Part of the MA Art & Material Histories MATERIAL MATTERS collaborative project

In January 2021, Robin James Sullivan and Maddie Rose Hills began speaking about china clay resulting in a conversation which has continued over six months. Sullivan has lived in Cornwall, a stone’s throw from the clay districts for most of his life. He is a research based artist whose latest project is a five month public programme exploring the area’s rich 6000 year history.

Hills is a visitor, learning about these landscapes from the outside. She is an artist, curator and researcher, her current practice focuses on the study of materials and their contexts.

Communicating in an online document, Sullivan and Hills ‘volleyed’ thoughts about the industry. A multi time-scaled conversation between past and present selves, responding to questions and thoughts from the future. To dig into the earth is to reunite the past with the present. Ancient layers of rock sediment from the bottom of the quarry sit at the top of waste tips, flipping time on its head – this material reality of the china clay quarries of Cornwall formed a model for this revisionist and a-chronological dialogue.