Field Notes by Natasha Brzezicki at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Selina Oakes, Contributor
Field Notes, Natasha Brzezicki, AirSpace Gallery
How to Listen to Trees (video still) by Natasha Brzezicki. Courtesy of AirSpace gallery and the artist

Field Notes at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent 2 — 10 February 2018 Entrance is free

Field Notes is a refuge for urban naturalists. Held within a gallery in the heart of the city, Natasha Brzezicki’s solo show unveils a series of tentatively translated keepsakes from her immediate surroundings. Though Brzezicki is new to her environment, she has made sense of ‘place’ through activities such as walking, collecting, ordering and naming. Her delicate and near-meditative methods of documenting the organic world through man-made modes of reasoning equips audiences with a time-capsule of physical and psychological encounters with nature.

It’s a minimal exhibition which leaves room for in-depth consideration of each element’s origins and modified value. Items, collected from the ground, are given an alternative lease of life: plants are used to make dyes, sedimentary stones are ground up into pigment, and trees become the basis for musical notation. The viewer greets these objects with added interest, nescient to the fact that the pigment they observe is geologically akin to the pebbles rattling beneath their feet. Nature, and its translation through human recognition, is of upmost importance in the production of ‘place’.

As its title suggests, Field Notes adopts geographical and archaeological modes of qualitative ordering. In Untitled (pigments), samples of crushed rock are annotated with a date, time and location. Without Brzezicki’s timestamp, the audience would remain unaware of each specimen’s relevance to a designated moment. In revealing this data, the artist not only comments on humanity’s impulse to collect, rearrange and name things, but also brings the viewer closer to the materials’ origins and to her own pursuit of locating herself physically and psychologically.

It’s a process of reassurance – one which Brzezicki uses to investigate the role of emotionality in overcoming topographic alienation. Comfort Blanket I & II beautifully link the aesthetics of science with tenderness. These two, large-scale patchworks boast a consortium of pastel rectangles: hung vertically, they resemble painterly tapestries, aerial land surveys or, as their titles suggest, quilts with which to feel at home. Their relevance to the natural world and a sense of sentimental lineage is reinserted by the artist’s diligent notation of botanical dyes, both on paper in her Research Table, and in a row of labelled apothecary-style bottles (Untitled, dyes).

As expressed through Comfort Blanket‘s sensitive title, it is sanctuary in nature that the artist seeks – something which cannot be readily achieved without the assertion of sentimentality. Language plays a major role in distilling Brzezicki’s emotionality. Dualities, a 20pp booklet of personal, abstract verses, acts as a reminder that the formation of ‘place’ exists not merely in earth nor matter, but in an individual’s physical and cognitive involvement with a landscape. How to Listen to Trees illustrates this theory through its translation of swaying evergreen trees into sheet music. While being another play on the lexis of ‘field notes’, this piece visually categorises organic motion into a man-made tempo.

This leads the viewer back to the ‘value’ which humans superimpose onto objects and locations. With Brzezicki’s focus on sentimental worth comes an overlap with monetary value. In Gold Leaf, she toys with the myth that Chinese Money Plants grant good fortune by applying gold leaf to three potted plants. While in Fossil, she elevates shards of pottery found in the ground into a museum-like vitrine, as though to restore their status as ‘valued’ objects. Similar to the recognition of a location as specific ‘place’, the acknowledgment of these items as priceless is generated by the physical and psychological self, and, as such, is fleeting.

What remains is the raw material – an element that can be translated into countless dialogues in the hands, and mind, of the artist. Field Notes leaves the viewer with an understanding that it is the ordering and naming enacted by an individual upon an object, location or situation which defines it. It is these physical and psychological activities that Brzezicki befriends and ultimately renders into emotionality: the output of which is the wholesome cartography of nature within an urban landscape, and the eventual recognition of a ‘place’.

All works dated 2018.

Field Notes at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent 2 — 10 February 2018 Entrance is free

Where to go near Field Notes by Natasha Brzezicki at AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Bethesda Chapel, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Place of worship
Bethesda Chapel

Bethesda Methodist Chapel in Hanley is considered to be one of England’s grandest surviving town chapels – and it’s easy to see why.

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Stoke-on-Trent
Museum
Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Home to the most significant collection of Staffordshire ceramics in the world and the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found, a visit to Stoke-upon-Trent is not complete without an afternoon whiled away in The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Stoke-on-Trent
Library
City Central Library, Hanley

Described as “the finest and most distinctive example of Modernist architecture in Stoke-on-Trent”, City Central Library is Stoke-on-Trent’s largest library, home to the city archives.

Emma Bridgwater Factory, Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Museum
Emma Bridgwater Factory

The pottery lover’s mecca, over 1.3 million Emma Bridgwater pieces are produced at the designer’s Stoke-on-Trent based factory every year – each one touched by over 30 deftly-skilled hands. Take an award-winning tour, visit the heavily discounted shop and have a go at producing your own earthenware masterpiece.

Stoke Minster, Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Place of worship
Stoke Minster

Just a short walk from Stoke-on-Trent train station is Stoke Minster, believed to have once been an important Celtic religious site and where Christian worship has taken place since Saxon times.

The Wedgwood Institite, Burslem summer in stoke on trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Tourist Attraction
Burslem Town Square

‘Mother town’ of The Potteries, Burslem dates back to at least 1085 when it appears listed in the Domesday Book. Today, the wealth and fortune generated by the boom in global demand for Staffordshire pottery can still be seen reflected in the town’s many fine red brick buildings and grand displays of civic pride.

Middleport Pottery
Stoke-on-Trent
Museum
Middleport Pottery

Built in 1888, the beautifully-conserved grade II* listed Middleport Pottery has been producing its world-famous Burleigh pieces for over 120 years. Today it is the only working Victorian pottery left in Stoke-on-Trent and a multi award-winning visitor attraction.

Gladstone Pottery Museum Summer in Stoke on Trent
Stoke-on-Trent
Museum
Gladstone Pottery Museum

The last complete Victorian pottery factory in Britain, Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton provides a unique insight into the history of Stoke-on-Trent; an area renowned for its world-class pottery and ceramics.

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides

Music in Manchester and the North

Fresh concert seasons, forward-thinking festivals and a revolving door of amazing gigs. Things are looking bright as spring comes into view.

Exhibitions in Manchester and the North

February is a month of love so art lovers in the North - rejoice! There is lots to choose from: two photography festivals, gorgeous crafts and shows celebrating local talent.