Issue 2: Making Conversation

On Memory

Exploring the possibility of preserving memory and containing emotion in the face of loss and grief


My practice, developed over the course of the MA, explores a number of different ideas that are inter-related but that I can move, or shift focus, between as I experiment with different methods, materials and contexts.  The threads that stitch these ideas together are landscape, memory and loss.

I use photographic images taken on my phone as the basis for my practice.  In the same way that a small object or image can encapsulate something vast, the split second of a photograph can capture something much larger – a place, a friendship, a phase of life, an era. Taking a digital photo is transient and ephemeral in the modern world, but it was not always thus. Translating an image through one of the printmaking processes counters the briefness of the moment captured and sets it against the long, involved methods for turning an image into a print on paper or some other surface.  This exploration of temporality, and transformation of a collection of pixels into something material and tangible, also allows me to spend time with the memory, strengthening it in my mind, potentially adding to it and changing it.  We know from psychology and neuroscience (Schacter, 1999) that memory is unreliable, fragile and fragmentary, and I see this process as a way of trying to reinforce and preserve my own memories, attempting to protect them from the passage of time.

Portscatho Beach, 2022

The deaths of both parents over the last few years has inevitably prompted grief, nostalgia, thoughts of my own mortality and reflections on memory. These have been both personal, with attendant implications of aging; as well as collective and familial – I find myself holding the ‘institutional memory’ of a family and the knowledge of family history and events that I should pass on to my own children.  In my practice, I have been using landscape as the prompt and inspiration for considering these emotions and reflections, because of a family tradition and history of walking, climbing and spending time in nature. And while there is a poignancy to these reflections, being in the landscape is also a source of a great deal of joy for me, giving me a sense of connection to, and of place within, a vast natural system.

In my practice, I am trying to make the intangible – feelings, memories, digital images – into something tangible and capable of being touched, held and examined.  As I reflected on this concept, I identified several avenues for exploration:

  • scale and ‘intimate immensity’ – encapsulating the vastness of the landscape in something which can be held in one’s hand and juxtaposing the personal with the universal;
  • containment – in particular in maps as a means of understanding a place and navigating it; and in books and boxes to preserve and protect memories, moments or objects, imparting a sense of something precious, fragile, important and intimate;
  • looking down – as the way we observe closely or engage with something held in our hands; and simultaneously as a way to avoid engagement – but also as a way to consider the unseen or overlooked, to notice what is often ignored and to watch where we place our feet.


Slate Granite Sandstone Limestone Chalk 2014, Richard Long

My starting point for research was artists that engage with the landscape in a non- figurative or representational way, particularly those for whom walking is an aspect of their practice. Artist Richard Long records walks in simple, sparetexts that describe the geology of the landscape he passes through; academic and printmaker Tracy Hill turns her deep and familiar knowledge of a place, gained through walking it, into complex drawings that suggest an essence of that place – what it is that distinguishes it from any other place, it’s haecceity; writer and artist Charlie Lee Potter, who explored embodied seeing and memory building through the concept of ‘fotminne’, of your feet retaining a memory of the places they have walked.  These artists helped me to think about how we carry a sense of a landscape and place with us; our cognitive experience and attachment continues, even when we are physically distant.

Standing Ash, 2017, Tracy Hill

I also began to think about the way that we pick up natural souvenirs of places – a shell or pebble from the beach; a fallen leaf or seedhead – as a totem or receptacle for the memory and experience.  Susan Stewart describes how these tiny objects create space for reflection – “…[it] skews the time and space relations of the everyday lifeworld, and as an object consumed, the miniature finds its ‘use value’ transformed into the infinite time of reverie.” (Stewart, 1993, p65) and how our bodies become a proximal landscape for an object that we hold in our hand, reflecting our own experience of being in the landscape.   She discusses these complementary yet contradictory aspects of the miniature and the gigantic:

“Our position here is the antithesis of our position in relation to the miniature; we are enveloped by the gigantic, surrounded by it, enclosed within its shadow… We move through the landscape, it does not move through us… Consequently, both the miniature and the gigantic may be described through metaphors of containment – the miniature as contained, the gigantic as container” (Stewart, 1993, p71).

I find this concept, this duality, particularly interesting – that something can be simultaneously profound and mundane or that something vast, even infinite, can be perceived in something tiny. 

Last Walk With Dad 2022

Intimate Immensity

Gaston Bachelard’s notion of ‘intimate immensity’ (Bachelard, 2014), recognises a direct relationship between the contradictions or opposing sides, rather than a need to resolve the paradox.  Bachelard recognises that the same concept or feeling can play out in a personal or intimate way at the same time as having universal or immense relevance; that the two sides are not in opposition or contradiction but are different facets or echoes of each other.  This captured a sense I had of, for example, an emotion being intensely personal but simultaneously widely recognised, a common experience. This applies as much to standing at the top of a hill you have just climbed as to experiencing the death of a loved one and, in terms of my practice, meant that even if my work was focused on moments that were wholly personal to me, it might touch a chord with the audience and elicit a similar recognition or recollection. 

I had been thinking about scale as a way to represent this duality, with Last Walk With Dad: a tiny box that would comfortably fit in a pocket, that acts for me as a memento of a person, a place and a particular moment in time, but also encapsulates universal ideas of family and loss, as well as the vast geological features of Malham Cove and Goredale Scar in Yorkshire. Bachelard’s intimate immensity gave me a concept and a focus for this aspect of my practice and I began to consider further playing with scale as a visual prompt for this idea.

Timelines 2021, Jannane Al-Ani

In her film Timelines, Jannane Al-Ani evokes an entire landscape from the microscopic texture of a brass tray made in what is now Iraq.  She describes this process as “taking an object and transforming it back into a landscape that looked something like the landscape it might have come from” (Testar, 2022).  The intimacy of viewing something through a microscope to perceive an immense landscape thus encapsulates a literal meaning of ‘intimate immensity’: the infinite within the infinitesimal.  This is what I had in mind with Resolve to Infinity, the film I made of the sea at Beer, Devon which I put into a box ‘for safekeeping’: the miniaturisation of the vast or gigantic, to make it portable; the translation of the uncontainable and constantly changing, into something that could be protected and preserved. 

Alongside, I showed 50° 55′ 33”, 0° 45′ 56” 08.02.23 which was a large- scale laser-etched relief print, also with the sea as its subject.  It was folded to evoke maps and cartography, to suggest the work involved in understanding experiences or memories and the idea of navigating our way back to a particular moment; and also, because the idea of containing vastness within something small is inherent in map making. 

Circumnavigation Vessels 1- 11  1592 2021 Loraine Rutt

The idea of referencing maps had been prompted by the work of Lorraine Rutt, another artist whose work relates to scale and place.  As well as being a ceramicist, Lorraine is a cartographer and geographer whose passion for maps started in childhood on family walks. Her miniature globes – of Earth and the Moon – can fit in the palm of the hand and she describes her globes as being an ‘analogue, grounded thing’ (Rutt, 2023) that she wanted to have the familiarity and weight of a pebble that you might pick up on the beach.  Pieces in her Mapping Space focus on creating a tangible representation of things that we cannot touch, like the stars or the surface of Moon. Loraine’s Encompass’d Circumnavigation Vessels were made to echo the sails of tall ships that enabled Europeans to ‘discover’ the far side of the world and, like large shells found on the beach, suggest the sound of the sea when held to one’s ear.  So her work touches on many of the ideas I had been exploring – creating tangible references to the intangible, containing vastness in smaller objects, and evoking familiar experiences of being in the landscape. 

Clouds, Reflected 2023

Loraine’s representations of landscapes and planets using maps led me to think about cartography as a way of understanding, capturing and navigating the landscape of my emotions and memories, particularly as I think about the effects of time on memory.  I had been experimenting with folding prints as a way to suggest landscape – even the folds themselves are named mountain or valley according to whether the fold occurs on the outside or the inside. A fold also has that essential element of duality inherent within it, which Delueze describes thus: “Folding-unfolding no longer simply means tension-release, contraction-dilation, but enveloping-developing, involution-evolution.” (Deleuze, 1993, p8-9).

The Miura fold is named after the Japanese astrophysicist who designed it and was the solution to two problems: that of pocket-sized maps that become unwieldy when unfolded and difficult to return to their portable size; but also the need for a simple but reliable folding mechanism that it is used in the solar arrays of global positioning satellites (a further connection to navigation).  It can be opened simply by pulling two diagonally opposite corners apart and refolded by pushing the same two corners together, but it also brings a print firmly into three dimensions and the pleasing geometry allows the light to play with the texture of and emboss in the paper.

Looking Down

A Couple of Hours on a Wednesday in February at the South Coast with the Sun and the Rising Tide, 2023

The phase boxes that I had used to contain the memories of time spent with my dad and a winter day on the beach were touching on book arts – they were devised for the protection of delicate or damaged books while the next steps in conservation or repair were decided on – and I found myself looking at book forms for my next exhibition work.  Books tend to be portable and capable of being held in one’s hands and yet they encompass whole worlds: “The metaphors of the book are metaphors of containment, of exteriority and interiority, of surface and depth, of covering and depth, of taking apart and putting together.” (Stewart, 1993, p37).  So the aspects of duality, of intimate immensity, that I was interested in are inherent in books, as well as in the emotions and experiences that my work was referencing.  A book form seemed conceptually appropriate, as well as giving me a more exaggerated geometry to play with. 

Books are clearly also tactile objects that we engage with through a form of hyper-focus, sometimes to the exclusion of the world around us – an echo of the miniature’s moments of reverie.  As we look down to be able to open the covers of a book and read its contents, or to examine an object we are holding, so, in the landscape, looking down becomes a way of seeing things that are not immediately obvious, that are hidden or overlooked. I realised that in my photographs of time spent in the landscape, I was not attempting to capture the scenic ‘sublime’, the vastness that puts humans in their rightful, awe-struck and insignificant, position in the universe, but was instead focusing in on new micro-vistas, hyper-focusing on the elements that make up landscape at ground level and beneath my feet.

Hito Steyerl discusses the increasing use of aerial photography as a counter to the notion of linear perspective that has dominated artistic practices since the Renaissance; and the importance historically of the horizon to navigation and one’s sense of place:

“This space defined by linear perspective is calculable, navigable, and predictable.  It allows the calculation of future risk, which can be anticipated, and, therefore, managed.  As a consequence, linear perspective not only transforms space, but also introduces the notion of a linear time, which allows mathematical prediction and, with it, linear progress.  This is the second, temporal meaning of perspective: a view onto a calculable future.” (Steyerl, 2012, p18)

Rejecting the view which relies on horizon and linear perspective means that I can seek to evoke, not a specific place or time, but a more general sense of an experience of landscape or moment.  Looking down in the work, and at the work, also conveys the tactile intimacy of holding an object in one’s hand and the cognitive intimacy of avoiding the rest of the world.

Flipper 2015 Fay Ballard

The artist Fay Ballard responded to the death of her father and the task of clearing her childhood home by producing beautifully detailed drawings of some of the objects she found.  Through this hyper-focus, she was able to engage with her loss, grief and nostalgia to make a record of the objects, whether common place or peculiar, that were so resonant. This was another aspect to the small pocket-sized pieces that I had been making, creating my own evocative objects that could figuratively protect and preserve the memory as well as conjuring it; that would sit in the hand, encouraging intimacy both through their miniature scale and through the act of looking down.


My piece of for the MA Show, Liminal Immanent, used an image looking down at a small patch of shoreline on the South Coast. It was printed on to a soft, lightweight Japanese paper so that I could achieve an element of emboss within the image to heighten the haptic and tactility of the prints.  This meant that the structure needed support to hold its form, but I discovered that even with the support, the effects of time and gravity were softening the structure and causing it droop.  This resonated with my feelings about memory – its fragility and unreliability, the deterioration of its function as age advances – and led me to think about the efforts to reinforce and preserve memories that my earlier works had centred on, and whether those efforts were ultimately in vain. 

From the task of clearing out my own father’s house after his death, I had found myself with a large box full of photographs that he had taken – mostly of landscape or of the locations of his many travels.  I had been wanting to experiment with photo emulsion as a way to develop images on to some of the porcelain tiles I had been making – a variation on the pocket-sized evocative object – and my dad’s negatives gave me a helpful shortcut into using the dark room facilities.  It was also a surprisingly moving and cathartic experience to develop these images, taken 20 years or more ago, and a form of collaboration that I had not anticipated.  My inexperience with the process meant that the outcomes were imperfect, but in fact I found them to be apposite representations of the ideas around degradation of memory, decay and entropy: a visual refutation of my intention of preserving and protecting for the future.


I have described my practice of creating tangible objects from intangible feelings, memories, and digital photographs of the landscape. In my research, I have been investigating concepts and methods pertaining to landscape and memory, such as scale, containment, looking down, and walking. My practice has been influenced by artists who engage with the landscape in non-figurative or representational ways, especially those who use walking as a mode of comprehending and articulating a place. These artists have helped me reflect on the ways in which I retain a sense of a place and time – and the people with me  – even when I am physically or materially distanced. I make pieces to function as vessels for my memories and experiences, drawing on Susan Stewart’s and Gaston Bachelard’s theories of the miniature and the gigantic, and how they relate to the paradoxes and dualities of landscape and memory. These intriguing concepts describe the paradoxes of memory and landscape, and how something vast can be perceived – contained even – in something that can be held in the palm of the hand. I will continue to explore ideas around memory and impermanence, using tactility and materiality to produce work that invites close examination and handling and seeks to elicit recollection or recognition of experiences and emotions that are simultaneously unique and commonplace; individual and universal; intimate and immense.

Untitled, 2023

Slate Granite Sandstone Limestone Chalk, 2014, Richard Long in situ dimensions variable–7/artwork/slate-granite-sandstone-limestone-chalk

Standing Ash, 2017, Tracy Hill 96 x 59cm Intaglio on Somerset

still from Timelines 2021, Jannane Al-Ani

Circumnavigation Vessels 1- 11  1592 2021 Loraine Rutt

Flipper, 2015, Fay Ballard


Bachelard, G., Jolas, M., Danielewski, M.Z. and Kearney, R. (2014) The Poetics of Space. East Rutherford, UNITED STATES: Penguin Publishing Group.

Bain, I. The Miura-Ori map British Origami. Available at: (Accessed: Oct 29, 2023).

Deleuze, G. (1993) The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. London: Athlone Press.

Freyfogle, E.&.F., S (2023) Geomob Podcast – 166. Loraine Rutt: Physical Geography. Available at: (Accessed: 26/10/23).

Hill, T (2019) ‘Matrix of Movement and Haecceity: Walking in Spatiotemporal Landscapes’, Living Maps Review, available at accessed 18th October 2022

Jay, M. (1993) Downcast eyes: the denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought. Berkeley, California, London: University of California Press.

Maleuvre, D. (2011) The horizon: a history of our infinite longing. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Schacter, D. L. (1999). The seven sins of memory: Insights from psychology and cognitive neuroscience. American Psychologist, 54(3), 182–203.

Stewart, S (1993) On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection Durham,NC: Duke University Press

Steyerl, H. (2012) The wretched of the screen. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

About the author

Eleanor Street is a London-based visual artist, working in print, sculpture and painting.  She uses images of landscape to explore memory and emotions, particular grief arising from the loss of both parents. She uses photographs from individual moments and places, often with specific people, as the basis for her print work, translating those images through different processes as a way of capturing and preserving memories and navigating and containing unruly emotions.

Eleanor completed an MA in Fine Art Printmaking at UAL Camberwell in November 2023.