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Tessa Maiden

Earth materials 2023

My art practice feeds off my experiences as an artist living and working on a family farm. Sights and observed moments are recorded out on location as a starting point. These may be seasonal and sequential, observing familiar features, picking out the signs and rhythms of the farming calendar. I never tire of revisiting the same ground, as each observation reveals subtle differences.

In the studio I dissect and filter, synthesising together associations from the environment – sensory, spatial and structural. Mark-making is at the heart of my practice. The processes are both physical and purposeful, with repetitive marks requiring stamina and persistence and in contrast an unpredictability, with spontaneity. Frequently I abandon individual pieces for a while, allowing time for them to gestate and grow a sense of themselves, occasionally they reveal themselves in an instant.

The process of working the land is echoed in my actions in the studio. Elements may be laboured and repetitive, requiring stamina and perseverance. There is a concern with order, placement and precision requiring a flow of marks. This brings in a meditative, absorbing quality to the drawing process where the labour of making a succession of marks becomes unconscious. The work goes on a journey of time invested actions, both destructive and regenerative. Materials are layered, scored, burnished, incised, scraped, poured, cut etc. Alchemy plays a role as visual elements are transformed, revealing and repelling what lies beneath; contrasting against the strict ridged furrows of the marks running across the surface of the picture ground.

The pieces are quietly absorbing, drawing the viewer up close to the picture surface; a place to spend time looking, as it reveals itself, affording a multi-sensory experience. The saturated ground gives off a subtle perfume; the thicker impasto elements appear to be crumbling and in a state of decay and areas of graphite take on a skin-like film and shimmer.  There is a vulnerability to the picture ground. Individual elements appear to be in a state of flux, which on close inspection is somewhat disconcerting and ultimately questioning of the viewer’s position, drawing in, but also pushing away. This intimate interaction evokes the same level of curiosity and engagement I experience out in the field.

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