Lauren Velvick Essay: Victoria Lucas

1 Sept 2021

Lauren Velvick Essay: Victoria Lucas

Heavy Water Review: Victoria Lucas

Victoria Lucas, Entanglement, 2021. Video Still.

When we con­sid­er human influ­ence on the land, how far back should we go? And, in the knowl­edge that what we are expe­ri­enc­ing now is the prod­uct of inter­linked net­works of exchange and influ­ence, how can we com­pre­hend our place in it? For Vic­to­ria Lucas, a close rela­tion­ship with one par­tic­u­lar site has pro­vid­ed the ground for a much wider artis­tic inves­ti­ga­tion that approach­es these ques­tions. Span­ning geo­log­i­cal time, the his­to­ry of human civil­i­sa­tion and her own fam­i­ly his­to­ry, Lucas’s cur­rent work touch­es on ideas from across the fields of geog­ra­phy, soci­ol­o­gy and phi­los­o­phy from a posi­tion of rad­i­cal sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Amass­ing influ­ences and ref­er­ences as aggre­gate, Lucas is also explor­ing her sub­jec­tiv­i­ty as a woman with­in the agri­cul­tur­al­ly and indus­tri­al­ly altered land­scape. This is man­i­fest­ed by par­al­lel explo­rations into the site; an aban­doned and undes­ig­nat­ed quar­ry in the North of Eng­land, and the artist’s own per­son­hood and per­son­al his­to­ry. As such, instead of text or data dri­ven dis­plays con­vey­ing fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion about geol­o­gy, it is from tac­tile man­i­fes­ta­tions of soft­ness inter­rupt­ing and envelop­ing jagged edges that we can glean Lucas’s intentions.

This impulse towards mend­ing and soft­en­ing – the dress­ing of wounds – is an inher­ent part of the process that cre­at­ed the works on show as part of Heavy Water, as well as being part of the artist’s prac­tice-based PhD. Employ­ing a sys­tem of method test­ing’ to find path­ways towards new knowl­edge, Lucas tries out many pos­si­ble actions and process­es, and with this in mind it makes sense that her recent work seems to con­sist of incre­men­tal­ly evolv­ing exper­i­ments. As well as cloak­ing and drap­ing, oth­er aes­thet­ic mech­a­nisms include mir­ror­ing and mul­ti­pli­ca­tion, con­vey­ing a sense of abun­dance and end­less­ness that serves to coun­ter­act the inher­ent dev­as­ta­tion wrought by extrac­tion. Mate­r­i­al or bod­i­ly exper­i­ments are tri­aled, and then either dis­card­ed or car­ried onwards to crop up again. In Heavy Water Lucas shows a selec­tion of the out­comes of these process­es and exper­i­ments in dif­fer­ent medi­ums, offer­ing a vari­ety of ways around her inter­ests for the view­er, with the works also con­vers­ing with and reflect­ing each other.

While the site of Lucas’s research is the quar­ry, it’s ful­crum is the moss which has colonised this man-made rock­face, and as she learnt more about the pre­his­toric life­form it’s poignan­cy and influ­ence came to the fore. Cit­ing texts such as Gath­er­ing Moss by Robin Wall Kim­mer­er (2003), A Bil­lion Black Anthro­pocenes or None by Kathryn Yus­soff (2019) and Cal­iban and The Witch by Sil­via Fed­eri­ci (1998) Lucas has played out dif­fer­ent ways of being in, of and with the land­scape. The body of work on show at Site Gallery var­i­ous­ly enfold the artist and the view­er with­in the mate­r­i­al of the site; the rock of the quar­ry and the veg­e­ta­tion which has over­tak­en it. Being absorbed by the land­scape also serves to obscure the artist’s image, which is a fur­ther aspect of her aes­thet­ic exper­i­men­ta­tion deserv­ing of atten­tion, and con­sti­tutes part of her inves­ti­ga­tions into female sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. The dif­fi­cul­ty of depict­ing a woman’s body or face, espe­cial­ly with­in nature’, with­out play­ing into a host of unsought con­no­ta­tions is dealt with by Lucas here through direct con­ceal­ment and fore­ground­ing of voice.

Victoria Lucas, Formations I - VII, 2020. Photographs

In For­ma­tions (2020) the artist her­self is enclosed with­in an image of the quarry’s green banks, repro­duced as a blan­ket made from unnat­u­ral­ly soft and warm syn­thet­ic fibre. Where­as in Entan­gle­ment (2021) a dig­i­tal ren­der­ing of the site is com­posed of many indi­vid­ual images through pho­togram­me­try, and the view­er is drawn with­in the rock of the quar­ry as though through a glitch in the fab­ric of real­i­ty. This sense of things as fab­ric that can then be draped, ripped and recon­sti­tut­ed is present through­out, most obvi­ous­ly in Aggre­gat­ed Form (2020) where­by a cur­tain on a scale sim­i­lar to that of the quar­ry is print­ed with a tum­ble of rock and veg­e­ta­tion, pre­sent­ed ver­ti­cal­ly as though a hori­zon seen side­ways. Near­by in Coa­lesce (2021), an oval shaped screen is posi­tioned diag­o­nal­ly at an angle to the floor, and dis­plays the afore­men­tioned dou­bling and mir­ror­ing of the intri­cate­ly tex­tured sur­faces of moss banks. With these works the view­er is brought into Lucas’s research method and impli­cat­ed as a body in prox­im­i­ty to images which var­i­ous­ly hov­er, hang and flick­er around us, enact­ing var­i­ous flawed but hope­ful pos­si­bil­i­ties for becom­ing with the landscape.

Words by Lau­ren Velvick
Lau­ren is a writer, cura­tor and artist based in the North of England.