Catherine Morland studied at Chelsea School of Art, Camberwell College of art and the Royal College of Art
She lives and works in London.
Recent work has been in response to travelling to prehistoric landscapes in Kenya and in the UK.
By creating dialogues between the past, present and future my work is an attempt to disrupt the clear-cut chronological version of events that is embedded in our Eurocentric culture with its belittling temporal categories and metaphors. Concepts of cyclical and linear time together with the notion of the ‘primitive’ and the ‘civilised’ have been constructed to separate the pre-modern from the more advanced civilisations.
My use of materials and processes is closely linked to ideas around the passage of time and the intertwining of past and present histories. I am drawn to a wide range of crafts and artisan traditions from around the world from the ancient to the contemporary.
I am interested in the links between craft and activism, which engages me to look to the past as a way to think about the now and our uncertain future.
I am interested in prehistory and visited the remote Turkana county in northern Kenya. This area is known as the cradle of mankind having been identified as one of the places in Africa where anatomically modern humans evolved before they populated the rest of the world. Spending time in the fossil badlands of Turkana raised questions for me about the notion of progress engrained in Western thinking and how we are taught to think of pre history as a temporary transitional stage whose destiny is to progress and improve into a world like our own. This thinking has lead to an assumed superiority over things perceived as anthropologically primitive and has helped establish a empirically Eurocentric timeline of the history of the world.
Today with digital technologies threatening to overwhelm us as we head to a post human era I am interested in re-connecting with materials in ways common to both contemporary and ancient peoples.
My small scale sculptures are made out of handmade paper using plant fibres collected in Kenya. (Eucalyptus, Sugar cane, Banana leaf and Nettle) I was drawn to the physicality of the paper and the process of making it, which involves breaking down plant fibres and removing all the impurities and organic matter. The paper is a residue, a vestige and an end product, I am interested in these primitive qualities. I have introduced found objects from the jurassic coast that I see as temporal markers; fossils, prehistoric rocks, desert driftwood to create a temporal timeshift.
The process of making the pieces is largely intuitive. Starting with an abstract composition, I assemble the material until something takes shape, a mask, a moth's wing, a body part. Sometimes I start the other way round with a recognisable form, which then loses itself and becomes more interesting as an abstract shape. It’s a circular process that I enter into at any point. The pieces then become characters that can be grouped together like a family or arranged like species of the same genus where the contemporary and ancient collide.
Ultimately I would like the pieces to be seen as material signifiers of time brought into a contemporary context, like the stones found kicking around the Jurassic coast in Dorset that turn out to be one hundred million year old fossils.