Heatwave drawings and films – of fire and flood


The 2022 United Kingdom heatwaves were part of several heatwaves across Europe and North Africa. The United Kingdom experienced three heatwaves; the first was for three days in June, the second for three days in July, and the third for six days in August. These were periods of unusually hot weather caused by rising high pressure up from the European continent. There were also more grass fires and wildfires than average, and in August a drought was declared in many regions.

The Met Office issued its first red warning for extreme heat on 8 July, which affected all of central and southern England and was in place for 18 and 19 July.[1] On 15 July, it declared a national emergency after the red warning was put in place. On 19 July, a record temperature of 40.3 °C (104.5 °F) was recorded and verified by the Met Office in Coningsby, England, breaking the previous record set in 2019 of 38.7 °C (101.7 °F) in Cambridge, England.[2] The heatwaves caused substantial disruption to transportation.

Climatologists say the extreme heat was due to climate change.

Finally the media are acknowledging that climate change is a thing. We saw it coming, which gave everyone time to prepare for it. Even then, systems broke down,  we simply are not equipped to deal with extreme weather occurrences. Roads flood regularly, snow (which hardly falls these days) stops transport systems. Storms bring down trees, cause high tides, rivers overflow.

In 1607 a Tsunami (or a tidal surge) roared up the Bristol Channel, killed hundreds of people and cattle, causing havoc to farmland. We know that is going to occur again. As sea levels rise, temperatures surge and erratic weather systems go from drought, to flood. So we know it will happen, but are we considering the impacts?

As you may know, I have been making work about the imminent flooding of the Arlingham Peninsula and surrounding areas of the Severn. Before the heatwave arrived I prepared to make some work about it. It began with casting ice in the freezer, some using ice cube trays as moulds,  to test with, some with latex moulds cast from local stone.

I set up a lab melting the ice forms on sturdy watercolour papers, outside in the seething temperatures. Images were made by adding earth pigments – red and grey marl from Garden Cliff on the bank of the Severn; Bideford Black pigment from Devon, ochres from Clearwell and some carbon powder too.

I began with drawings, then filmed the process too. They all shared something in common:

  • They were durational – ice takes time to melt, but does so much faster in a heatwave (obviously)
  • They varied in size and form
  • Some were laid down flat, some at deliberate angles
  • Some were left to melt naturally, others were steered and wobbled, creating networks and streams

The films revealed fascinating rhythms of the pigments as they were channelled up and down the bleeds. They often looked like the moment when the sea enters the Severn and the water runs in both directions at once.

These films have been put on Sedition – an NFT platform for selling artist film and video. And they are selling. This is a new adventure for me. Definitely worth looking at if you make very short films.

The ice drawings have resulted in some stunning images, which reflect the liquid journey, the spills and the disruption of the water flows. The pigments literally capture the water’s journeying, depositing rich trails and fragments of earth on the paper. Contours of meltlines echo topographic maps.

Some of the drawings will be on @artistsupportpledge soon, and some will be available at an upcoming exhibition in The Sanctuary Gallery in the Forest of Dean. The slideshow shows a small selection – the signed images are drawing and the unsigned are photographs of the works in progress, during melting.

Published by carolyn black

I'm an artist and also commission contemporary art in unusual locations. As a producer, I fundraise, curate, project manage and deliver projects. I'm also a writer and film-maker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: