‘The present - in the form of my activity, interventions and documentation - collides with the past (recent or otherwise) as embodied in fallen or unearthed fragments I retrieve…’ - Janet White
Janet White has, for some time, been exploring the agricultural and architectural as sources for her material and as sites to plot and map pathways, tracing the experience of her environment. Evidence of her encounters includes recorded data, sound, collected fragments, photographs, prints, frottage and drawings. Her artistic practice has evolved through a process of methodical ‘research’ – probing, investigating, gathering, measuring, evaluating – that simultaneously feeds an instinctive response on her part, giving rise to a more visual-poetic interpretation of her ‘findings’.
The artist is an inveterate collector of physical fragments, but these are not just random found objects. She has, for example, amassed a vast assemblage of small pieces of pottery uncovered and systematically gathered from a single field as it has been ploughed at various times and over several seasons. This requires forward planning, working around farming schedules and accommodating unpredictable weather conditions. The collected fragments are recorded meticulously by date and time of collection and indexed according to weight and size. This seemingly ‘dry’ taxonomical methodology serves mainly to draw greater attention to the fact that each fragment is imbued with a unique history, distinguishable through appearance and characteristics that are not so easily classified.
The visible or physical fragment, which is all that remains of an object, takes on its own shape and identity. It acts as a form of synecdoche of a narrative, memory, place or person about which we can merely speculate. Chunks of masonry, salvaged from demolition sites, perform a similar function to that of the assembled pottery shards. A piece of architrave, a broken baluster, or even a single brick can stand in for a building, a style of architecture, an historical event, or even an entire civilisation. A rubbing taken from a flagstone suggests the scale and dimensions of a more extensive floor or pavement. Their materiality contains the accidents of history and provides evidence of usage, misusage and disusage, even extending to their current context as part of a contemporary artwork. The artist encourages specific associations on the part of the viewer through combining various forms of re-presentation that includes prints, drawings, frottage and formal arrangements of found elements or materials in order to embody abstractions; ‘field’, ‘floor’, ‘façade’, ‘footprint’.
We unwittingly leave traces of our presence and evidence of our actions, however slight or subtle, wherever we go. Janet White’s work makes us a little more aware of our passage through time and space and our relationship with our environment.