In contribution to the RE Drift online exhibition three temporary site-specific artworks were created by Irene Rogan and photographed by Phillip Green. The artworks were all produced in response to the experience of place; specifically the intellectual and emotional engagement with Hodbarrow a site formerly dominated by industrial iron ore extraction and situated near the town of Millom in South West Cumbria. The ironworks closed during the 1960 and following the removal of all the buildings and machinery the site has largely been reclaimed by nature. It is now the location of an RSPB sanctuary and nature reserve.
The first series of images ‘Bloody Crane’s-bill‘ drew inspiration from a work by the Millom poet Norman Nicholson. The work examines the tracery of former industry and land use as it is interwoven into and amongst the now restorative vegetation.
The second series of images ‘Between Brine and Vapour‘ introduces a theme often incorporated into Irene’s work. Specifically, Irene examines the way in which elements of the natural world are often unique to their location but only become visible when viewed under a microscope. The photographs follow the process of collecting both fresh and sea water from Hodbarrow alongside the microscopic specimens this activity produced.
The final series of images ‘Flaming Fleeces‘ reflect on the landscapes visible from Hodbarrow and against which industrial Hodbarrow is set in constant juxtaposition. These are landscapes in which it is possible to trace human settlement back over thousands of years and in which ways of living are subject to an ongoing process of adapting. Specifically, flaming fleeces offers a lament to the region’s heritage as a wool producer; it reflects upon the ways in which this once valued fibre has now become little more than a waste product.
BLOODY CRANES-BILL - RESTORATION
A barren slack of clay is slurried and scaled-out over
All that living fracas of top-soil and rock. A town’s
Purpose subsides with the mine; my father and my Uncle Jim
Lie a quarter of a century dead; but out on its stubborn skerry,
In a lagoon of despoliation, that same flower
Still grows today.
The Bloody Cranesbill
TOWSEY HOLE DRIFT MINE
A drift mine is an underground mine in which the entry or access is above water level and generally on the slope of a hill, driven horizontally into the ore seam.
BETWEEN BRINE AND VAPOUR
An exploration of the waters surrounding Hodbarrow through water
collection, observation and microscopy by Irene Rogan.
‘But inches below
The enveloping film
Between brine and vapour
The lesser energies
Explode into self-propulsion
A tiny octopus
Rayed like the sun
That moves as the sun can’t’
Extract from Plankton by Norman Nicholson from series in the Shadow of Black Combe 1978
Flaming Fleeces is Irene Rogan’s response to the current plight of Cumbrian farmers – who are burning and burying fleeces – unable to sell them in the UK, where market-value is just forty pounds for six-hundred fleeces.
The work is an exploration of a contentious issue within the agricultural community and the strong opposition to sheep farming, through long-term problems with agricultural industry in UK.
Burning a number of fleeces was a significant act – part of a series of interventions – giving exposure to the amount of waste and loss – loss in a practical and financial terms of the rearing of sheep, and through that of the burning of an organic, sustainable, biodegradable material.