Captured over a 3 year period, this study by Steve Gresty considers how limestone quarrying – a process which seeks to meet our unrelenting desire for the comforts and conveniences of consumer items – is concealed both from public view and under the veil of the dust it creates. Carboniferous limestone contributes to the natural beauty of areas within the Peak District National Park. This exhibition however draws attention away from the obvious picturesque countryside and reveals the obscure and surreal ‘landscapes’ of the hidden worlds that are the quarry environments.
The body of work on display consists of a series of 19 large photographs exploring how our cultural principles influence the way we see and value the land and the way it is used, specifically land utilised for limestone quarrying – an industry that seeks to meet our unrelenting desire for the comforts and conveniences of consumer products. These large colour photographs attempt to capture what Steve sees as metaphoric shrouds that veil the phenomenon of quarrying, beginning with a series that captures the shroud of beauty of the rock with its bewitching colours, fissures and textures that can offer us a Pollock, Kandinsky or a Picasso.
The exhibition then moves to the ’shroud of human intervention’ which captures how humans irreversibly alter the landscape in order to procure vast amounts of a raw material that has taken millions of years to form , whilst veiling the trauma of this pursuit from the public eye by the ironic employment of topography and vegetation. We desire this valued commodity of limestone to use it in a long list of modern-day products we feel we need, from cement to indigestion medication, breakfast cereal to chicken feed.
The show then highlights the dystopian shroud that coldly processes, conveys and commoditises the extracted mineral in a cloak of human technological activity and the inevitable cloud of dust, into usable forms that be utilised in a myriad of modern commodities.
The final series documents after humans have left, neglecting and forgetting about the wounded and corrupted land. But, soon after we have we left, Mother Nature begins to heal by casting her green shroud over this damaged earth, and with calm resolve the monuments to human consumption crumble and dissolve as she reclaims the land and affords beauty to it once again.
The main image series are augmented by a mini 2 x 2 series displaying Polaroid type photographs (referencing the wasteful, ’throw-away’ society within which we live) that draw attention to the huge number of these products that we demand, use and discard without a thought of what they are made from and where these constituents come from.
With this exhibition Steve wants people to think about why these huge quarries are sited where they are and reflect on the fact that it is us and our relentless desires for modern products that necessitate their existence.