Making Marks and Leaving Stains…


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So lately, I’ve been getting more and more obsessed with the marks and stains people leave around, particularly the ones they’re not aware of – things like coffee rings on tables, shoe scuff marks on walls, fingerprints on windowpanes etc. This fascination all kicked off a few years ago when I came across this image whilst doing research at Uni:

c/o The Independent

For context – this handprint is just one of hundreds found in a cave in Indonesia – some of which are believed to be up to 40,000 years old. Rewind: 40,000 years old. And we know nothing of the person who owns this handprint at all, except that at some point c.40,000 years ago they stood in this cave with one arm pressed flat against its walls, quite determined to make their mark on the world. This handprint is everything that remains of this human being and was their very own way of saying I am here, and it really is a fucking powerful way of doing it.

c/o The Independent
Now, if you happen to know me or my artwork at all then you’ll know I’ve been having an ongoing identity crisis since I was little more than an embryo floating in hyper-space, and so this idea of mark-making as proof of life and/or existence resonates massively with me. As I see it, every little mark that we leave – from a fingerprint on a windowpane to a handprint on a cave wall – is simply just a tiny, beautiful act of vandalism, and by leaving any mark at all upon a surface as we move through life something has to be altered by the simple act of us being there – our existence itself inevitably affects the world around us in even just the smallest of ways, whether we want it to or not.

So, this all brings about my obsession with marks, traces and stains, and my mad assumption that staining an object or surface is equivocal to owning it, even if just for a few seconds. And you know what? I really don’t own enough in my life; I’m not very good at making things mine or acknowledging myself so I guess this is where my fascination lies: making stains as a proof of life – of my own existence. And with an idea that random and self-indulgent, there’s really nothing left to do except make a cracking cup of tea and turn it into art:

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This is one of several ‘tea drawings’ I’ve been completing for a while now – created using a good cup of tea and a trusty drawing pen. I want to investigate that act of staining as a form of drawing, I guess in a similar way to our 40,000 year-old cave handprint artists decided to do (do you they think they used Tetley or PG Tips?),  in my own simple yet broadly random way. I’m interested in what all of these random marks of mine mean and what they can evoke in others, and I’m thinking these could make amazing large-scale pieces or even embroideries if I gave them the time – what are ya’ll thinking? Worth developing further or no?

Apologies – if you’ve made it to the bottom of this stupidly-long post and you’re still breathing then well done and thank you for reading! It was long wasn’t it? Better sit down and have a cup of tea…

Our species is compelled to make art. And in one form or another, it is inherent in almost everything we do.

– Adam Brumm

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