For the assessment space I have hung a diptych entitled, River Hirose 05.09.2010, 12.03.2011, which comprises of two boards measuring 150 x 110 cm each.
I initially had a bit of a disaster with these boards. When priming them with rabbit skin glue [to ensure they did not rot or warp], they severely warped. It took about a week to straighten them up with subsequent soakings in glue and with heavy weights to ensure they did not shift back. I think the problem was an error with the glue, which is something I can learn from. Unfortunately, as a result of this I have had to use mirror plates to screw them to the wall.
I have primed the boards with my own chalk ground, a type of gesso, which requires seven even coats applied wet on wet. Once sanded, the surface becomes very hard and shiny, with the appearance of ceramic or marble. The imperfections in the surface are residue of rabbit skin glue, highlighting the organic nature of the material. I wanted to create a hard surface, which felt impersonal and cold. This is emphasised by the grey metallic egg tempera paint. I chose a grey hue, a non-colour to ensure I did not make other references and because of its coldness.
The concept behind this work is to produce a diagrammatic image of what the media gives us on natural disasters. It’s a mediation of the media in that we are bombarded with graphic and exploitative imagery intended to shock of terrible events. These events are beyond our control, they prove how powerful nature is and how small and ineffectual we are as a species. The diagrammatic images are meant as an environmental image, to show how our world is changing. Ever so slightly, our borders, our coastlines change and dissolve. Land sinks and the waters rise, and we are incapable of stopping it. I wanted to provide an emotionless impersonal image giving information.
To the viewer, the painting initially appears as an abstract diptych about drawing, shape and line. On second glance, with the title in mind, the viewer re-reads the image. The dates reference the Japanese Tsunami, and the image takes on new meaning. The viewer realises that they are seeing topography, and essentially the same topography with different dates. I did not want to give the viewer all the information but to be able to pick out the coastline and work out for themselves that the painted areas are of flooding. This piece is about the impact of flooding on Sendai’s (North East Japan, where the River Hirose flows through) topography. The left image is of the area before the Tsunami, which is compared with the right image of Sendai a day after.
River Hirose 05.09.2010, 12.03.2011, by Jennifer Letchet, diptych measuring 150 x 110 cm each, egg tempera on chalk ground.
A work in progress, showing the build up of layers of egg tempera.
River Hirose 05.09.2010, 12.03.2011 [detail] by Jennifer Letchet.
A work in progress, showing two different layers of egg tempera and the use of masking tape to paint flooding.