Caitlin ffrench

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Libby Leshgold gallery

Caitlin ffrench is a land-based artist and author working in East Vancouver, Canada. Her research maps the parallels between the anthropogenic world and the ongoing impacts of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and endometriosis on her body. ffrench has recently published Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You.

Rituals of Loss was the thesis installation that included 68 ritual pieces to create a space to invite in spirits of those who have passed, the spirits of the land, and the old gods that wish to commune with us.

(left) A woven photograph of the Svínafellsjökull glacier, and (right) A woven photograph of the smoke cloud rising over West Kelowna from the McDougall Creek fire. (From the installation Rituals of Loss)

In the installation Rituals of Loss there are cherrywood shelves that hold bowls of cottonwood buds soaked in oil (see above) and honey (under the other woven work). These bowls are to be picked up and smelled. Both hold scent memories to the artist that transport the viewer to the places the photos were taken.

Finding Kinship was a part of Caitlin’s thesis installation. It was constructed with wind-fallen arbutus wood, cottonwood trees, alder trees, and branches from the English walnut tree she climbed as a child. The door to the installation faces north- where both our ancestors who have passed and the old gods reside.

In August 2023 Caitlin went on a field research trip to photograph sites around Southern Alberta and British Columbia that are experiencing climate change/disasters. In this photo she is shooting the Edith Cavell Glacier with a pinhole camera that allows the shooter to develop a photo-positive image onsite.

The image shot on an instant pinhole camera at the base of the Edith Cavell Glacier.

Part of Caitlin’s thesis research has been investigating land based collaboration with colour. She quilted this work with a linen/silk fabric that has blocks that were treated with a salt/acid (mordant- alum acetate), while other parts of the quilt were left untreated with the salt/acid mixture.

The quilt was soaked in the Squamish River, Caitlin dug a hole, laid the quilt into the hole, and then she poured a solution of cooked marigolds into the hole with the quilt.

The quilt was buried, and then Caitlin built a fire on top of the quilt. Natural dyes need a chemical reaction between the fabrics, the mordant (in this case the salt/acid mixture), and heat to bond the colour to the fibre. Caitlin was unsure that there would be enough heat from the fire (as heat travels up, not down). She waited an hour and a half to reveal whether or not the quilt would be dyed.

When the fire died down and the quilt was dug up, the words ‘TAKE COVER’ were revealed. The chemical reaction happened, and the project was a success.

Extended Death Rituals is an installation Caitlin made in December 2023. It includes 73 items that include instant photographs, plants that she gathered or grew, ceramic pieces, and other magic.

Caitlin made this accordion book during the summer of 2023. The cover of the book is made from a piece of wind-fallen arbutus wood. Each ‘page’ of the book has a mineral pigment sample, and the opposite side of each page has the story of where she gathered the pigment in Iceland during a residency she attended in June 2022. This book is now a part of the Emily Carr Artists’ Book Collection.

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Caitlin ffrench’s research/praxis maps the parallels between the anthropogenic world and the ongoing impacts of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and endometriosis on her body. Her ritual practice explores natural materials and processes, including natural plant dyes and ochre pigments, along with textiles, ceramics and documentary photography of important sites affected by climate change. Conceptually centered around the term solastalgia— grief felt for the dying world— ffrench invites her audience to reflect on their own experience of grief and its relationship to the devastation of climate change. Employing methodologies of phenomenology, observation and walking the land, along with technologies of magic, dreamwork, intuition, bibliomancy (the use of books in divination) and geomancy (earth divination) to lead her investigative processes. ffrench creates installations on the land and in the gallery that provoke and encourage a heightened awareness of the destruction of the natural world.