I began this series of works with simple laser burn based on my observation drawings of flies. In subsequent pieces I used laser burn to damage both graphite and ink drawings. Different papers were tested using layers of laser burn to the point at which the substrate could no longer be held together. When developing the laser burn marks I had in mind the way that acid within traditional inks can cause damage to the paper support eventually burning away the substrate. The visual reference to insects became a signifier of biological infestation, one of a number of causes of damage to paper. Other causes of deterioration such as structural and surface damage, dirt, and light damage are also referred to in this Damage series.
Concern with damage, preservation and material memory is developed in the presentation of these works on paper. The final piece in this series, Damage 8, uses marks drawn on both sides of the paper referring to damage caused by media strike through (sinkage of the drawing material through to the other side of the paper) with subsequent layers of laser burn. The potential for loss is developed by suspending the unframed paper in the centre of the exhibition space where atmospheric pollutants and finger marks may cause further damage. The base of the four metre paper column rolls out directly onto the museum floor where it is prone to abrasion and soiling caused by the accumulation of dust and dirt.
The physical removal of substrate has parallels with memory and loss, bringing to mind layers, not just of materials, but also of drawing activity. More widely it parallels the concern of collection institutions with preventing the processes of deterioration and of damage to material artefacts. Investigating behind the scenes collections at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, and also at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Collection Centre, I explored preservation of paper within a museum context. Researching museum activity in regard to the preservation of the paper I became acutely aware of drawings as material memory. Preservation of works on paper was examined as I conversely explored less protective structures of support for my work on paper including the use of light boxes, holes and metal eyelets pierced into the paper, nails, pins and clips.