John Gerrard’s Leaf Work (Derrigimlah) (2020) presents a lone figure, draped in leaves, moving across an empty landscape. As they slowly move, day turns to night, and seasons changes. The last, or perhaps the only one of their kind, this figure seems consigned to walk for eternity through this landscape. In times of escalating climate crisis they walks mournfully – head down and shoulders slumped – as if in sorrow.
In order to create these images, the artist used the same digital technologies employed by video-game designers. The result is hyperreal – soaring sunsets, leaves that rise and fall with the figure’s movement and opulent clouds dazzle viewers to The Cutaway. Commercial video games today regularly present players with breathtakingly gorgeous, living and breathing worlds of natural beauty; many of them modelled from real environments found around the world. In the space of one generation, as players immerse themselves in these virtual worlds, the real places from which they are inspired slowly cease to exist in real time, under the stress of ecological crisis. In this way, John Gerrard’s Leaf Work functions as a reminder and monument to loss, both in its subject matter and in the materials used to make it.