In January 2020 my husband, and fellow artist, James Aldridge and I are holding a joint exhibition at The Pound art centre, Corsham, exploring the theme of ‘Interbeing’. This concept combines nature, art, anthropology, psychology and philosophy into a single (and simple) premise: that everything is both connected and dependent upon everything else. The much revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, explains Interbeing in the following passage:
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.
“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.
If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.”
Humanity’s evident disassociation from the ‘natural’ world is a crisis that both James and I see and feel. Individually, we explore artful ways in which we connect to the ‘real’ world – the ‘non-human’. Whether through painting, photography, drawing, making, film, or writing, the threads of connectivity and of Interbeing, weave through our works.
In my paintings I explore the sensation and results of losing completely my physical body; becoming like a vessel that is guided by something ‘other’ – a spirit of place. Remembering family: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, who also lived on this land. Feeling their connection to me; their breath in my breath. Memories that feel as if they have been passed down hundreds of generations enfold me when I’m painting.
James works with a highly-attuned sensitivity to place (both rural and urban). The animals, whose tracks appear on the path; the birds calling and moving in the hedges; the wind and the trees talking; the nighttime animals – unobserved by most humans in the dead of night. Observations, feelings, questions, all underpinning a new way of ‘seeing and being’ with the world. James walks, cycles and collects throughout these journeys objects: sticks, leaves, plant or animal matter, discarded man-made items. These found objects become three dimensional records of a journey through a place in time. Totems, or offerings that hold ‘magical’ hidden power. James draws, often layering sketches, photographs and writing together onto handmade books or pages. This layering is also evident in his photographs and films, which are both visually appealing and rich in narrative.
Both James and I believe that humanity urgently requires new ways of seeing and being in this world, if we wish it (and us) to survive climate breakdown and ecological collapse.
Please join James and I at the opening evening of Interbeing: Thursday 9 January, 6pm – 8pm.
We will also be holding an informal talk/Q&A session at 6pm on Wednesday 22 January which will be followed by a screening of ‘An Ecology of Mind’. This short documentary made by his daughter Nora tells the story of naturalist-philosopher Gregory Bateson and offers new ways of thinking and being to approach the enormous challenges confronting the human race and the natural world. There is a £5 charge for the talk and film.