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before collapse



charcoal object

dimensions variable

I had already identified charcoal as a medium that contains the idea of
flux, an interim physical state part way in its transition from solid wood to ash and obliteration. In both the earlier experiments and Turning Point, I had used ground up pre-existing charcoal in moulds. For this artwork I went back to the wood source and turned it into charcoal. I used wooden furniture and household objects so that the charcoal objects kept their original form rather than a cast one. 


I built my own burning chamber out of tin and devised a process to effectively burn the wood without oxygen: the wood objects were wrapped tightly with aluminum foil, packed into the chamber, which was then sealed before high heat was applied from a continually stoked fire beneath the chamber. As the firing process was experimental, until the furniture was unwrapped I couldn’t be sure how the process would work out. Sometimes fire got through and the wood was burnt away entirely leaving only ash, at other times the wood cracked and split or the charcoal pieces were fragmented rather than whole. As I had learned, these “accidents” became important and fed into both the unpredictable quality of the material itself and the metaphor of unpredictability of human life changes.

In one configuration, the remnants of two charcoal chairs and a table were reassembled in a typical everyday dining configuration. A table and two chairs has a human scale, it is suggestive of the humanness of sharing a meal at a table, of family, of human connection, but in this transformed, fragile state, the process of structural failure now speaks of melancholy, absence and loss. I continued to experiment with what can actually be turned into charcoal. As as well as furniture, there are objects ranging from wooden utensils, pencils, boxes, magazines and hand mirrors. In their new blackened delicacy they are all almost at the point of collapse and contain a sense of time passing, of the ruination that awaits both the individual and all human civilisations. They have become artefacts from a past that is now.

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