Screenprints by Tim Godwin show key climate people in ‘their ink’

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Amber Rudd, printed with used VW diesel engine oil.

COP21 in Paris starts today, it’s the 21st ‘Conference of the Parties’, the annual meeting of all countries who want to take action on climate change. We’ve got plenty of media coverage to take in and doubtless significantly more to come.

But, with all this discussion, often missing from the conversation is the notion of the indivdual. Stories are told and news is made about science, policy, regulation and technology, ignoring the fact that, behind every element of every part of all these things, are individual people. It’s the bottom line of every decision we make on climate.

Climate change is about people. Not just on the macro, species level, but fundamentally at an individual level. The choices we make over our lives effect our spheres of influence, and have consequence, which is cumulative. What motivates those choices is our complex and varied experiences, that creates learning that drives our opinions, ethics and morals. More fundamentally, it is a truth that if most of us had individually done things differently in our spheres of influence over the last 40 years, the climate problems we are now trying to solve would be smaller.

It’s important to think about this as we consider another Global Climate Change Conference. The people attending, campaigning, lobbying, debating, and politiking at the Paris talks, whether they are heads of state, NGO workers, diplomats, campaigners or industry lobbyists – are all just people, individuals. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of organisations having power, and forgetting that organisations are made up of individuals, with individual beliefs based on individual experiences.

The Art of the Individual

I thought it interesting to look at the individual as a starting point for some creative artwork around the Paris talks. I’m a printmaker (when I’ve got the time), and taking some individuals who have played a part in the story so far as source materials to create work from seemed an interesting way to approach the subject. I’ve worked in my day job as a designer for a long time for companies and organisations in the world of renewable energy, and put quite simply, I give a damn about climate and energy problems.

I wanted to take contrasting individuals to make prints of, whose actions in their sphere of influence, can be seen as positive or negative in the frame of action on climate change. With the input of others, quite a long list of such people on both sides of the divide was written down. It’s an aim to keep this idea going and produce more of a series of these prints along this theme.

The Subjects

The two people I selected for the first pair of prints are Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, and Juliet Davenport, the founder & CEO of Good Energy. I don’t know either of them beyond their public images. I thought there were some interesting comparisons to be made between the two English women, both born in the 1960’s, who have had very different impacts on the UK’s energy and climate landscape.

Those two impacts are quite contrasting. The UK Conservative government seems intent on removing any hope of us meeting our renewable energy targets, and can only be described as having an ideological dislike  of renewable energy technology, even of carbon capture and storage. Amber Rudd represents these decisions, even if she is not responsible for them, in her capacity as Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change. She also, somewhat disappointingly, happens to be my local MP.

Good Energy is a simple enough business, and in a stable and and hopeful country I believe would be unremarkable. It sells 100% British renewably sourced energy to consumers. That’s it really, I wholeheartedly recommend changing your supplier to them, or one of the few other renewable energy tariffs available. Juliet Davenport is the founder and CEO of this company, and has been very successful in what she set out to achieve.

All we need to do to solve the problem of Climate Change is to decide we want to do so. That’s it, no technological issues, it’s not an insurmountable problem, we know how to solve it. It’s just personal and political will that’s needed. And, it’s about personal values, will and determination. To some, mindfulness.

The Medium is the message: What they think is in the ink

I kept the prints simple, using manipulated press imagery of the individuals, and short text describing their professional life experiences. The inks used tell more of a story. I’ve been experimenting for a while using natural inks, something inspired by the frustration of using water based inks, that market themselves as ‘eco’ or ‘environmentally friendly’, but in reality are just another part of the petrochemical product range available to artists. More about this another time.

Natural vs. Oil inks

So I decided to print the image of Juliet Davenport using coffee, turmeric and paprika as pigments,  using wood cellulose as a binder medium. All these ingredients are entirely bio-degradable, and are all made from sunlight. There’s a nice connection for me here – the image of the person whose career has resulted in more solar energy capacity in the UK, with the assocciated climate benefits, being printed with inks made of sunlight.

The opposite is true of the ink used to create the Amber Rudd image, this is printed using used engine oil from a VW van. It somehow seemed appropriate to create an image of the person who represents the pro-extractive, pro-automotive, climate risking policies we have experienced in the UK over the last 6 months, with a fossil fuel. It’s a black, unpleasant substance, and the only more appropriate ink to use would be shale gas, but screen printing with gas is not something I’ve worked out yet.

There’s a post script to the oil prints. Whilst printing vividly through the screen, it leaches into the paper over time, making the image grow vaguer and less understandable, but polluting more of the clean paper around it. A metaphor for UK energy policy perhaps.

Caveat

Like almost everything I seem to be working on at the moment, these are prototypes – I intend to work on the images further, adding layers and texture to the Juliet Davenport print, and to do some more work on the additives that can be mixed with the used engine oil to increase its viscosity.

It is also the intention to create more images in the series, of more climate ‘heros and villains’, with the view to exhibit them at some point. We’ll see what happens after the Paris talks…

Juliet Davenport, CEO, Good Energy

Coffee, Turmeric & Paprica Print

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The Juliet Davenport print, as it currently is, to be overprinted and added to.

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Coffee, Turmeric and Paprika prints drying

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Coffee, turmeric and paprika being mixed on the screen

Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Used VW Diesel Engine Oil Print

 

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Amber Rudd, printed with used VW engine oil. Oil bleeding into the paper after 24hrs.

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Engine oil screen printing. A dirty process.

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Used engine oil poured into the screen.