The Spanish term sobremesa translates in English as ‘upon (or about) the table’, and is a tradition of sitting around the dining table and enjoying conversation after a hearty meal. Earlier this year, I printed the surface of my dining table and this felt like a gateway into bringing together the histories and materialities of two very different locations that are entangled in my life: West Yorkshire and Lanzarote. I became a mother in Lanzarote and feel embedded in its landscape, however, a series of unexpected events returned me back to my childhood home in rural West Yorkshire. Here, I live in an imaginary world of Lanzarote, exploring my relationship to both of these places from the position of motherhood and living in an epoch of time defined by climate crisis and the destruction of the natural world. I find the melancholy of this post-industrial landscape inescapable, and my work always seems to communicate a sense of loss, absence or dislocation, made manifest in the separation of the domestic from the wild and the isolation of late stage capitalism. Utopian ideas, simulations and fantasies fill these empty spaces. I feel the need to engage in a geological sensuality - perhaps a kind of romance or poetry - to recuperate and reconcile the different materialities and processes that contribute to a sense of place. There is an analogy to finding fossils or archeological artefacts buried in layers of strata akin to memories, sedimented and eroded through creative practice. I’m interested in the garden as a site of social and sculptural mediation between people, landscapes, ecology and systems of dwelling, nurture and preservation. I made this installation, Sobremesa, as a hybrid site for telling stories about encounters within my maternal stratum of the Anthropocene.


Sobremesa /The Night Sky

A relief print of my dining table, which has great significance for me since becoming a mother, as almost everything I do with my family and my creative practice happens there. Within this print, the trace of our different activities is exposed, like a document or family cosmology, and is also a window into an imaginary universe.

Sobremesa / Fetishes

My daughter and I took these dead palm leaves and sand from our last trip to Lanzarote. They are symbols of our separation anxiety, like vessels holding the feelings we sometimes can’t contain. A topographical outline of the Yorkshire valley where we currently live hangs above them.

Sobremesa / West Yorkshire Soco (failure to progress in labour )

I planted a Canarian Drago tree from seed when my daughter was born, to remind her of her origins in the Canary Islands. The sapling couldn’t survive in our garden in West Yorkshire and died at 5 years old. Furthermore, I could not give birth naturally to my daughter; we needed technology to save our lives. The coal wall is a recreation of a traditional agricultural necessity in Lanzarote called a soco, built from lava to protect crops from the relentless tradewinds. I used my body’s weight in coal to speak of this particular layer of earth that lies deep under my house, enabling the industrial revolution and significantly contributing to our current environmental crisis. I wanted to honour my maternal failure and entanglement in industry via the ritual of mummifying the dead sapling in Yorkshire wool.

Sobremesa / Overflow (heterotopia)

Ferns created coal when they decomposed 300 million years ago in subtropical lagoons around the Yorkshire region, when the British Isles was closer to the equator (not too far from where Lanzarote is currently located). The clay cornucopia form is a simulacra of a Victorian bellmouth overflow from a reservoir near where I grew up. As a child, the overflow frightened me; now I see it as a symbol uniting industry and motherhood.

Sobremesa / Monolith

The volcano is a source of fear and fascination, and since going through the birthing process, I see it as a metaphor and monument to the mother’s body.

Sobremesa / Moonshine (sad son)

I associate the colour orange with Lanzarote and the streams where I grew up that are tinted by iron from the mines and peat from the moors.

Sobremesa / Holding Hands

Lava stone from Lanzarote, cast in my hands.

Sobremesa / Mother’s Tears

Toilet roll and mascara.

Sobremesa / origins: i e a o u

In 2014, I was working as a gallery assistant at The Henry Moore Institute and murmured this song along to Dennis Oppenheim’s Echo, a video piece that was being projected in one of the galleries at the time. The video’s sounds made me think of the landscape of Lanzarote: dry, empty, orange and surrounded by ocean. The other sound recordings were made years later on the island, woven into the gallery soundscape.

© Clare Carter
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