St Peters church, the smallest church in Cambridge, sits on the brow of a small hill next to Kettles Yard. As we climbed the steps abundant grasses softened the approach from the concrete city which surrounds it. The 11th Century church has been emptied of all furniture to create a tranquil space. The plain white walls and uncluttered room, with just the original font, provides a simple but complimentary space in which to view Katie's Paterson's latest work - a fossil necklace.
The fossil necklace, suspended in the centre of the room, can be viewed with a magnifying glass to see the finer details. As the light falls though the stain glass windows a number of beads come alive and become transparent, capturing the light.
In her previous work Katie Paterson has been interested in working with modern technologies that allow us to explore the world beyond our planet and to see into deep space. In contrast this project reverses that telescope turning the view instead inwards, into the world of our own bodies and the minute world of cells and DNA.
This project sees Kate collaborting with Dr Chris Tyler-Smith from the Sanger Institute who's work involves exploring the pathways of human beings across the globe by mapping the evolution of species through their DNA. With Kates interest in history, she has combined these ideas using fossils which hold a record of life. Each bead is unique and represents the history of life on this planet. Although the necklace is small and intimate it holds a huge expanse of geological time. It compliments beautifully the work of Chris Tyler- Smith, becoming a code of life, mirroring what we now understand about DNA, and the key to the connection between all living things.
In his introduction to the exhibit Guy Hayward states
"Fossil Necklace is a string of worlds, with each bead modestly representing a major event in the evolution of life through a vast expanse of geological time. From the unicellular origins of life on earth to the shifting of the continents, the extinction of the Cretaceous period triggered by a falling meteorite, to the first flowering of flowers, it charts the development of our species and affirms our intimate connection to the evolution of those alongside us. Each fossil has been individually selected by the artist from all corners of the globe, then painstakingly carved into spherical beads in a secondary process of excavation"
"In a circular gesture, Paterson joins the beginnings of life with the present, and in her unique way concertinas time and space into a grassable form."
From deep in the past, and from all corners of the world, fossils have been carefully chosen, and crafted by stone cutter Roger Duncan into 170 beads, which include, amongst others, a stingless bee and a winged ant encased in amber, a whale ear bone, a sea turtle egg, blue coral, giant redwood tree fragments, and even fossil rain from Scotland. All are beautifully woven together to create many striking "moments of life" that have existed on this planet.
Image from Katiepaterson.org/fossil/