Art in the Elements supported by Yoma Sasburg - Shortlisted 2015
Paul Chaney is a self-taught artist, learning from the elements and rural environment in which he frequently produces site-specific works and as a cross-disciplinary research practice. His work is both aesthetic and utilitarian, a view he holds towards art as an ‘enabler’ and unrestricted in its scope. For Chaney ‘the potential of art [is] to facilitate modes of research that do not fit into normative fields… ideas too obscure, too fleeting or unconventional to be academically viable’. His work attempts to explain how humans and nature interact while considering the history of the landscape. By making small and pragmatic interventions in nature he treats the site-specific nature of such works as sensitive and prone to suffering the profound loss, change and exploitation humans have been responsible for in the past, while simultaneously considering how the human is also conditioned by nature. Much of his work is research-led and is not situated in nature but in documentation, exploring techniques or engineering concepts which appear to be of limited applicability, in order to draw our attention to the impact that one shift in the eco-system can cause to the interdependent system at large.
From 2004 to 2012 ‘FIELDCLUB’, in collaboration with Kenna Hernly, explored these issues as an artwork with multiple forms of representation. Designed using computer software as part of a previous project ‘FieldMachine’ Paul lived for five years in a self-sufficient small holding in order to critically examine ‘sustainable living’ through praxis. Due to the isolation and the intimacy of the project, documentation and other forms of capturing his living work became key to developing exhibits outside of the domestic space.
Conceptually, the work was an exploration of what Paul calls “The Apocalyptic Vernacular”, the shared vision of a future living off the land embodying ecological utopian ambition and dystopian survivalist preparation. Whilst ‘FIELDCLUB’ examined the long term impact of domesticating nature and the impression left by co-existence, works such as ‘Encampment’ reflected the dualism between these two approaches making dwellings which were made using traditional craft techniques but with materials of post-industrial waste “My work is bounded by a very direct realism” he says, “I am interested in the collection of…[all] data that could be used in the debates surrounding sustainability”.