50 skies : 50 scars


Hand-burned incense drawing and watercolour ink on calligraphy paper, charred paper, charcoal, embroidery hoops, and handmade sunlight lenses, 2016

by Nicola Anthony

50 skies, 50 scars,

and 50 heady prayers resound.

With new hopes, each day will pass

Then fall away or shimmer, in our tomorrows.

Each revolution brings change, and yet none.

We turn in our sleep

Awaiting the sun.

This six metre ink drawing on calligraphy paper has been suspended inside embroidery hoops. The artist has used her signature burning technique to ‘draw’ into each circle using lit incense sticks, creating a perforated, singed, layered artwork. There are scars on the paper skin, but also complexity and patina created by the empty spaces which the sunlight shines through.

In some cultures, burning is the way to send offerings to the Gods or to the dead. In other cultures burning is synonymous with destruction and loss.

The technique takes patience, can result in loosing sections of drawing, and the flame needs to be controlled. But the process of burning the paper skin can be almost meditative: synchronising with the breath; and filling the art studio with the redolent scent of sacred spaces; controlling the perforations.

In making this artwork, Nicola has focused on daily crisis. On those who live lives where every day brings a new trauma, a new scar, and in particular those who have accepted this as normality.