wars once fought over access to oil, will soon erupt over access to clean water


'Ossuary' a crown of thorns encased in Oil & Water.

Today we fight wars over access to oil, soon those same disputes will erupt over water and this fate for humanity takes much of my thoughts in the studio. In many societies there is an expression about mixing oil and water, usually referring to two elements, factors, people that do not agree or blend together. I disagree....  

‘Oil & Water’  these are essential elements that are central to the survival and industrial development of the human species are resources held in massive quantities within Siberia. 

The idea is to create physical forms out of solidified crude oil, then to entomb them in an ossuary of frozen river water. This type of endeavour has never been tried before and is hugely experimental. Crude oil being an organic material is full of thousands of different compounds, the way it freezes, at what temperature it freezes, how many wax formations will be excreted as it freezes; this list of questions that need answering. I have a set of intentions, but things will go wrong, this is to be expected on any concept that mixes science and art; the physics will cause mistakes and deviations; but it is these mistakes and unforeseen diversions that will take the work in a direction that I may not have originally conceived. Every revealed layer leads to another, an unavoidable trail to more layers as yet unseen which interests me greatly.

Siberia is a place of extreme weather and vast lands of dream like natural beauty; It was chosen as the studio location for this project as it provides the materials, climate and temperatures needed to solidify the crude oil, and providing the purest of raw materials to work with straight from the forest, river and the land. There are also metaphorical references for this location; Russian people are becoming ever more isolated with the current political dialogue in the west; The borders are down but the barriers are up. This work is intended to represent human natures seeming inability to evolve beyond nationalism; we should be able to co-exist & mix seamlessly as an advanced civilisation. Instead we are unable to move beyond a point where one culture is accepted or even understood by the other, despite sharing planet earth together.

Oil shall form a natural alliance with its perceived opposite, water; pure and impure shall be intervened with and shaped into a co-existence within the same form making one indistinguishable from the other in their alliance. 

Oil + Water exploring enthalpy of fusion shortlisted Environmental photographer of the year award
‘Ptolemy’ dated 2015, from the series 'Oil + Water' 2014-2015.  
Unique darkroom print, 80 x 80 cms.
+  II Artist Proofs (each a differing size and execution).

I created objects from this molasses like substance; those forms included spheres, several crowns of thorns, eggs and various other organic shapes and tracings. Then things get interesting with the process of freezing that invokes 'enthalpy of fusion', where heat and pressure is released as the liquids become solid. these create gas pockets; formed from the microscopic to those of epic sizes and as the ossuary of entombing ice closes in compressing down with powerful internal pressure; they explode like a star burst of energy looking for any way out, leaving it's spectacular trail etched into the tomb.

Forms will appear as indistinguishable from either solid or liquid, pure energy locked in stasis. Recognisable shapes and objects from nature encased within the pure waters of the Yenesei river and frozen solid; The oil formations when frozen very quickly secrete a wax like substance very akin to the colour and texture of church candles, black becomes white. A metaphorical reference of creating dialogue over different cultures as they intellectually and compassionately merge, for me an opening to the dialogue of politics that are worsening human relations between Russian people and the west. 

These physical blocks are dialogues of a need to be transparent and accepting with each others culture. Without an understanding for others, we will be unable to move beyond our not so distant past; moving forward needs the co-existence of vastly different matters akin to these artworks. 

In a way I have interfered with nature, but I hope those interventions were not seen by nature itself as somehow invasive. more as a surprise of the alchemy at work; both nature and I in alliance together and both being intrigued by the results; which pose further more complex questions than they answer.

At the end of my time working in this remote place, I dragged each block one by one behind a powerful quad bike and took them each to a place of their own in the forest; each was serene in abandonment for spring to claim them. It was like leaving a child behind with a wrenching inside of me; feelings I knew nothing about, but somehow experiencing the rawness of the forest, the solitude of the process undergone I felt paternal to these creations. I did this undocumented out of respect for keeping their locations private. Not one hour has passed since that time that I have not thought of how they will be changing within their space, indeed how I am changing with their experience within me, for I am nature.

'Ideas are composed of feelings which become concepts which in turn become actions, a path which leads to these works' Alexander James

View the series 'Oil + Water'

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