Sarah Strachan

MA Fine Art

In my transdisciplinary practice I sense environmental changes through deep conversations with people, place, the land and the materials and objects associated with these. I am interested in how our perception of being in, knowing and belonging to the world affects our ecological awareness and thinking. I explore my ideas through printmaking, painting, and ceramics; often fusing sound and/or moving image into the final installation.

Working with ceramics allows me to explore complex issues of sustainability through my choice of materials and process – working with manufactured, recycled and wild clay. Whilst materials are important to my practice, my creative concepts with a social or community dimension often feel more resolved and enduring. As such, collaboration is an important element whether as an independent artist, working as artist duos Itiswhatitis and The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity, or as art, geology and sound collaborative Mud Collective.

For me, conversation provides a consistent, systematic approach to analysis, knowledge production, poetics and meaning; whilst proto-chaotic or chance encounters lead to empty moments or drift in thought, space and time. Drawing on this methodology of conversational drift, my work seeks to question or disrupt habitual perspectives through the liminality of objects, materials and the spaces I create.

This work is born out of a collision of conversations between a field in Cambridgeshire (still recovering from the trauma of sugar beet harvesting in 2020, now sown with wheat), academics, archivists and volunteers at the World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue (WOSSAC), materials held in the archive and the geopolitical issues in Ukraine and beyond. Cranfield University is the custodian of all the national soils information and data gathered during the survey which was founded in 1939 on the premise of mapping the agriculturally productive soils. Once mapped the programme was cut by the government and no systematic surveying of soils in England and Wales has been undertaken since 1987.

Soil, as a living entity, is not static. Therefore any mapping is purely indicative and subject to change and degradation. Do we really know the value of our soil? With over 75% of global soils classed as substantially degraded and nearly a quarter of the world’s most fertile soil located in Ukraine (according to the British Society of Soil Science), are we on the brink of a devastating global food crisis?