As Above, So Below is all about unseen networks - mycelial, alluvial, dendrological, familial - that connect through histories, landscapes, timelines.
A group of artists have responded to the concept of “As Above, So Below” in a myriad of ways. The underlying thread is about humans’ connectivity to the natural world. They explore interconnections in nature across space and time, observing how humans succeed, or fail, in the co-creation of networks of life. Networks of root systems and mycelial fungi appear more intelligent, productive, resilient and creative. The masterful way in which nature weaves individual organisms and relationships is truly magical. Root systems communicate - sharing food and information about changing habitat conditions. The sound of a caterpillar chewing can trigger a response from leaves. Fungi spores are found in clouds and influence the weather, triggering the formation of rain or ice crystals. 1 Just a few examples how the infinite roles the ‘unseen’ act and respond.
The relationship between plants and fungi is fundamental to the biosphere as we know it and critical to our existence. The history of life turns out to be full of intimate connections. These complex webs are often microscopic, or invisible therefore easily overlooked and often taken for granted. As George Haskell so eloquently puts it…
“I turned my ears to ecological kleos. I found heroes, no individuals around whom history pivots. Instead, living memories of trees, manifest in their songs, tell of life’s community, a net of relations. We humans belong within this conversation, as blood kin and incarnate members. …..Life is not just networked, it is network.” 2
Below is a statement from some of the participating artists:
Deep within our cell structure, DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid forms strands we know as Chromosomes which carry all the genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. At the simplest level each DNA strand is made up of a combination of only four nucleobases; Cytosine, Guanine, Adenine and Thymine plus Deoxyribose and a Phosphate Group. The sequence of CGA and T in infinite combinations is responsible for coding all forms of life on Earth. It is a sobering thought that despite the incredible biodiversity on our planet we are all made from the same building blocks.
It has been widely reported that as humans we share more than 50% of our DNA with bananas and 99.9% with every human that has ever lived.
Jo Dalgety The markers that people leave within the landscape, and the markers or memories that landscape leaves in people is at the core of Jo Dalgety’s mixed media paintings. The evolution of life builds layers upon layers in the landscape, and as people and generations, we have those layers built within us as well. Jo Dalgety paints with layers of paper, representing our things, our memories, our history, all melting into the land and leaving marks. Underpinning her work is the hope or belief in nature, that the cycle of life will continue, and heal. That spring comes after winter.
‘Lost memories lie in the unconscious strata of mind itself, these dark, rarely disturbed layers that have accumulated, as mould accumulates in a forest, through the shedding of innumerable lives since the beginning of life.’ – Jacquetta Hawkes, ‘A Land’.
Kathryn Carter Whale Song Whangamumu.
Humpback Whales pass Northland enroute to summer calving near Tonga. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the natural harbour of Whangamumu became used as a whaling station. This painting references the inner headland beside which there are the ruins of the Whaling Station abandoned finally in the 1960s where many whales were processed for oil and by products for the perfume industry. Now finally the whales are returning and the harbour has returned to its natural state.
Tina Frantzen Alluvial Illusion - Clarity of sky belies the turbidity of water below. Lucas Creek, Albany Village is a small upstream creek feeding into the Upper Waitemata Harbour. On Mother's Day my son took me to visit a new and different park, we saw only beauty. However, it is in among the bottom 25% of the worst waterways in NZ for clarity, turbidity and e coli.
Charlotte E Johnson
All life on Earth is made up of just 20 different molecules called amino acids. They have been around since the early universe, not long after the big bang, and have been found on other planets and asteroids – raising the possibility of finding life elsewhere. We can’t survive without amino acids. They provide fuel for our bodies, synthesise hormones, repair tissue, and have many more important biological functions. They also make really pretty patterns – each amino acid forming its own unique look.
I took images of crystallised amino acids by using a microscope to magnify the image by 100 times that seen with the human eye. To do this, I prepared a solution of diluted ethanol and mixed powdered amino acids, heating to dissolve until saturated. I then put this onto glass slides and waited for the ethanol to evaporate, triggering crystals to form. These crystals were then viewed under polarised light on a microscope, imaged, and processed in editing software.
These images reveal the unseen tiny worlds and networks formed by amino acids, the building blocks of life.
Twin rivers is a drawing and painting exploration of the senses, symbolised by a colourful imagery inspired not just of reality but the artist’s inner sight of perception, associative memory, and other processes of the imagination. The artwork is a response to an invitation provided to the artist’s collective to consider a number of concepts, some of these relating to botanical forms and a potential space for growth of movement and expansion.
The sensation of the colours of the work in progress suggested to the artist the symbolic reference of the underground rivers that are not seen. For the artwork, the artist has transferred content of the waking dream of active imagination into play using a graphic formulation for the visual expression of the twin rivers. This is not unlike the dream that may transport the observer to somewhere else, between, and without a deliberate preconception the thinking eye of the abstract kind may describe the image beyond the primitive visual expression.
Lucy Barker Genetic ties create an artificial familiarity with old family images, but the memories we have are often reconstructed through second or third-hand accounts. They are pieces of the unknowable past that live on in us.
Linda Gair There are many different theological and philosophical systems that hold “as above, so below” as a fundamental principle… whatever happens in one realm of reality also occurs in another. My interpretation holds itself in my own ‘history’ having majored in Photography from Elam School of Fine Arts, in the 70’s. I was, and remain quietly besotted by the magic of light vs shadow, favouring that last ‘golden’ light of day, before the darkness descends. That ‘golden’ light only offers itself up at odd times with little or no warning, with its long shadows and incredibly well-defined subject/object detail, that continues to make me ‘wonder’ in its unparalleled beauty.
Mycelium is a root-like structure of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates.
Alluvium is loose clay, silt, sand, or gravel that has been deposited by running water in a stream bed, on a floodplain, in an alluvial fan or beach, or in similar settings. Alluvium is also sometimes called alluvial deposit. Alluvium is typically geologically young and is not consolidated into solid rock
Dendrology is the science and study of woody plants, specifically, their taxonomic classifications. There is no sharp boundary between plant taxonomy and dendrology; woody plants not only belong to many different plant families, but these families may be made up of both woody and non-woody members
Familial - relating to or occurring in a family or its members
- Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life, How Fungi make our worlds
- David George Haskell, The Songs of Trees, Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors. 2017
Participating artists: Paul Screach, Tina Frantzen, Prue MacDougall, Jo Dalgety, Kathryn Carter, Linda Gair, Maree Brogden, Lucy Barker, Karen Covic, Charlotte Johnson, Maggie McGregor.