Eliza Brown: cuprum connectere, copper connections
- Eliza Brown
- Hadrian's Wall
I chose Hadrian’s Wall due to the wealth of history and community that it beckons. As an artist interested in landscape exploration through walking and materiality, its existence as a key walking route that stretches the breadth of the country, draws me to it. Its setting is picturesque, and this backdrop amongst the shifting and changeable elemental surroundings solidify its permanence and value as a heritage space. Despite this it often is perceived as being the ultimate barrier, with many myths and inconclusive elements within its study generating much debate.
These complexities are what I wish to untangle within this piece, creating a more rigorous and tangible connection between both its unseen story and its present visual state. It’s diverse and rich physical materiality appeal to my desire to connect to my surrounding through the detailed and intimate material properties, and further its temporal existence, displayed in how it has become set into the landscape, as grass, moss and plants take over, feeds into a rich history that the many layers of time has compressed. As an artist I want to further understand its place in the world, and advocate for its draw as a community building space and place of complex society, with a wealth of information that will, perhaps forever, remain unknown.
Armour – Isolated – Intimidating – Impenetrable – Impassable – Architecture – Duration – Division – Deterrent – Defence – Reivers – Neighbours – Awe inspiring – Women – Warriors – Humanity – Living
Through transecting the boundaries of the wall, my proposal seeks to generate almost-bridges that tie together stories from either side of both Hadrians wall, and the metaphorical walls that surround it. The pairs of copper forms, shaped like fragmented tablets, flow into each other, raised off the ground, reaching over their divide to almost touch, never quite meeting. This separation is symbolic of the remaining divide in present understanding of the wall and its lived reality, as time maintains a gap in our understanding, with still much to learn.
Much is still unknown about Hadrian’s Wall, and its common belief to be a barrier to protect against the ‘barbarians’ of the north is not evidenced beyond doubt even in its very structure. The 80 mile castles or turrets along the wall were at times not supplied with the quantity of soldiers necessary to maintain a consistent watch. The wall itself was not consistent either, hosting gaps where the natural landscape provided enough of a defence. And so the myth of it being an impenetrable, entirely solid boundary to maintain separation becomes less believable. As the sculptures extend towards and twist into each other, translated stories from artefacts found along the wall (such as the Vindolanda tablets) are etched onto the copper, demonstrating how these sculptures act to bridge gaps between communities of the past and the present, with personal messages from these tablets helping to create intimate connections to this icon of northern England. Stories from women, soldiers, enslaved peoples and more will make up a non-mythicised and non-simplified account of life on the wall.
They will be evenly spaced along it to provide regular reminders of the transience of peoples and communities over time. Their perpendicular intersection creates an alternate route over the wall, dissecting its harsh and single linear path to impose a contrasting freedom of movement upon it. There will be an element of participation with these pieces. Alongside their call to be read, the words themselves will require the addition of wet mud in order to be read. It will be a community practice, perpetuating the new message that the wall gathers together community, that after it rains the wet mud from beside each copper structure will be smothered over the engraved words in order to fill them with a dark and contrasting material, wiped away from the surface so that only the words are filled. This will lead to the direct requirement of the land to make these stories read, tying the narrative of the wall entirely to the land on which it sits.
The use of copper, a material known to age with time and the elements to form a blue patina, will represent the changing meaning of this location over time. For its story is still being written. Through projects that inspire a community connection with the wall at their core, and its draw as a place to walk and explore, Hadrian’s Wall, once a seeming symbol of divide and domination, has become something quite different, drawing an international audience and inspiring connection.
My practice revolves around the exploration of, and connection to, landscape through a focus on walking and materiality. I am interested in the positive well-being effects of nature, and how this freedom that the ‘green and pleasant land’ hails is inaccessible to many, through the exclusions of land ownership. By collecting materials during the process of walking, and carefully observing the land, I ‘counter-catalogue’ my environment to make maps and paper books that centre the personal in context of the political. The journeying and explorative nature of the ‘walk’ becomes an act of resistance, and through a repetition of the motifs of footpaths, boundaries and cropped, isolated details, the drawings, paintings and time bound work I produce serve to counter the anthropocentric and egotistical relationship between man and the land, placing the intimate experience of a solo’s journey through the landscape above the vertically seen grid lines and footpath boundaries. I am interested in blurring the boundaries imposed onto landscape, in order to advocate for a landscape that is accessible to all, an ethos that reflects my desire for a less insular understanding of national identity, where the boundaries’ of maps do not resemble walls but open doorways. I strongly believe in the power nature and walking have to produce community.
– Eliza Brown