Kathy Prendergast uses a range of materials in her work, from ordinary domestic objects to cast bronze, and from chalk or marble to human hair. Since the early 1990s Prendergast has also used maps and ideas around mapping as a key point of departure for a number of series of works.
Prendergast's current series of Black Maps, exhibited at Peer, are produced by a laborious process of inking-out vast areas of road maps from countries around the world, leaving visible small white dots that denote areas of habitation.
At close inspection, roads, place names and geographical details can still be discerned underneath the densely hatched lines of black marker, giving these works a strong sense of having been crafted by hand. Viewed from a distance, each work has the appearance of a star chart constellations of small villages, large towns and major cities all represented by hundreds of uniform-size single white marks.
In some countries, such as Poland and the Ukraine, the distribution of dots across the density of black is fairly evenly spread, suggesting a balanced distribution of population across a geographical area. One could also infer from this that these communities also have roughly equal areas of land for agriculture around them. By contrast, two maps of western USA show lines of clustered of dots and leave large areas totally blacked out, suggesting arteries or routes of passage through less agrarian landscapes. In these works, Prendergast has effaced the functionality of the map as an indicator of the topographies of the land, and has re-cast it to a chart that indicates only our impact and imposition onto it. She recently commented, âThe map is an expression of the landscape but over and above that, it is an expression of us on the landscape.'
Maps are employed in Prendergast's work as both subject and as object for their conceptual dexterity and for their functional matter-of-factness. She does not attempt to transform her source material into a pristine, finished object. Her hand as the maker is very present and any imperfections in her methodical process, as well as the integral creases of the map that reveal its original, shop-purchased form are left untouched.
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