2021 - The Source- An Artscape Commission

Barefoot Pilgrimage - The Spiral - The Weave

2021 - The Source- An Artscape Commission

Barefoot Pilgrimage - The Spiral - The Weave

The Source
is a site-specific art commission in three parts; I was selected to make this work for the Artscape partnership project in the Hafren Forest, Powys. Wales.
Several creative practitioners from dancers to sound artists, writers and science collaborators to comedians and poets, worked to engage the communities across the county in climate conversations to coincide with Cop26.

Articulture's Julie Ann Heskin and Sarah Morton managed the
Artscape Powys Project October - December 2021.

Billie Ireland's application for  the commission immediately grabbed the imagination's of the panel. It was unanimously chosen to take forward because it engaged so imaginatively with the core theme of climate change and the Hafren Forest itself.
Whilst Billie's work may be considered conceptual her approach is pragmatic and grounded which makes her work accessible to anyone of any age. Her audience  engagement was informative and fun and appealed to all on many levels.

It was a pleasure to see and support an artist who was clearly in their element enjoying the journey that her work took her.
She wove the  themes of climate change, connection to place, local history and  carbon in an imaginative and creative manner. 
The  commission  proposal was well thought through with a realistic budget  and was delivered  within a very challenging time frame.
Billie's  warm and approachable personality made this a very enjoyable experience for Articulture

Part 1: ‘The Barefoot Pilgrimage’ was a journey to the source of the Afon Hafren or Severn River, to collect water samples from the peat bogs of Plumlumon. These were then sent to Phycologist Dan Fagan of @awesomealgae on Instagram.

Using the programme of events led by youth collective Re-Peat I started my research into the layered micro and macro human and non-human realms of time and space framed within our threatened peat lands. I also invited Dan from Montgomery Wildlife Trust to demonstrate to families the importance of Peat land through his fun interactive activities.

I walked barefoot to connect and to stay curious about my privileged perceptions. Also I created a personal, sacred journey connecting to my female ancestry through walking and nature.

Part 2: ‘The Carbon Spiral’ was created by taking debris from forestry clear cutting and turning it into biochar. This was then processed into black tempera paint creating a spiral on the trunk of a dead tree.

It forms a totem that reflects on transformation and the cycle of birth, life and death. I circumambulated the tree to assist in creating a sacred, poetic and sensitive engagement with the landscape and the non-human elements, creating personal sacred interactions.

Part 3: ‘Weaving Carbon Connection’ used the classic Welsh weave pattern cut into the turf at the meadow in the Hafren Forest. This became an anti-peat cut, this was then filled with bio-char, as both a symbol linking place, material and people. I invited Tony from Bio-char Wales who comes from an Welsh upland's farming family. He demonstrated and discussed the use of a bio-char and the retort.

Extraction, waste and energy consumption become part of an evolving conversation, questioning how we can creatively use carbon sequestration for the future. It's also an invitation to shift our perceptions within a web of narratives found in this landscape. Of historic and political land ownership, Welsh Plains wool production and slavery, subsistence economies and historic tenant farming entwine with redundant MOD sites testing Rapier missile systems still classified by the government. These woven and often forgotten and obscured stories connect materials, people and place across space and time.

ARTSCAPE is a creative partnership alliance between Powys County Council’s Arts & Cultural Service, National Resources Wales, Impelo, 4Pi Productions and Articulture involving local arts associates and communities.
The partnership has been formed to engage imaginatively engage with communities to stimulate re-connectivity, stir an enthusiasm for environmental caret taking in the face of climate change, and promote people’s wellbeing though interrelated environment / place based and virtual / digital arts experiences.

This exhibition of work was produced and assessed for my master's degree at Aberystwyth University under the wonderful tutelage of artist and academic Miranda Whall.

The Art of Not Knowing. The School of Art, Aberystwyth University

The title Sacrificed to Fire refers to the joyous place I found myself in after the epic creative and emotional journey as a post graduate student and mother during the pandemic. This dedicated time to my practice has allowed me to work with more clarity and I can now comfortably refer to myself as a research artist whose practice is rooted in materials, process and the act of making.

After two years exploring and researching amorphous carbon and the action of destructive distillation, this exhibition unearths my personal narratives and need for a spiritual connection to the world I live in. The rural landscape, my immersive time walking it alone and with my children and my meditative process and rituals lead me to materials and methods for this exhibition. Hawthorn branches collected in the hills after storms were transformed into ink. I used recycled waste paper that I repetitively and meticulously folded into hundreds of modular forms which were then constructed into monumental origami sculptures.

Self portrait folding modular origami

These once robust structures were then turned into delicate carbon or charcoal forms using pyrolysis. The energy of sacrifice, the ritual of repetitive action, the transformation using fire all became central to the work. The transient, fragile state and structure, the essence of matter transformed to carbon highlights everything interconnected and its fragility. Our place in the world is a precarious one yet it allows us to make connections and find joy in the shared energy within the web of life and the sublime beyond what we think we know.

Sacrificed To a Breathless Inferno. Recycled & carbonised sculpture on
Iron Tray

Through the ancient craft of charcoal making I attempt to reveal the moment of transformation. Through an intimate ritual in alchemy, potent energy is released and stored within a continual cycle. The exciting breathless inferno of forced decomposition transforms perceived life back to its amorphous essence, carbon.

Sacrificed To a Breathless Inferno. Recycled & carbonised origami modular sculpture on
Iron Tray

For the second time I was drawn to experiment with slow film. I made the film "The Journey Matters' following on from my 'Physical Carbon' film made for my Constructive Distillation Exhibition. This is a long pensive journey of transformation, glimpsing at the energy and being slowed and lured by the unknown journey.

Alchemy and the journey from tree to ink investigates the transformation of materials.

Photography and poetry describing the energy involved in pyrolysis, Greek derived elements of pyro=fire and lysis=seperating were not included in the final curation but none the less helped me step into the metaphysical realm linking artist, environment, material and process.

I once again pushed against new techniques and the intensive process of creative frottage (rubbings). These are actually more like a dry relief prints from solid material itself. I make complex, time consuming, meditative origami forms that were then carbonised. For each frottage or rubbing/print i crushed a complex carbon paper sculpture, destroying or sacrificing it to the technique trying to capture the energy of collapse. it's disaster that brings growth and new beginnings from the dust, are new opportunities for growth.

Space 7 Carbon Frottage on Paper

Carbon Matters

This work was made during my Masters at Aberystwyth University. The time and focus allowed me to transition into new ways of working. This comes at a time when I am reflecting on the paintings and works made before and after becoming a mother. Where birth, trauma and death entwined into chaotic energy and were reflected in the turmoil and confused tangle of life and art-making. Within the current transition is an underlying theme, where for over 20 years I've focussed on the details. My process and materials covered and exposed whilst creating order and an aesthetic from chaos. The journey to making this work enabled that chaos to find order, my art practice to become focussed and within this work distilled to its essence.

DESTRUCTIVE DISTILLATION or the making of charcoal is the exciting inferno of forced decomposition, transforming life back to its amorphous essence as carbon dust.
The ritual and energy involved in making and then carbonising the work was thrilling and I wanted to know why this was so appealing? The title of the exhibition CONSRUCTIVE DISTILLATION came about because the process of bringing this work to fruition allowed me to gain some clarity. I was able to acknowledge that the work is deeply personal and reflects the human experience. This came about through in depth investigation of materials and the ritual of making alongside the experimental and often sacrificial nature of the process involved.

Essence 1: Carbonised Prunus Spinosa thorns

Complex Carbon. Aberystwyth School of Art

Exhibition View. Aberystwyth School of Art

Still of film Physical Carbon:Starburst.

The starburst collapse captured using the Frottage technique

Cosmic Carbon. Transformation captured using the Frottage technique.

Chalara Ash Dieback is a disease set to devastate Ash trees in the Uk. It is caused by a fungus names Hymenoscyphus fraxineus originating in South asia and transmitted through airborne spores. My ongoing artist's investigation reflects on resilience and loss whilst documenting a transformed personal yet plant dominated landscape in Mid Wales, bordering Shropshire.

Pinhole Solargraph from Hawthorne Tree

This project takes me closer to trees and trees closer to me. I'm trying to bridge the gap i feel between our beings. A reverential ecology of sorts.

Currently I have pinhole cameras acting as an eye. Capturing the sun rise and fall on the ancient borderlands of Wales. From the gnarly Hawthornes on windswept exposed summits to the threatened ancient Ash trees, i try to identify my connectedness with the complex, more than human natural plant landscape. The work is posing the questions. 'What have these trees seen? What do they see? And do they see me?'.

With some plants having up to 11 photoreceptors where we only have four, their ability to see becomes quite a complex subject. When seeing becomes tied into something as essential as light being an energy source, it is a fascinating area of research. When you spend time submersing yourself in plant ruling realms (not quite like my childhood hero David Bellamy, who shrank to the size of an ant in his 1980's TV series), but nonetheless plant perception becomes something magical to ponder.

I have always been in awe of the ancient tree. Growing up in Nottinghamshire I was lucky enough to play near Robin Hood's Major Oak and I got inside many a trunk of these ancient beauties. As an adult I visited many forested biospheres worldwide. Cloud forest in Costa Rica, depleted drought damaged rain forest in Australia, temperate forest and the complex Rainforest and Rio Negro flooded forest in the Amazon and Borneo. On reflection trees and the multitude of life they support might be a bit of an obsession. But not everyone feels this way, plants are a commodity for human consumption, I've seen first hand the palm oil plantations that go on for miles and miles in Malaysia, replacing native forests and there dependents who are often seen as pests getting in the way of human advancement. Yet the complexity of all beings and our commonality should alert us to the connectedness of all things on earth and beyond. Our reverance to trees through myth, magic, art and poetry should be a celebration of really seeing the divine in our interconnectedness.

Hawthorne tree on the ancient Corndon Hill looking west into the heartland of Wales



Too Sure To Shore: Handmade pH paper, dried plant root,
ground shell, homemade pH test water, Limpet Shell, charcoal

I use transformative actions on materials to investigate the part humans play in nature's complex processes. This award winning work was chosen as part of the group exhibition Climate Changed to be shown at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Autumn 2021 (postponed until 2022).
This project is an ongoing exploration of my materials and process, creative, biological and chemical. The ritual of paper folding & playful basic scientific experiments exploring Ph modifiers, organic inks and photography lead me to return to the ephemeral and transient nature of material and life.

Currently, the ocean takes up about one quarter of global CO2 emissions from human activities. The uptake of CO2 in the sea causes ocean acidification, as the pH of seawater declines.
• In recent decades, ocean acidification has been occurring 100 times faster than during natural events over the past 55 million years. These rapid chemical changes are an added pressure on marine ecosystems. A reduction in carbonate availability reduces the rate of calcification of marine calcifying organisms, such as reef-building corals, shellfish and plankton.
• The combined effects of elevated seawater temperatures, de-oxygenation and acidification are expected to have negative effects on entire marine ecosystems and cause changes in food webs and marine production, and will also result in economic losses.

Source: The European Environment Agency

Too Sure To Shore (side View). Handmade pH paper, dried plant root,
ground shell, homemade pH test water, Limpet Shell, charcoal

Stranding: Handmade pH paper, homemade pH test water, charcoal & ash

This body of work charts my experience of pregnancy and motherhood. As a mother to twin boys and a daughter I document this alien state, with all its mystery and ambivalence, both physical and emotional. I explore the meanings of two very different experiences of pregnancy, birth and nurturing. Pregnancy and birth stirred up the loss of my own mother, loss of myself and the stark reality of my own mortality.

I want my images to embody and echo the inherent contrasts of strength and beauty with loss and conflict. The cycle of birth and death, light and dark appear obliquely and more obviously, interwoven with intergenerational and universal experience. The works evoke deep dichotomies and the eternal cycle. Carrying and feeding identical twins meant naturally creating symmetry in images. It also calmed and created space to meditate on my acts of feeding and my physical positioning. In contrast the organic visceral nature of the more abstract paintings attempt to visualise the unseen workings of the birthing body and beyond.

It is always fundamental that I grapple with materials and processes, creating images that capture a spiritual dimension through the use of ancient and traditional techniques. The time intensive preparation of gesso grounds, carved and layered, permanently record these fleeting moments. I draw using hair fixed with wax and egg yolk. I burn into paper and use fluid paint and intense mark making.

The work includes humour, a necessary component to creating artwork against the background of the constant demands of three very young children. Their contribution is an exciting and essential part of the work, both materially and emotionally. Without them this work would not exist.

This self curated exhibition with fellow artists Pauline Woolley (Astro photography) and Paula Reid (Painting, photography & digital) showed works of exploration and was held in Nottingham at the Gamble Street Art Space.

Gamble St Gallery, Nottingham

My works were made at a pivotal time whilst postpartum and during my second pregnancy. They reflect a time of joy, introspection, grief and visioning the unknown.

I was grappling without a guide the unexplored, unknown territory of gestation, birth and mothering. As with most new mothers I was thrown deeply into reflecting on my own childhood and mother's role. Having lost my mother whilst she still breast fed me aged two and now having identical twins growing inside me, there was a constant knife-edge of fraught fragility for their potential life because of TTTS (Twin to twin transfusion syndrome). This exhibition holds that space and time, of walking a line, a thread barely held and a deep mourning for what has been lost or potentially could be, all amongst the joy of nurturing my first born.

Life V Death. Clap of hands.
Carved traditional gesso and silver point, gold leaf, acrylic, bilberry branch, artists hair and cotton on wood.

I employed layering, pyrography, piercing and engraving on paper and using the ancient medium of traditional gesso on wood panel (as artisan icon painters traditionally use) for this work. These surfaces allows for layering and paring back of materials, the works swing between the abstract visions of the mind and internal body and its process to the more figurative reflections on my genetic family history.

Pricked paper and grey hairs from my gestational period.

This watercolour was painted from a picture of the grandmother I never new. I pierced it to allow threads of light and it was mounted on a window alongside 'Baby Wisom' above, a pierced paper drawing of my daughter with a beard of wisdom sewn from my grey postpartum hair loss.

My Mother's Mother

Works mounted on the window so natural light could connect the dots between the lost generations. Gamble Street Gallery

Window view, Gamble St

Genetics: Do bees have fathers? Who was my mother?
Below are traditional gesso panels carved and rubbed with silverpoint. A bee in gold leaf is poised next to the child's hand and another real bee is held in an acorn nest with swan's bum fluff held in the Mother's hand. Hand felted wool connects the child's hand to the mother.

Gloves on a string annoyed me as a child.
Hand rolled felt, silver point, gold leaf, acorn cup, bee and swan bum fluff on traditional gesso on wood./p>