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  • The Future Took Us: Art Meets Geology

    By John Shevlin, on 3 August 2011

    The Future Took Us by John Shevlin

    The Future Took Us

    As an artist the sourcing of materials to make work with is an endless task; a task which has me pounding the streets and surfing the web. After four years of studying fine art at the Slade School of Fine Art I have become particularly adept at sourcing the most obscure and particular items, however, finding thirty fossils for a new installation would lead me to the most interesting place so far!

    The newly relocated Grant Museum sits just across the road from the Slade, so when the banners had been strapped to the railings declaring their imminent opening back in March I was eager to get inside and see what they had done with their collection. I have always been a fan. In my first week of arriving at UCL I had visited the Grant Museum and was immediately fascinated and inspired by their collection of stuffed, jarred and pinned specimens.

    So when I approached Jack Ashby at the Grant Museum with a slightly inarticulate idea for a collaboration involving the collection’s fossils, I was quite nervous and excited, for this would be an ambition realised. To my delight Jack was on board from day one.

    The work that was installed was a series of 30 A3 neon posters which had been printed using the 18th century process of limestone lithographic printing with the slogan “THE FUTURE TOOK US”. A single poster was taped into each of the pigeon holes which greet you in the entrance to the museum. Upon each poster stood a fossil from the collection, creating a simple visual juxtaposition, which aimed to open a dialogue between the past and the present whilst commenting on ideas of time, materiality and permanence.

    The Future took Us

    The Future took Us

    Limestone was the main impetus for this collaboration; I had become interested in the diverse use of the material and its complex relationship to ideas of monumentality and permanence. For example, the very permanence of the pyramids is threatened by the same process involved in the creation of solutional caves. It is a material which is both creative and destructive – it is transformative – and undermines our perceived ideas of permanence. Fossilisation, lithographic printing and stone carving were presented together to comment on this complex relationship. In addition the incorporation of neon paper implied an urgency, bringing the problem into a more contemporary environment and presenting a visual contrast which reflects the contrary nature of limestone.

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