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Holes in the Landscape

Holes in the Landscape is a commissioned work for Chaleur Humaine, the Triennale Art et Industrie in Dunkerque, France curated by Anna Colin and Camille Richert, assisted by Henriette Gillerot. It is on display at the LAAC in Dunkerque until January 2023. The work is a sequence of twelve hand sewn textile shapes immersed in chalk cob paint inspired by dene holes. Dene holes are mysterious shafts dug through the soil usually to a depth of around 15-20 metres and terminating in excavated chalk chambers. Their age and purpose is unknown although it is generally thought they were for extracting mineral rich subterranean chalk to fertilise soil. They are predominantly found in Kent and Essex, where there may be as many as 10,000 now largely forgotten or concealed holes. Some are now fitted with grills and have become bat hibernation sites.

Holes in the Landscape draws on my experience of descending into three dene holes at different locations on the Kent Downs, and encountering seven others from above ground. The shapes of my dene hole structures utilise Harry Pearman's 1966 book mapping dene holes. The textile dene hole structures are embellished with plant dyed, textile incased, ropes and fired black ceramic centres representing descent/ascent into dene holes. The hand sewing on all the elements is analogous with the pre-Industrial, hand cut nature of dene holes. Collapses of earth documented in some dene hole chalk chambers are represented by further plant dyed textile shapes, and some structures have elements made from ceramic/wool/hair/wire representing finds from the bottom of shafts (sheep and horse carcasses, nails, rope fragments, and bones of unknown origin).

My research for this project was initially funded by the Kent Downs AONB / Creative Folkestone and preliminary work was presented in the form of two public walks, around the Hucking estate and Wye,  and an artist talk for the SALT + EARTH Festival at the Quarterhouse in Folkestone, September 2022.


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