‘Sion and Stock’, Stoneware, metallic and ash glaze (Wassailing bonfire ash from Charlton Orchards Somerset and Local red clay)
Exhibition: Brink Launch, May 2016
In late July we would visit an apple tree down by the river Lea, perched precariously on the other side of a bit of collapsed wall. We climbed into its branches to gather its fruit looked on by Olympic park security and dog walkers. I had moved to Hackney Wick just as the blue Olympic fence was being erected, a sign of the imminent regeneration. This urban wilding was probably a result of a discarded core, an anomaly in a post-industrial landscape. I grew up in the West Country and like a found fragment of 16mm film I keep in a drawer, depicting a man picking apples in an orchard, the tree in Hackney Wick was a reminder of the region to which I felt I belonged. Sadly one day I past the spot and saw that the tree had been grubbed up and replaced by approved flora.’
I was commissioned to investigate an aspect of apple culture as part of the ‘Orchard Works project’, to celebrate and inspire a rethinking of Somerset’s apple tradition and culture. Through embedding artists in a sector deeply rooted in Somerset’s identity, the project aimed to engage rural communities and inspires a renewed appreciation of local apple culture.
I was particularly interested in the idea of grafting representing a perpetuation or preservation of specific unique qualities. Orchards play a part in the cultural identity of the region of Somerset, and grafting as a very direct intervention in natural processes is the way this is reinforced, both physically and culturally. This idea of Somerset works on a shared cultural memory; newer memories are grafted onto older rootstock. The growing of apples combines practices both material and imaginative: part science, part folklore.