“I want the work to be an experience of contemplation over an object of contemplation, the way trees are linked together,” Rachael Champion, Carrying Capacity, 2011. Courtesy Zabludowicz Collection. Photo Tim Bowditch.
Rarely have artists brought flora into the gallery. Rachael Champion’s work is an “organic root system”: enacting “the physical materiality of both built and natural world”.
During the 60s when the commercialization of art and the realization of a pending ecologic catastrophe became matter to discuss, Land Art came to the forefront of contemporary artand merged nature withculture. Several locations have since been adorned, the practice of Andy Goldsworthy or the likes of Anthony Gormley in Another Place, whose cast iron statues stand on Crosby beach. Celebrating nature as a creative landmark, Rachael Champion expresses this very questioning: interactive and censorial situations.
Champion composes environments in the discipline of installation representing humanities relationship to nature through inter-woven meanings. Presently showing in this years Bold Tendencies 5, located in Peckham Rye, she was part of the exhibition The Shape We’re In, at the Zabludowicz Collection, London, with a piece titled Carrying Capacity.
First, her interest in the large scale comes from her first job as a theatre technician. Finding inspiration in “utility” and the contrast between “structural and functional components” of society, her artwork is motivated from her concern with environmental politics. “Landscapes physically change from humans utilising its resources to its furthest degree.” Aside from that take a look at the Deep Water Horizon spill for example, they attempted to fix it with tires and golf balls. To me, that’s f*****g sculpture,” she laughs. Born and bred on Long Island, Champion attended Purchase State University of New-York (SUNY) and the Royal Academy of Arts and has so far exhibited at the Socrates Sculpture Park, English Kills, New Century Artists and Artists Storefront Project.
Her final show, 32 components in 2010 at the Royal Academy of Arts was a room filled with large shelving devices, steel pipes and factory elements substituted from their own purpose. Swaying between little mounts of soil on which grass grows, organic references creates a meditative calmseemed to float in the room. Champion’s work goes further: expression through mimesis; it mirrors the organic processes and essence; it brings a creative dimension into the gallery.
Carrying Capacity, 2011 displays various forms of objects and constructions: the room’s floor was divided between a thick layer of pebbles and a swimming pool floor surface, little tiles of different tones of blue on which were arranged 7 expansion tanks in both red and palatine blue. At the end of the room three erect poles supported ovals of vibrant green unkempt grass; her use of architectural devices work as a generator of understanding, the blending of a thoroughly structured maze. Filled with so many elements and weighted with meaning, it was at first difficult to engage with the piece. Rachael Champion defines her research as a “system that manifests itself organically” by using raw building materials and found utilitarian objects.
“I want to create an experience, where you can’t see everything at once. Things are happening behind you and beside you and at different speeds”.
At first the composition looks like a condensed form of Babylonia’s hanging gardens: lean wooden frames hold organic profusion where suspended factory-like elements blend in the set; the scenery is a metaphor minefield. Wandering through Carrying Capacity and our perception and relation to space are set in motion; our understanding is gradual, ascending. Not only our senses are witness of the material presence of objects but their intrinsic quality appears in our mind. “Capacity” expresses a volume and also the faculty or ability at conducting a task. Where the relation to organic material is implied in the “swimming pool” referring to water; grass is earth in the way in which earth enables the growth of vegetation.
It comes to ask ourselves “why the pebbles?” that everything comes into shape. Although pebbles connect to the seaside, they also echo emotion and remembrance. To her: “Art is a device used to point things out about life; it’s shedding light on a particular subject in a potentially new and eye-opening way,” she says. At that point, the connection between display and meaning becomes a gradual narrative, a story-like structure clinking the politic and the poetic: “I want the work to be an experience of contemplation instead of an object of contemplation, the way trees are linked together” she says. Conducted by the different elements set across the space, imaginary lines materialise and the whole room becomes the producer of innate feelings.