Barbados-based artist Annalee Davis has launched re-wilding, her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom at Haarlem Artspace in Derbyshire, which opened on September 12.
Presenting a new installation commissioned by Haarlem alongside recent drawings and a large-scale photograph, the works reflect on the rural, reconstructing meaning and connections.
The exhibition is also part of re: rural – four contemporary artists un-learn and re-imagine the rural, which also presents the work of women artists Feral Practice, Deirdre O’Mahony and Pauline Woolley on the gallery’s new online platform Haarlem Periodical. Haarlem Artspace is in Wirksworth, a town with a radical political and industrial history in Derbyshire.
In Haarlem’s interior and exterior spaces, Davis presents drawings, photographs and a sculpture inspired by the multi-layered history of the site where her studio is located, on a former sugarcane plantation.
The Wild Plants (2015) and F is for Frances (2015-16) series of coloured drawings function as graphic interventions into 1970s plantation ledger pages, where entries were primarily economic: registering wages, field activity and rent rolls, measuring rainfall and signing out agricultural implements to plantation labourers. The detailed drawings of wild plants with their root systems, and a former slave girl’s name drawn in found pottery sherds, counter the daily logging of plantation activity to offer alternate ways of reading the site.
Outside the gallery is Davis’ new sculptural work, (Bush) Tea Plot – A Decolonial Patch for Mill Workers, which is a re-versioning of an earlier (Bush) Tea Plot work, linking the
industrial and colonial on both sides of the Atlantic, and exploring environmental resilience, regeneration and healing.
A one-metre tall glass vitrine on a plinth is filled with limestone soil, 18th and 19th century clay and porcelain sherds, and plants that travelled to the Caribbean from the UK through colonisation and those indigenous to both places. Traditionally held to have medicinal properties, the plants were used in the brewing of bush tea, a now almost-extinct practice.
Curator of the exhibition, Liv Penrose Punnett said: “It’s been fantastic working with Annalee and her drawings and new sculpture. It feels like it has really highlighted the cross Atlantic historical connections and shown audiences here the importance of the plantation in terms of our collective rural economy, the history of this and our relationship to it now.”
The ideas in Davis’ works are further explored at Haarlem Online as part of re:rural- four contemporary artists un-learn and re-imagine the rural. The Haarlem Periodical includes: Annalee Davis Wild Plant Series, Sweeping the Fields, (Bush) Tea Plot – A Decolonial Patch for Mill Workers: Feral Practice Mycorrhizal Meditation & Homo Mycelium: Deirdre O’Mahony, SPUD, A Village Plot: Pauline Woolley, The Sky Calls to Me & Beyond the Celestial Sphere.
Davis is a visual artist, cultural instigator, educator and writer, with a hybrid practice. She works at the intersection of biography and history, focusing on post-plantation economies by engaging with a particular landscape on Barbados.
Her studio, located on a working dairy farm, operated historically as a 17th century sugarcane plantation, offering a critical context for her practice by engaging with the residue
of the plantation.
Haarlem is an artist-led studio and gallery space encouraging practice and research into contemporary art created in rural environments through residences, exhibitions and events. (PR)