And Even Dust Can Burst into Flames

January 30 - April 24, 2021
Central Gallery

And Even Dust Can Burst into Flames

Genevieve Robertson

Genevieve Robertson’s drawings involve extensive physical exploration and are materially linked to specific regions and their land and resource politics. This body of drawings uses pigments made with found carbon-based materials—coal, graphite, ash and wildfire-derived charcoal—collected in the East and West Kootenays where coal and graphite mining take place and climate-induced wildfires are increasing in severity. Gathered during walks to mine and forest fire sites, some of these materials are elementally linked to flora and fauna from the primordial past: both coal and graphite are produced from ancient living matter that has undergone immense transformation over millennia and are remnants of once-thriving ecosystems.

While the arboreous region of the Kootenays is ecologically fecund, carbonized trees, smoke-filled skies, and falling ash are the apparitions of climate catastrophe. This project records a sustained effort to capture an elemental and animate quality embedded in these materials and is meant to evoke carbon’s duality as a life-bearing element and the effects of its accelerated use as a synthetic hydrocarbon.

The title of the exhibition, And Even Dust Can Burst into Flames, considers the power of art to do work in the world, and in this context also gestures toward references of climate accelerated wildfires and their paradoxical relation to both regeneration and loss, the metamorphoses of materials over time, and the regenerative potential of drawing to invoke the origins of these materials.  More specters than specimens, these granular, stratified, biomorphic images suggest botanical field studies of the 18th and 19th centuries. By collecting, excavating, processing, and drawing with found materials, Genevieve Robertson implicates herself in relationship to the history of these representations and the industrial use of these materials: the entanglement of human, non-human and geologic bodies that coexist in our biosphere.

The artist would like to thank the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for making this work possible through a Major Project grant, as well as the Narrows Art Retreat (Nelson, BC), Access Gallery (Vancouver, BC), Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (Otis, OR), and Pterodactyl Studio (Salt Spring Island, BC) where the work was produced.