Joanna Kirk: Magma Rising

Joanna Kirk is a British artist who creates large-scale pastel paintings voicing the female perspective, from motherhood to solitary adventure.

For the last two years, her paintings have been partly developed by flying drones to film herself alone, amid forested mountains or rock-crashing seas.

The Demented Goddess invited Joanna to write on some of her favourite pieces on the themes of risk, adventure and feminine self-image.

These pieces, completed in 2018, belong to a series I’ve been working on for over two years. They draw from the idea of the figure in landscape being a much broader concept than we think. In order to see how far I could stretch this, I deployed in Malta a drone and researched as much of the footage I shot as I could, using both myself and my children as characters, as well as different topographies, such as land and sea, fertile/infertile terrain.

In some, we have the figures themselves, in others just their shadow to ‘paint’ the landscape, ‘brush’ it. After this, I build and build in the isolation of where I work layer upon layer of pastel, pure sediment, if you like, like the earth itself sometimes, as if reclaiming the landscape as my own, ‘owning’ it as a woman. I have also been using mountains a lot, in Wales, in Iceland: my recent endeavours are very much about solitude and nature.

The first three, below, from this year – no one has seen these in the flesh yet, though ‘Floating Above Me in Bluest Air’ will be showing at Blain|Southern in Berlin this summer.

‘Magma and the Boy’, 2018

138 x 196 cm

Pastel on Paper on Aluminium Board

The shadow of my son can be seen in the bottom right hand corner here, possibly on some kind of journey. I feel the maternal gaze kicking in here. Always connected, the eternal connection between a mother and child, which, in a way, there is no escaping from.

‘Shadow of the Divine Imperfection’, 2018

138 x 196 cm

Pastel on paper on Aluminium Board

This is another aerial image, or ‘vertiginous landscape’ as curator and director Craig Burnett at Blain|Southern calls it. I am the shadow on the left here. There is that line separating me from the rest of the image. I really felt free and on my own doing these images. It was, for me, a genuine adventure. The sky was the limit.

‘Floating Above Me in Bluest Air’

138 x 196 cm

Pastel on Paper on Aluminium Board


This last of the aerial images takes its title from a Sylvia Plath poem. Some of the footage has me ramming close and sometimes against jagged rocks. There was a real swell further out and I just lay there in the water with a real sense of danger while directing the person with the drone.


‘Throne’, 2014

Pastel on Paper on Board

168 x 264 cm

This might convey solitude in the extreme. I sometimes see myself as the tree stump in the foreground, the ‘throne’. My child is looking on from behind, perhaps, fleeting, indecipherable. I see the ‘throne’ as a regal, beautiful object, but dying, if you like, like all of us.

Joanna Kirk is showing 7 July – 15 September 2018 as part of ‘Doodle & Designo’ at Blain|Southern, Potsdamer Straße 77–87 (Mercator Höfe), 10785 Berlin +49 (0)30 6449 31510

HOURSTuesday to Saturday: 11am – 6pm


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