Mike Perry is an artist whose work engages with significant and pressing environmental issues, in particular the tension between human activity and interventions in the natural environment, and the fragility of the planet’s ecosystems.
Opening today, Land/Sea is a major new Ffotogallery exhibition (22 September to 17 November, Aberystwyth Arts Centre) that brings together recent bodies of work addressing how the natural biodiversity of landscapes and marine environments is undermined and made toxic by human neglect, agricultural mismanagement and the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of long-term sustainability.
Using a large format analogue camera and combining painterly aesthetics with a hard-edged environmental narrative, the photographic images in ‘Wet Deserts’ shed a very different light on the health of the upland landscape than one is accustomed to seeing in tourist brochures or romantic paintings and landscape photography.
Perry focuses his gaze on mundane and typically overlooked locations in Wales, often in places commonly referred to as areas of natural beauty, our national parks. He does not offer us dramatic aerial vistas of oil polluted landscapes, but low-angle, near distance images of charred scrubland and landscapes left barren from tree-felling or over-intensive sheep-farming.
‘Môr Plastig’ (Welsh for ‘plastic sea’) is an ongoing body of work that classifies objects washed up by the sea into groupings. It is an open series of photographs ordered into Bottles, Shoes, Grids, Abstracts and others.
Perry photographs the found objects individually, straight to camera with a flat neutral light. By using a high-resolution camera to capture the surface detail, the artist allows the viewer to ‘read’ markings and scars etched into the objects by the ocean over months, and in some cases years.
He wants the viewer to be intrigued and challenged by how a polluting object can be so aesthetically appealing. In his own words, ‘in addition to seeing these pieces as symbols of over-consumption and disregard for the environment, I also see them as evidence of the beauty and power of Nature to sculpt our world.’