Exhibition / 28 Oct – 15 Dec 2017

Land/Sea

Mike Perry

Land/Sea
Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2005 © Mike Perry
Land/Sea
Trunk, Craig Goch Reservoir, Elan Valley, Powys, Wales, 2015 © Mike Perry

Land/Sea (Tir/Môr) is a major new solo exhibition by Wales-based artist Mike Perry, with an accompanying new Ffotogallery publication. Perry’s work engages with significant and pressing environmental issues, in particular the tension between human activity and interventions in the natural environment, and the fragility of the planet’s ecosystems.

In his continuing series Wet Deserts, Perry is looking at the negative impact of monocultural land use and over-intensive cultivation, and the process of ‘re-wilding’ by which nature reclaims its biodiversity. Responding to George Monbiot’s description of the rural landscape as a ‘shadowland, a dim flattened relic of what there once was’, Perry believes that years of an ‘agribusiness dominated dogma’ combined with unsustainable agricultural policy need to be challenged by new thinking around what is good for the human spirit, biodiversity and the planet.

Alongside Wet Deserts, Land/Sea includes selected works from his Môr Plastigseries, in which he collects and forensically photographs plastic objects such as bottles, shoes and packaging washed up on the beaches of West Wales, inviting us to consider the environment impact of consumerism and the erosive power of nature.

At the Venice Biennale 2015, as part of the Azerbaijan pavilion Vita Vitale, Perry installed a cabinet of plastiglomerates, stones comprising intermingled melted plastic, sand, shells and other beach sediment he had collected. The objects appeared seamlessly integrated with our marine ecosystems, inviting us to consider the new materiality of our living realm and its technological capacities. Over the last five years, the artist has built up a large collection of these hybrid synthetic/natural objects and photographed them as single images often arranged in formal grids.

Inspired by 1960s/70s minimalism, Perry’s photography avoids the campaigning rhetoric of straight environmental documentary. Rather it poetically alludes to what we might be leaving for future generations, adding a contemporary narrative to minimalist abstraction. The artist explains:

“My intention is to reduce the objects to their pure formal states separating them for a moment from any meaning beyond their sculptural presence. I present the objects as grids or in line sequence emphasising the infinite choice offered by our consumer culture and to provide an aesthetic framework where colours and forms can work off each other”.

Land/Sea (Tir/Môr) is a Ffotogallery Touring Exhibition, curated by David Drake and Ben Borthwick.

About Artist

Portrait of Mike Perry

Mike Perry

Mike Perry’s photographs examine the interactions of landscape, nature and industrial society, questioning the romantic mythology of national parks as areas of wilderness and natural beauty. Among the many artists documenting ecological collapse, Perry’s work is distinct in the hyperlocal and apparently mundane nature of his subjects. Rather than epic, aerial vistas of glaciers or oil fields, Perry directs our attention to the overlooked hedgerow or the shell-encrusted flip-flop. The drama of these micro-studies are nonetheless global, holding a tension between their extraordinary aesthetic beauty and the damage inflicted upon nature by human activity. At a time when ecological collapse and a global pandemic are drawing unprecedented attention to the importance and fragility of nature, his work could hardly be more resonant.

He was invited to the first Tipping Point symposium on climate change between leading scientists and artists at Oxford University and in 2015 presented to the Treasury on climate change action with economist Nicholas Stern and artists Antony Gormley and Cornelia Parker. In 2022, Perry created Y Cae (The Field), a 15 acre experimental art/ecology space for nature restoration and engagement with artists, writers and ecologists.

Perry’s work has exhibited at National Museum Wales’s New Ground : Landscape Art in Wales since 1970, (2012), Art and The Material Landscape (2016), and Land/Sea 2021. The Royal Academy of Arts exhibitions The Black and White Room (2014), Art Made Now (2018) and Climate (2022), at the internationally curated Vita Vitale exhibition at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015) and at the exhibition Found, curated by artist Cornelia Parker at The Foundling Museum (2016). In 2017, he was included in the British Arts Council Collection exhibition British Landscape and The Imagination at Towner Art Gallery.