Associations between Art and farming are not overwhelmingly obvious however the two may have more in common than one would imagine. Georgina Barney explores the relationship between art making and the farm in her current project ‘Great British Farming'. Barney will continue to spend the coming months exploring her interest in the agricultural way of life, whilst making art and considering the relationship and potential benefits of this combination.
Staying on host farms for periods of two to three weeks the artist enters into the working routine and daily realities of farming life. Through the website accompanying the project Barney reflects constantly on her undertaking, the blog becoming an essential document. Visual notes are given space too, becoming both charming and critical records of the process and journey. Observations are intimate and perceptive, sensitively drawing on the unique relationship one can form with a particular set of circumstances, geographic location and landscape.
The scale of this project becomes apparent when one considers the diversity of the unique journey, not only in geographic terms but the actual types of working farms that are encountered. From snowdrops or cattle to a city farm and everything in between the range is surprising, in what becomes an almost epic series of residencies. The artist's route maps an enormous zig zag across the UK and in the tradition of many great British travel writers, acts as a sweeping study of the land.
The effect that this exploration has on Barney's practice will be interesting to follow, as these intense periods of physical work meet the emotional demands of travel and adjustment to new places, people and routines.
The artist's descriptions of her surroundings appear grounded in a fascination with the physical environment. The huge forms of round hay bales are carefully scrutinised. These massive objects, plastic wrapped and reminiscent of so many contemporary sculptural works; lend themselves to sweets as a metaphor. Barney's simple drawings and photographic works expand upon this, rendering further the visual connections between farming as a method of production, pointing toward our own inevitable status as consumers on the food chain.
If the impetus for the project was based on a natural inclination toward the similarities between the artist and the farmer Barney illustrates this through her process and very real encounters. The blog describes the professions as entailing work that is constant and enduring, stating ‘both demand independence, strong self-motivation and bloody-mindedness. Farmers and artists know what its like to be alone' Identifying this fine line between life and work that distinguishes both lifestyles seems crucial to understanding the potential of an exchange between the subjects.
Yet despite the poetic reflections such a project cannot overlook the pressures and crisis of the current agricultural industry as a whole. How the artist will negotiate the more political and economic realities of farming through her work could have an additional effect on the project and its direction.
Establishing a dialogue between contemporary Art and farming seems most important at a time when underlying concerns of both groups have great potential to merge and form a mutually beneficial engagement.
A Staffordshire based Artist