Shelley Castle gained a first class honours degree in Fine Art Painting from Central St. Martin’s and most recently has completed an MA in Arts and Ecology at Dartington College of Arts, Devon. Now working mostly in moving image, photography and installation, recent projects have involved a broad array of collaborators such as her immediate family, horologists, dancers and entomologists. She has shown her work throughout Europe and more locally at CCANW, Exeter, and is involved in several artist groups working with new media in London.
What motivates my practice is a desire to explore our relationship to place, particularly with the natural world. Over the years I have made work using a wide variety of mediums including painting, food-based installations, collages and photography. During the MA in Arts and Ecology I began compiling a library of short films which document nature’s light shows from as simple and as direct a viewpoint as possible, attempting to avoid representation.
‘Indicator’, my final piece for the MA at Dartington College of Arts, is one of these films and explores the process of seeing. Filmed in an olive grove as night falls, the camera behaves as we do – trying to make out realities as the woodland fades and the image degenerates into an abstract blur. Alongside this light event is one of nature’s most magical phenomenon – fireflies sending visual signals to one another during their courtship display. As darkness falls, the fireflies begin to synchronise - appearing with a united flash before suddenly disappearing, as if they were never there. Indicator is so-called because this small brown beetle is the insect equivalent to the canary in the coalmine and is very sensitive to environmental changes, particularly climate change. During the development of the project I did a great deal of fieldwork and research on fireflies and together with an entomologist I’m currently working on a scientific paper which will be published early in 2010.
With each new project, collaborators lead me to a broader viewpoint and offer opportunities for shifts in perspective. Cross-disciplinary collaborations seem a natural and effective way to explore ecological issues. Alongside the next series of projects which will investigate local sites in Devon, I hope to facilitate the creation of a library of films capturing firefly flash patterns from around the world.