Fertile Image is an unfinished and ongoing series of 8mm film works. Unfolding over years (perhaps even decades), left incomplete and in a state of emergence, the project seeks to engage slowly with sacred ancient sites across the UK.
The first iteration of the film features footage shot at Chanctonbury Ring (South Downs, Sussex) and Mên-an-Tol (West Penwith, Cornwall). Both sites are known for their distinctive spherical forms – the former a prehistoric hill fort and barrow, now identifiable by a ring of beech trees thought to be planted in the mid 18th Century. The latter consists of an upright, circular granite slab, just over one metre high, with a circular hole 46 cm in diameter. It is flanked by an upright stone at the North East and another at the South West. The holed stone is believed to be an eroded-through solution basin from a local tor stack. Commonly known as a ‘hag-stones’, ‘witch-stones’ and less frequently, ‘adder stones’, such sites are associated with protective/ healing powers, sorcery and witchcraft, fertility rituals, occult practices and even customs such as contractual hand-shakes.
Shot on Standard black and white 8mm film and transferred to digital, the footage is split into RGB channels and superimposed to create a mirage-like image, which directly references Ithell Colquhoun’s 1942 painting Sunset Birth. Yet, in contrast to Colquhoun's hundreds of drawings of Mên-an-Tol, the figure in the film is neither naked, nor necessarily willing to partake in the ritual of passing through the stone – instead the stones become a signifier for contested territories, and ongoing boundaries that define bodies.
The title of the work draws from Surrealist painter Paul Nash's photographs, ideas and writing, specifically his essay Life of the inanimate object published in 1937, which seems to anticipate much contemporary materialist theory, including Jane Bennett's concept of 'thing-power' outlined in her 2009 book Vibrant Matter.
The landscapes I have in mind are not part of the unseen world in a psychic sense, nor are they part of the Unconscious. They belong to the world that lies, visibly, around us. They are unseen merely because they are not perceived; only in that way can they be regarded as ‘invisible’.
Made possible by a 'Time, Space, Money Bursary' from a-n (2022)