By Hannah Anson
When it comes to printmaking on Japanese paper, farming diversity in the UK may not be the first subject that one would think to explore. However, Morag Eaton’s ‘Another Field’, currently being exhibited in Trevs bar, is anything but predictable.
A printmaker from Berwick-Upon-Tweed, along the Scottish-English border, Morag’s exhibition is an Arts Council England sponsored project that aims to explore farming diversification and introduce this concept to a wider audience.
Diversification involves a farm branching out from traditional agricultural pursuits by exploring new profitable activities. Morag has claimed that “diversification became a metaphor for myself”, as she learnt new printmaking techniques in order to reflect the individuality of each of the farms represented. Although all three businesses are explored through the medium of printmaking, their “visual character” is distinctly different; each section is like its own micro-exhibition.
The exhibition explores three farming businesses; From Ewe to You, who produce cheese from organic sheep and cows’ milk, Ogilvy Spirits, potato vodka producers, and The Barn at Beal, a restaurant and campsite.
Each section is like its own micro-exhibition.
The finely detailed fields and earthy tones of the ‘Ogilvy farm’ prints reflect the more rustic nature of potato farming, while the bright, block colours depicting the employees at the Barn at Beal convey the effervescence of its hospitality staff, paying tribute to their key role in that particular business. A personal highlight was ‘Cam, Head Chef and Liverpool Football Club Supporter’, who stands grinning, his team’s colours running throughout the print. Through her three studies, both the human and the mechanic elements of agriculture are explored.
While art has always been used as a medium to comment on social issues, it is interesting to consider such a specific, practical and unusual topic through printmaking. However, this subject is particularly pertinent as the UK agricultural industry braces for the oncoming Brexit storm. Morag describes the “uncertain economic times” that farmers are facing. The decision to leave the EU and the potential ramifications, or benefits, of this has divided the farming community. While many fear the loss of roughly £3.5bn in subsidies provided by Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, others share Andrea Leadsom’s view that we can now focus on “scrapping the rules that hold us back and focusing instead on what works best for the UK”, such as abandoning the three-crop rule that has been described by the National Farmers’ Union as “utter madness”.
Morag combines the art and business world, a combination that becomes physical with her deconstruction and flattening of the Ogilvy vodka bags to create a printing surface for her pieces. As an artist, Morag is interested in transitions, and this is reflected in the exhibition. We can trace the development of her work; the preliminary pencil sketches she produced at the farms and the finished prints hang side by side, allowing you to witness her vibrantly transform the industrial processes into bold artworks.
The exhibition runs until 5th December, and if you didn’t already have reason enough to visit Trevelyan Bar, the best stocked of all the Colleges, you do now; so come, sink a few Trevs Blues and have a stimulated discussion about the future of farming diversity, surrounded by the most beautiful blue sheep you ever did see.
Photographs by Hannah Anson