On Presence: Essays / Drawings
by Peter Reason and Sarah Gillespie

The danger of having a fairly extensive TBR like mine (ahem!) is that those volumes enthusiastically ordered eventually come into the house, disappear into the stacks and can so easily get overlooked. This is why I’m finding it particularly useful to have regular reshuffles of the piles – it does reveal some marvellous treasures! A case in point is this slim work which I sent off for after reading an enthusiastic review on Annabel’s site here – I do love a good essay…

Peter Reason is actually a fellow reviewer for Shiny New Books, and he’s covered a number of interesting works; so it may be worth your checking him out there too, once Annabel has everything up and running again. “On Presence” is a 30 page, limited edition, book of words and images which makes thoughtful, contemplative reading, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

Reason and Gillespie are uncle and neice, and “On Presence” contains words from the elder set against beautiful illustrations from the younger. Both formats address the natural world, the home we human beings seem dead set on destroying; and Gillespie’s illustrations, worked in monochrome, bring that world to life but with a changed perspective. So Reason meditates on his orchard; an abandoned birds nest; and the differing silences we can experience whilst out in the world. The two artists discuss their work processes and point of art in our modern times; and as a short note at the back says, this is a continuation in printed form of many discussions they’ve had over the years.

“On Prescence” is a wonderful initiative; hopefully one of many more to follow. The essays are beautifully written and very evocative, particularly when set against Gillespie’s art. Reason writes simply yet eloquently about the natural world, and I see he’s written books about ecological pilgrimages he’s made, which sound fascinating. This work had a particular resonance at the moment, reading it as I did in the middle of our necessary isolation which for many of us is meaning we lose direct contact with the natural world. As humans who are part of a living nature, we need to remember our connections while all this is going on.

It is the stories we tell ourselves, the metaphors we draw on, that create our world. The mess we are in reflects the stories that have dominated Western culture: stories of human supremacy, stories that separate humans from Nature, but emphasize economic growth at the expense of human and ecological wellbeing.

So this was a timely work to pull out of the tbr at the moment, and reading it did bring a little comfort. I do hope going forward we foolish humans will learn to acknowledge just how much a part of the world and its nature we are, something we seem to have forgotten recently. Though slim, “On Presence” *has* a presence and an impact, and I hope more of the joint work of Peter Reason and Sarah Gillespie will see the light of day.

Peter’s website is here

Sarah’s artwork can be found on her site here