Rachel Thomson - Cyanotypes
We came across artist Rachel Thomson's work via The Earth Issue and immediately wanted to know more about her curious images. Her cyanotypes are made using discarded plastic bags to create forms reminiscent of sea creatures. Her work explores the age caused to the environment through the invasion of man-made materials.
F&A: What drew you to the cyanotype process?
RT: I like to work with scrap materials and low tech methods of reproduction, as a response to mass production and a wasteful culture. There is only ever one version of a cyanotype photogram, so it is always a unique photographic document and I value uniqueness. Using the cyanotype process means I can abandon all the formality and accuracy that I dislike in photography and instead experiment more spontaneously. As I’m relying on things out of my control – the sun and wind to make the images – there’s a lot of frustration to overcome, but the results are more exciting, surprising and unpredictable, and you need that excitement to make art!
F&A: What themes do you explore in your work?
RT: I crudely document ambiguous forms made out of plastic removed from the environment. I didn’t consciously set out to make art that had an environmental message, but it seems to me that art comes from what is around you, what is in your environment; right now it would be hard to make art that didn’t include this concern. My use of plastic waste began as expediency, a combination of what was freely available and what worked well with the technique I was experimenting with. My material was found in urban tumbleweeds of plastic floating in street gutters, or caught in trees: ideal for creating the xray effect and the milky outlines of photograms. I am interested in playing around with transparency and the ephemeral quality of light. The documenting of something left behind is unique to this kind of camera-less photography and becomes quite addictive, it’s almost like fossil hunting.
F&A: What is creativity to you?
RT: It's making something out of nothing, it's the deliberate pursuit of chance, it's a way of disrupting systems, seeing possibility and being willing to experiment and to make mistakes, its valuing the individual.
F&A: Where did you study, if at all, and what course?
RT: Central St Martins P\T honours , in photography and print media
F&A: What are your hopes for the future?
RT: That plastic becomes obsolete, that we seriously tackle climate change and that growth of computers is carefully considered and limited, That more people get to study art and that they abolish student loans soon.