for growing things via its daylight power to make images. The exhibition also has a gently persistant impact.
Mary Fletcher is an artist, writer and art therapist who is based in St Ives, Cornwall