Alongside trying to just keep making work, I have started gardening. Quickly. I discovered some kind of bindweed, a tentacular structure of rubbery roots that grow like a giant net beneath the soil, an invisible web of white that is woven throughout the garden.
When you tug the discrete purple arrow heads – the only hint of the plant’s presence – they snap like an old rubber band, to preserve the main structure beneath and disguise the way into unearthing the predatory string. Those white, knotted roots that grow deeper are rhizomes. Fragile and brittle, each fragment is able to start life on its own. It is so resilient that if you put the severed roots in your garden bin they simply adapt and start growing again.
Visually, the most startling thing about this system is its filigree roots, mini-fronded sub-roots that weave off the main stem like jewellery, adhering to the soil in a clinging way that has to be teased, like prising out tiny hairs. They are delicate and really rather beautiful – something like stems of saffron when they break off, but creamy white. This complicated, resourceful system has felt like an amazing metaphor for this moment and a reminder of our own root systems – friends, family, routines.
I am making drawings from my gardening discoveries or the images that come to me when I’m sifting gently through the loam. I am digging curiously, dedicatedly and with a sense of purpose and grounding. These are some drawings I have been making afterwards and during.
Emma Cousin, Going to ground. Pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Making roots. Pen and pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Digging. Watercolour on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Roots. Pen and pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Moving roots. Pen and pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Becoming roots. Pen and pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin, Rooting. Pen and pencil on paper. 25.5×29.5 cm. 2020
Emma Cousin has a solo exhibition at Goldsmiths CCA that includes large-scale paintings on canvas, scaled to the body, as well as new drawings made directly onto the gallery walls. New Dirt is at Goldsmiths CCA from 18th September to 13th December 2020.
Emma has also co-curated, alongside critic Paul Carey-Kent, a new show of animation, Unstilled Life: Artist Animations 1980-2020, an online presentation with Amsterdam gallery Ron Mandos, Tintype gallery in London and Hamburg’s blinkvideo. Unstilled Life runs from 6th August to 3rd September 2020.
This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.