Erosion 2023

Words and drawings by Matt Cotten

Dirt roads + hills + rain = erosion. No pavement, and if so, poorly maintained, cracked and also eroded. Everywhere the surface was changing, crumbling to dust, washing away.

Gradients of color, broken edges quickly softened. Never straight lines, only gravity pulling water on paths of least resistance.

The cycle: dust, then rain and mud, then sun-dried plates with strong shadows, eventually worn down to dust again. While dust and mud, much of the erosion occurs. Here is the plate stage.

Reds, oranges from the iron in the laterite, blues from the strong shadows. 

Broken discarded items half buried in the mud sand. Covered and taking on the colors of dust. Never this organised but you see the quantity of useless plastic waste that is generated, used briefly and tossed to clutter the environment. Plastic bottles, plastic caps, torn shrink wrap, empty pill strips, scraps of synthetic fabrics ugly when new worse now, toothless combs, bristle-less brushes, phone-less broken phone covers.

Endless process. It was raining hard every day now. I’d walk down small roads and see new patterns each day: deeper and deeper furrows, garbage washed to the bottom of the hills, piles of sand accumulating in front of rocks, barriers. It was surprising that anything was left at the top of the hills after years and years of this erosion. I suppose the wind blew the dust back up to the top and the process started fresh.

At some point the road was impassable. They would bring in large machines, the first had teeth that tore up the crust, the second machine graded the broken soil, the third machine rolled the surface flat. The road was now smooth for a short time until erosion started the cycle again.

The cycle, a color version.

Water nearing the lake, accelerating downhill, deeper furrows. Layers of laterite colors exposed. 

I wanted to describe landscape in completely general terms, true and correct in detail but so non-specific that the place described could be anywhere. I avoided any trace of specific place or time. I was influenced by several writers: Alain Robbe-Grillet in the short novel La Jalousie, Paul Auster in Country of Last Things, and Samuel Beckett in the Malloy novels. There were others. 

A final erosion image before I risk boring the reader. We will be leaving this place in the next months, probably to environments with fewer hills, more concrete and paving, less sunshine and certainly less apparent daily erosion.

I am a virologist and biochemist with a long interest in painting and how ink and pigments  interact with paper and water. I have been lucky to have lived and worked in a variety of locations and I have kept a drawing diary of what I have seen through the years. See more at Ebolatent.

Categories: art, featured, memoir, Nature, Travel

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