What are the words for earth? 


‘Wardrobes with their shelves, desks with their drawers, and chests with their false bottoms are veritable organs of the secret psychological life. Indeed, without these “objects” and a few others in equally high favour, our intimate life would lack a model of intimacy. They are hybrid objects, subject objects. Like us, through us and for us, they have a quality of intimacy.”

Within the series of works What are the words for earth? carbonised books sit in handcrafted drawers made from American black walnut. The drawers have been made in collaboration with professional furniture maker Jennifer Finnegan. The books have been fired in clay saggars (sealed clay containers) within a kiln; carbonised, the words on the pages remain visible but hard to decipher.

The function of the kiln is an integral part of Preece’s process. The effects of heat within the kiln chamber produces dramatic and transformative material effects. The primal and elemental na-ture of the process the books have undergone runs counter to the domestic nature of the ob-jects and the fine crafting of the drawers. This dynamic tension, between formal structure and moments of volatility and transformation, between solidity and frangibility, is a deep and ever present conversation within Preece’s practice. The ephemeral and delicate quality of the car-bonised books a metaphor for other more transient and fragile states of being.

The books were once wild flower guides given to the artist by her father as a child. The words on the pages of these now carbonised objects are obscured and hard to discern, only legible in part. There is a resonance here with the quality of our memories. No longer able to function as guides, there is a sense also of these forms returning to the earth.

‘All intimacy hides from view’ says Bachelard. Recollecting the spaces we find in our homes to keep safe our secrets and most intimate treasures; the drawers are intended as containers for memory, for the immaterial, for the sensory and oneiric aspects of our existence.

G. Bachelard, trans. Maria Jolas, The Poetics of Space, Boston, Beacon Press, p. 74
G. Bachelard, trans. Maria Jolas, The Poetics of Space, Boston, Beacon Press, p. 88