Working in cyanotype, a primitive photography technique first developed in the 1800s, Jo creates bold images and patterns with a ghostly feel. She uses plastic objects collected on the British coastline which are placed on light sensitive paper then exposed to sunlight. These patterns are then transformed into a kaleidoscopic world on acetate negatives, before being exposed to the sun once more. The result is an uncanny reflection of ourselves, harnessing solar energy to produce haunting yet familiar remnants of our material culture.
Many of these everyday items found on our coastlines will inevitably become material ghosts, speaking at a time when fossil fuels and plastics were so abundant in our daily lives. The technique itself, which relies on the sun’s power to create these striking images on light sensitive paper references the energy upon which we all depend.
The circular composition of my prints mimic the microscopic marine world seen by those researching the effects of microplastics in our fragile oceans, bringing into focus human impacts at both a minuscule and planetary level. Central to my work is an exploration of how the ubiquity of plastic characterises the geological age of human influence – the Anthropocene.
Millions of years ago, fuelled by sunlight, marine plankton flourished and then settled on the ocean floor, slowly transforming into oil. This same oil is used to quickly produce the endless plastic objects that dominate the everyday. When inked and printed, plastic flotsam fragments bear a stark resemblance to the rich diversity of microscopic marine life – a worrying and ironic connection to a beautiful natural process.
My tapestries have been handwoven completely from material gathered on the British coastline. Working with found objects, be it a length of fishing line or a once loved lost toy, the beach never ceases to provide a starting point for me to weave stories of our time.
The sea curates orphaned objects and presents them to the shore; a temporary narrative replenished with each changing tide. I am fascinated by these unexpected and ignored fragments, imagining who they were important to in another time and place.
Much like the stone tools, pottery and metals that archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will one day signify our own time on earth. Who will weave the threads of our stories long after we have gone?
My creative practice has seen me work with a number of cultural institutions including museums and universities. A sample of these projects can be seen below.