• Karen Marshall + Rae Story

What is the role of the Artist in Climate Change?

I was recently in contact with Karen Marshall and she sent me her recent iPad drawings, which are absolutely stunning, in particular, my eye was drawn to the drawings of Hebden Bridge during the floods and storms of last winter.

Karen has recently moved to Hebden Bridge, so it is interesting to note what she has been sketching since she has arrived there. She is clearly making records of events and local activities (her drawings including opera on the pub steps in Heptonstall on a Sundays during lockdown with retired opera people! As well as drawings from the local repair cafe and people in the streets.

But it was the images of Hebden in the floods, and the fluorescent jackets of emergency services that really caught my eye. Somehow it felt very different to be looking at drawings of these events rather than journalistic photographs. More impactful. More nuanced. And this got me thinking about the role of the artist during this Climate Emergency? What can artist's communicate that other people can't? What do we learn when we take the time to sit and draw what we see in front of us?

Drawing and sketching give us a different way of knowing about the world. I rarely draw something without noticing something that I had never seen before. Drawing is a very powerful, direct and very real way of learning, gaining insights and understanding all of which we need in the world right now.

Obviously Karen has a very special talent and a steady practice that means she can really depict life and it's stories in a very real way, not all of us have this talent. But I would say that whatever our final drawings look like - we all have access to the method of drawing as doorway to knowing. The transformative power that comes with sitting down and taking time to really look and to translate what we can see onto the page is true whether what we draw is perceived as 'good' or not.

That is the beauty and the gift of drawing. We don't have to be 'good' at it to receive it's benefits.

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