see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a
Hold Infinity in
the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an
an antidote to our technologically driven world and a tribute to the
land, the large-scale collage murals of London artist, Stephen Livick,
incorporate a myriad of landscape details that, recontextualized, create
a powerful and moving celebration of the collective history of the earth.
Labour intensive and monumental, the murals are composed of either silver
prints or those created with the more enduring gum bichromate process.
A system of reduction, in which the elements are clarified to their
essential features, the details of rocks, water, earth and trees, together,
comprise an enduring vision of the land.
to reveal the unseen and immanent forces of nature, Livick plays with
the arrangement of the photographs, constantly moving them around until
the mural image seems complete. Often viewing the images of the natural
world as a metaphor for the Earth's body, like the tree branches that
become veins transporting the sustaining blood of life, Livick has polished
and honed his conceptual ideas. There exists equilibrium between the
world of ordinary objects in a recognizable time and space, and an intensely
subjective inner vision of the elements. A highly intuitive process,
it allows him to draw out the ineffable qualities of the land, where
the viewer is left with a deep understanding of the transcendent spirit
of the natural world.
simply a collection of photographs, Livick's murals are inspiring tributes
to Mother Earth. With a fastidious attention to detail at every level
of the process, the murals are labour-intensive and all consuming. Though
the silver print process allows for greater speed, Livick's devotion
is to the gum bichromate method that he's mastered with years of experimentation
and commitment to his craft.
popular during the late 19th century, the gum bichromate process is
malleable, allowing for greater tonal subtleties and resonances. Using
three colour separated negatives--yellow, red, and blue--Livick enlarges
each to the desired size. With pre-shrunk paper, he brushes on a light-sensitive
solution of gum arabic, potassium bichromate and yellow watercolour
pigment. The first negative is laid on the emulsion-coated paper and
exposed to a strong ultraviolet light. Developed in a series of water
baths, any area exposed to the light hardens while the remaining pigment
is washed away, with the process repeated for the last two colour negatives.
A time consuming and painstaking endeavour, it is one that Livick is
continually drawn back to for its enduring and metamorphosing nature.
the smallest measuring 152x250 cm, many with more than 112 images, the
murals suggest infinite space, burgeoning beyond the borders of the
works' edges. Intense and engrossing, the monumental odes to nature
exude a strong sense of place, a rootedness that connects the viewer
with the elemental forces. Highly tactile, their texture enhanced through
Livick's choice of paper and process, the murals portray the passage
of time and a sense of the eternal through the evocative awakening of
than striving to capture a transient moment on film, Livick's challenge
is to present the permanent and enduring earth. Concerned with the plundering
of the natural resources and our increasingly distant relationship with
the land, he eschews the notion of ownership in favour of stewardship.
Livick continues in the strong Canadian tradition of artists like Emily
Carr and Lawren Harris who looked to not simply manifest the primacy
and indelible imprint of the land, but also to reveal its essence. Carr
noted that "artists have searched beneath the surface for the hidden
thing that is felt rather than seen, the reality...which underlies everything."**
For Harris as well, the challenge was not to reproduce what was before
him, rather to go beyond appearance to a transcendental expression of
the Oneness of the universe. Similarly Livick, revealing the immeasurable
in the minute, doesn't just describe the land, he enacts it in all its
space, quietness, and magnitude. It is a spirit both of and beyond the
rocks, moss, and trees that he photographs; a sublime and universal
life-force that underlies everything.
concept of the earth as the cyclical sustainer of life is central to
a broad spectrum of traditions from ancient Goddess cults to Native
American religions. Attuned to the intimate connection of all existence,
natives learned to live with the earth on a deeply spiritual and intuitive
level, a connection increasingly severed by the fragmentary demands
of modern society. Primeval and generative, Mother Earth is the archetypal
womb of nature whose mysterious power awakens everything to life and
then enfolds it back into her sheltering arms. The beginning and the
end, the creator and the destroyer, the Great Mother encompasses all
that is or will be. Incorporating all the dualities of existence, she
represents the entire cosmos: yin and yang, continuity and change, spirit
and matter, all are facets of the Absolute. Both the body of life, she
is also the path that must be followed.
the patriarchal tradition even, psychiatrists like C. G. Jung perpetuated
the Great Mother concept, the partial aspect of the Archetypal Feminine.
A biological pattern of behaviour that transcended time and space, the
archetypes, for Jung, were the primordial and universal language of
the collective unconscious, a preconscious psychic womb from which all
the ecological spirit of reciprocity, Livick strives for harmony in
his own relationship with the earth. We read both the individual photographic
details but also the collaged whole in which the elements are recontextualized.
The intensity of the images, multiplied across the mural, enhances the
resonance of the finished work. Creating tension between what is seen
and unseen, material and spiritual, Livick strives to reveal the sacred
nature of existence. Like a fourth dimension, the image that emerges
from the collaged details is felt rather than seen, a manifestation
of that which is always already there.***
the finite comes the infinite, from time comes the eternal, the paradox
of existence is, for Livick, understood through the eye of the mind
rather than the intellect. Begun in 1995, the murals are an evolution
for Livick, both in pushing the boundaries of photography and his own
personal journey to envision the land in all its manifestations. Both
a homage to, and a lament for, the earth, the works celebrate and explore
the diversity of nature in all its generative power.
Blake, Auguries of Innocence, in Vistas, ed. Ken Roy,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: Toronto, 1993, p. 317.
Doris Shadbolt, Emily Carr, Douglas & McIntyre: Toronto, 1990,
***Martin Heidegger explores the nature of the "thingness of the thing" in his treatise The Origin of the Work of Art, a revelation of the way in which art is the happening of truth.