Interview with Erin Schwab

Line Gallery: The drawings in your Migrating Colony series in terms of subject matter focus on tree fungi. Can you speak about what attracted you to this subject matter?

Erin Schwab: After I had finished my thesis work in Edmonton I was hired to teach at a College in Fort McMurray. Because my work revolves around natural forms found in the landscape the vocabulary around the work I was previously doing no longer seemed relevant in my new home. I had gone from flat farm land to Boreal forest, so it was like learning a new language in this alien environment. It took me a few years of wandering around in the woods before I found a form that spoke of the place. I’ve always been interested in creating icons out of natural forms that speak to the transitory aspects of nature, the mushrooms relationship to their environment satisfied my desire to capture the quite passing of something almost immeasurable. A relationship between forms that I feel privileged to witness.


LG: When we were installing your exhibition you told me about how the fungi are actually a sign that the tree is unwell. I found that interesting because it is as if these “specimens” are omens of what is to come, which is of course the death of the tree. This got me thinking about how your most recent drawing Flood, which is a definite shift from the fungi drawings, is equally dark and foreboding. Flood captures the aftermath of a flood, but I also think it highlights the potential for reoccurring destruction in our lives, as floods often happen again in the same locations. Have you been thinking of your work in this way and how are you thinking about the transition that has occurred in your work moving you towards Flood?

ES: It’s not that the tree is unwell; the tree is in a decline, getting older and dying. I guess I don’t see that as foreboding. I see that as renewal in a natural system. A healthy system is not one of endless bounty and uninterrupted life. There is no Eden. People tend to see signs of evil doing in natural processes like a tree dying, forest fires, hurricanes and floods. They look for the sin that caused the biblical plague. A flood or fire allows a forest to clear away waste, refresh the soil. We see ourselves so apart from nature, but maybe we are just another way of cleansing the system. Maybe we are a flood.