Red Dust : 2013

Notes from the ochre quarries of Provence

Drawings in the book began as a series of notes and scribbles – begun on walks to help me think through and separate the pattern of colours I saw in the earth. Later, I continued drawing on screen, adding and layering fragments of photos, text and maps – remembering texture, heat and sounds – and most of all the colour.

I began to design the book in 2013 and made further modifications to the text, adding to the images in 2015/2016

In the the department of the Vaucluse in Provence is the Massif des ochres du Luberon. The cliffs of the quarries, exposed through industrial scale extraction of ochre in the past, reveal an unbelievable range of bright earth colours – tints and shades of carmine, scarlet, gold and orange amongst creamy white chalk.

The natural yellow pigment is found in seams in the rock – and in Roussillon and Rustrel was dug mechanically on the surface, resulting in the deep quarries. In Gargas, the miners followed the seams underground, creating a labyrinthine system of tunnels.

Raw ochre is separated from the rock by washing and drying, then is burnt to extend the range of yellow hues into red.

Raw ochre can still be found while walking through the old quarries, where the crumbling seams of red iron oxide and yellow pigment, exposed in the face of the cliff, dust the path and the air, clinging to shoes and clothes.