Catherine Morland studied at Chelsea School of Art, Camberwell College of art and the Royal College of Art
She lives and works in London.
She uses the raw materials of the places she visits, to create a dialogue with the land and landscape and to explore their hidden histories. She is interested in plant based crafts from a feminist perspective, including basketry, and the social significance of ethnobotany and using traditional knowledge about plants.
Following a residency in Nova Scotia, she made smoke drawings on glass as a way of recording road trips across the island, the sooty residue equated to burning a mental image of the passing landscapes.
In her sculptural collages she has combined fossils found on the Jurassic coast in Dorset with paper made from harvested plant fibres.
Research expeditions to the remote Turkana county in northern Kenya, an area known as the cradle of mankind, became the catalyst for recent work. The fossil badlands of Turkana as well as the pastoralist nomads who currently live there unearthed questions concerning the notion of advancement engrained in Western thinking and of pre-history as a temporary transitional stage whose destiny is ‘progress’.
Her sculptural collages establish dialogues between the past and present where global artisan traditions merge with the ancient geology of Turkana and England’s Jurassic coast. Handmade papers produced from plant fibres collected from the landscapes of Kenya and the UK, are sculpted into biomorphic forms with fossils, prehistoric rocks, organic specimens, desert driftwood embedded as found objects within the structure.
Early technologies such as cordage, knots, plaiting and basketry techniques are also incorporated into the sculptural work.
Pre- history is brought into a contemporary context as a material signifier of time.
Her ongoing work about about the commons looks at how the enclosure movements starting in the mid C18th are linked to social and ecological challenges we face today. ‘I am interested in the social element of ‘commoning’ and in my art practice I envision a contemporary version, one that would provide support for the everyday labours of reproduction - food, medicine, shelter, care, reassurance, making, seed-sharing, recipe exchanges - a kind of spiritual nourishment with shared fields of knowledge and a web of social ties’
She has used basketry and cordage, two of the earliest domestic collaborative activities, as a way to foreground the lives of women, who often struggle most from the loss of commons. The baskets and woven objects are made with locally-foraged materials and home-grown plants, as well as rush and dried water hyacinth. Other components in the pieces include fossils and prehistoric rocks found on the Jurassic coast, natural London clay dug from her garden, plastic bags and other discarded debris, and giant echium and verbascum stems grown in various London parks.
She is working with dried Water Hyacinth, a migrant plant with a colonial history, to explore the notion of the commons and land ownership for a major project at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading in the summer 2021. This aquatic plant native to the Amazon was taken all over the world as a botanical beauty. Away from its native habitat and natural enemies it became an ecological plague evolving into an invasive species clogging up waterways, rivers, dams and lakes all over the world. The story of this single plant, its introduction and spread by human agency and the attempts to control and utilize it, explores the history of colonialism, bioinvasion, limnology and the complex relationship between humans and nature.