Habitat by Julya Hajnoczky
In the Gallery starting July 7th until August 28th, 2021
My artistic practice concerns a critical examination of human relationships with the natural world and how ecosystems are changing in our current era, which has been termed “The Anthropocene”, a period where the greatest impacts on the geology and ecosystems of the planet are caused by humans. A fascination with the fields of botany and biology, and an interest in traditional natural history practices drives my work.
Informed by scientific model-making practices and botanical illustration work, my multidisciplinary practice involves collecting materials following ethical foraging practices (plants, feathers, bones, fungi and lichen specimens, for example) from natural environments, or accessing museum collections for use as raw material in making work, and as reference material. I spend time researching ecosystems and the connections within them, particularly via site visits and consultation with scientists and lay experts. I study and document each landscape, making notes and photographing each site.
Some of the materials are used as the base for small sculptural works – diminutive cabins built onto driftwood, evoking sanctuary but also a rethinking of the size of the human footprint on the land. I also produce large-scale still life images using a high-resolution scanner as my camera: specimens collected during site visits are arranged on the glass, in groupings that serve to illustrate connections in Canadian ecosystems that may not be immediately apparent to a casual observer. In some locations I gather fungi to create spore prints on glass –scanned at high resolution, I consider the resulting photographs collaborative works between myself and the mushrooms and insects that move across the glass. The photographs, printed at a very large scale, allow the viewer to get an unusually close look at each object. The images are elegiac, dark, mourning, representing not contemporary specimens but rather, recontextualized, some last remaining pieces of a fragmented world, floating in the void.
Recently I've been exploring new media such as interactive lightboxes and large-scale projections as well, and continue to seek out new ways of exploring the critical issues of biodiversity loss and climate change, working with likeminded institutions and people to translate scientific knowledge into accessible, intriguing, relevant, and impactful artwork.
The concepts that I seek to explore with my work – encouraging a sense of wonder, interest, and respectful stewardship with regards to the natural environment – are becoming more and more relevant. It is with increasing unease that I observe developments in human behavior at home and abroad, at the individual and institutional level, that impact negatively on the continued functioning of the complex ecosystems that we humans are part of. I feel that
one of my roles as an artist is to interpret events around me and draw attention to matters of political, social, and environmental importance, and so my artistic practice aims to cultivate a deep attention to the details and intricacies of natural ecosystems, and to examine human relationships with the natural world. My pieces attempt to frame the work of plants and animals in terms that are easier for humans to understand, and potentially empathize or identify with. I hope to inspire a sense of wonder or fascination, and encourage the viewer to consider the energy and resources that go into the constant cycle of building and decay in complex environments and ecosystems.