Purple is an ancient and globally recognised colour of power (it is also a colour of passion, independance and mourning) from Asia to South America. It is the most rare colour to occur in nature and the most powerful of the visible light spectrum. Purple served to preserve the ‘natural order’ and political power of the ancient Elite. In the Late Bronze Age or early Classical Antiquity 10,000 crushed predatory sea snails were needed to dye just one cloak. Phoenicia translates as ‘land of the purple’ and lends its name to the world ‘phoenix’ the mythological bird that rises from the ashes. The word ‘tyrant’ comes from the ancient greek word “tyrannos” for one who rules with absolute power unrestrained by law… I wonder what they were wearing.
In ancient Celtic areas archaeologists have found middens purely composed of the crushed shells. The dyes were supplemented with that of Orchil made from lichen - an alleged symbiotic partnership between fungi and cyanobacteria which typically is a good indicator of air lacking nitrogen pollutants. Tea fields are often fertilize with ammonium - a nitrogen rich resource.
I built a fire with a friend to watch it burn. Afterwards I dragged the charred remains to the beach and built a henge which I photographed with my large format camera. I also used a piece of burnt wood to draw, my hands covered in soot - using them to grind and rub pieces of charcoal into the paper. Later, slapping and hitting the paper as hard as I could past the point of hurting until my hands were clean(er), creating artifacts of process. Energy transference.
A bruise is a visual sign of impact, some sort of damage, internal bleeding. The colours are blue, purple, brown, yellow and sometimes black. My prints are toned in the colour-scheme of bruising using store-bought and hand-made teas, wind-blown found lichens, naturally occurring and sustainably sourced ammonia and urea, calcium carbonate, red wine turned to vinegar and the tiniest amount of high carbon impact muriex.
Power dynamics, and consent, consequence management and sustainability. Relationships. Resources. Abuse. Waste. Industrial production / personal consumption. Destroyed environments / displaced life. Caught up in a moment without thinking about the longer term effects. We don’t need to burn everything to the ground.
Material Threat is an active and unresolved WIP.
This work was made for invited publication in Cyanotype Toning, Using Botanicals to Tone Blueprints Naturally by Annette Golaz, 2021 Routledge.