Jenny Bowker
Earth and Air with a Memory of Water

For the theme of Elements I decided to work with a recent trip across the Great Western Desert - the Sahara. We drove from the oasis of Bahariya to the Gilf Kebir - a plateau the size of Belgium at the junction of Libya Sudan and Egypt. The trip took sixteen days, five 4 wheel drive vehicles, and we had to carry all petrol, water, and food on the cars. We saw no other car in that time, and the only people were desert police in one distant post. The desert almost became a living thing, the main player on the trip and the element of earth seemed to dominate.

I thought of it at first as a series on earth - with the changing landscape and colours as we drove across it. Then I realised that the sky was a continual backdrop, so I thought of the series as Earth and Sky.

I realised each item I used in the lowest panel has a memory of water.

Each piece has:

  1. The sky as the top panel.
  2. A Victorian-style charcoal drawing of the desert below, showing the colours on the day that we drove across it.
  3. A grid of crosses to relate to the maps we followed and the way that we continually compared what we saw to what we knew - contextualising what we saw to fit a western construct.
  4. A low section which represents the earth we walked on and the things we found on it. The marks of previous peoples were on rock walls or on the ground. I wanted viewers to have to bend to see what was there - as we did.
    1. The Water Mountain - has the codes used by ancient Egyptians for water caches - the horizontal zigzag carved into rock walls. 76.5 cm x 163.5 cm
    2. Ammonite Fields - fossil ammonites, sponges and coral - remnants of a great sea, long retreated. 77 cm x 160 cm
    3. Abu Bellas - two water vessels, part of another water cache left by Pharaonic Egypt to enable them push further into the desert in search of ochres for painting.
    4. Acheulean Hand Axes - an Achulean hand axe from a site where there were many in a concentrated tool scatter - proof that in the days when they were abandoned there was enough water to sustain life. 77 cm x 161.5

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