Loraine Rutt: Landmarks
Born in Wimbledon in 1962, cartography has always been central to Loraine Rutt’s work. Age 16, she joined Birkbeck University where she provided mapping services to the Geography Department then, in her mid-20s, she attended Central St Martins to study ceramics and has produced cartographic artworks in porcelain since then. ‘Landmarks’ highlights a selection of the intriguing limited edition globes and wall reliefs that are inspired by satellite data, astronaut observations, historic cartography and social research.
Holding an eighteenth century pocket globe, Rutt was struck not only by the exquisite craftsmanship required to make this “perfect piece of jewellery” but also its sense of history: Who had the globe belonged to? Had it travelled the world in the pocket of its owner? What stories might it tell? Rutt was inspired to create her own miniature pocket globes: “I wanted to make tiny globes as beautiful as I can and as accurate as I can so that other people can use them to tell their stories.”
Over the raised areas, exaggerated to illustrate the natural topography, the beautiful porcelain globes are hand-painted and hand-scribed with the continents, major rivers and lines of longitude and latitude; encased in hand-turned oak their celestial interiors depict Northern and Southern Hemisphere constellations. In showing the beauty of the Earth’s natural topography, Rutt hopes it will encourage people to engage with the environment, treasure the planet and recognise it for what it is: “a jewel, a gem.” To display larger globes, she recently created a contemporary version of the Emery Molyneux frame: translucent Perspex etched with a map of communication satellites. The globes can be personalised - adding gold lustre dots connected by arcs - to tell stories of journeys taken, lives lived and loved ones’ locations. Two globes recently entered the private collection of Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot, Colonel Al Worden who, to Rutt’s delight, Tweeted: “What you do is brilliant!”
Inspired by Charles Booth’s Victorian poverty maps, Rutt created the Modern Booth series: porcelain wall reliefs illustrating the distribution of wealth in contemporary London. Rather than mapping the city by its built environment – streets, parks and buildings - Rutt focuses on the landscape and geography of London. Basing the reliefs on contour maps, she reveals how the London Basin influenced the city’s evolution, for example, prime property is often in geographically elevated locations, such as Hampstead, Blackheath and Dulwich. Identifying these elevations through raised layers of porcelain, Rutt then applies colour, in the form of 18-karat gold or blue enamel, to illustrate areas of London where relative poverty sits adjacent to areas of extreme wealth.
Recognising that the standard Mercator map distorts the size of objects as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles, Rutt created ‘Segment’: a porcelain wall relief map of the world in 24-parts (gores) that more accurately represents the sizes of countries and continents. A scale topographic map featuring the major mountain ranges and rivers, individually framed, the parts can be moved around to enable locations other than those along the Prime Meridien to be at the centre of the map. Rutt feels that ‘Segment’ reflects the modern world where regions are separating, boundaries are being erected and communities are increasingly divided.
Future projects include a wall relief with dotted trails illustrating the passage of the International Space Station, a cross-section of mountains reminiscent of soil core samples, and works inspired by historic cartographers Marie Tharp, who mapped the ocean floor, and Phyllis Pearsall, who compiled the first A-Z London street map.
Loraine Rutt: 'Landmarks' exhibition booklet (Tag Fine Arts)