Winds blowing in from the southwest, end ofJune 2020. A short video with an animistic theme.
Recently I chatted via Zoom with artist Andy Walmsley from The Artistry House.
Thank you Andy for your insight and suppoprt.
You can see the full series of interviews with other Lancashire based artists at Youtube.
A short film about a museum gallery project I undertook in Northampton. An area of the UK with a long tradition of shoe making.
It’s an audio detective story – a series of haptic, acoustic encounters designed to stimulate imagination and heighten awareness of the body in motion.
Listen, see what you hear…
For technical reasons unknown, I can’t seem to embed the full stereo version – it’s at Vimeo here
And you can see more projects from my archive here
As I began sweeping up, I saw another way of working: aided by my broom, Pareidolia, the spirit of Guiseppe Archimboldo and the serendipity of a windless, sunny day …
A way to loosen up, experiment with texture, explore gestural mark making and trial the possibilities of new paint or drawing techniques…
See more about this and other projects at AA2A here
In this series of practical trials, I’ve been responding to the emotional affect of isolation and the shock of changes to normality caused by the impact of Covid 19.
I limited myself to a lockdown discipline of using found materials that came readily to hand, and to referencing words or text that became intensely familiar, imprinted on my mind by the news media. This was in part a personal challenge to try out new methods, and by interpreting meaning, metaphor and feelings via the material qualities of random finds, I aimed to process shock, loss and sadness and to try to make some sense out of crisis.
I have found this craft based method mindful and soothing and it has helped isolation feel almost purposeful: a creative practice in its own right. Outcomes are also taking the form of more abstract, symbolic representations of contagion, vulnerability, frailty and the social impact of health and illness.
Working outdoors brought opportunities to observe and integrate evidence of time passing and to record the earthly ephemerality of weather, light and shadow in the photographs.
There is so much we don’t understand and have little control over.
I hoped that a contemplative practice, working with my hands, combining text and found, organic materials would reveal deeper, more universal or emotionally sensitive insights than those communicated by quantitative data, the clinical aesthetic of medical science, or the superficiality of media soundbites.
One of Outdoor Art School’s activities that got away! Cancelled due to the lockdown.
A temporary land art project, timed to celebrate the energy of spring in April 2020, in Winckley Square Gardens, Preston. UK
Our plan was to create a large scale ‘cut grass’ drawing in the central area of Winckley Square. Two visuals from the project’s initial proposal, shown here. The overhead view, gives an impression of the intended scale of the ‘drawing’.
Many thanks to Tony Lewis, Park Warden, for his input and encouragement.
Throughout the arts of the world, this animal’s spirit has been widely interpreted to symbolise resurrection, rebirth, creativity, hope, good luck, nature’s abundance, fertility, motion, optimism and imagination. This includes the ‘Easter Bunny’, a familiar folkloric figure and symbol of Easter, who brings gifts of multi-coloured Easter eggs to children. As a spatial artwork in the outdoors, the leaping rabbit will be visible from many angles, heights and locations in and around the Square, at different times of the day, in sunlight and in shadow, as though ‘alive’ and moving across the undulating ground.
We wanted it to act as a playful yet thought provoking reminder of seasonal sentiments, and also that humans share the earth with many other creatures and forms of life. The silhouette would gradually disappear as the grass regrows and re-greens, just as the earth’s seasons change imperceptibly over time.
The project’s title is a reference to a lyrical description celebrating life, written by the innovative poet, painter and playwright, E. E. Cummings, (1894 – 1962).
We will develop another, even better idea for next Easter!
The global pandemic is bringing our attention to how much we are part of nature and that we ignore this at our peril.
The shock of the coronavirus lockdown hasn’t involved a change of office or studio location for me, as I’ve been working from home for several years. But of course, it has changed so much else.
Social distancing has radically altered the logistics of organising group art workshops, at least for the foreseeable future. Projects I’d already planned, have been cancelled or postponed. To stay positive in adversity, I saw that the lockdown could provide Outdoor Art School with opportunities for R&D: to review, revise and re-invent. So I decided to use the current restrictions as my ‘creative brief’.
I am very lucky to live in walking distance of Preston’s beautiful Avenham and Miller Parks, and I’ve been going there on my own most days for a brief interlude, to get some fresh air and exercise in the ephemeral qualities of the open space, alongside the river Ribble.
The weather has been so amazing the last couple of weeks, blue skies, trees bursting into leaf, spring flowers and blossom all around, sunlight sparkling on the water, birds singing their hearts out. I saw people walking alone and together, or running, cycling, pushing buggies, and exercising their dogs. From a distance, the scene had the appearance of a utopian paradise, where people seemed almost gliding, carefree, looking around and soaking up the atmosphere, with myriad shades of green surrounding them.
As I move through the park, I try to empty my mind of distracting worries, and see what catches my attention. I’ve been using my phone’s camera as a tool, to compose and capture a frame: an interpretation. Then a theme develops, and I make a series of images, as I go along.
The knack is simply ‘to ask’ and be open to what presents itself. It’s one of the techniques I’ve developed for channeling intuition: to bring ideas into awareness via the unconscious. It’s very soothing, grounding, a way to feel connected to the surrounding landscape. I’ve found it can reveal answers to questions, or open up new areas of expression. Imaginative interpretation and metaphor are influential with in the translation process.
In this particular lockdown exercise, I am using the hybrid, human-nature environment of the park and the sensory experience of being there, as materials to think with and learn from.
Intuition gives outlook and insight; it revels in the garden of magical possibilities, as if they were real.”
A couple of weeks back, I mostly saw divisions, isolation, grills and locks, seeming to convey tensions between safety and freedom. (Some examples in the first line of the composite below.)
On a later visit I picked up on traces of past events, like last winter’s floods, and how these have merged into the landscape to become memories: still present, but slowly eroding. I was reminded that the landscaping of the park created work for unemployed cotton workers during the Lancashire Cotton Famine. This deep sense of continuity and recovery was comforting; it helped me to re-calibrate and begin to accept the loss of normality. (Second line of images)
At the weekend the mood of the park/my mood, had changed again. This time I saw radiating plant structures, the connectivity of leaf veins and tree shadows reaching out, visible yet intangible. Shadows are good to think with as they reveal another side of life, just as real but so often ignored. Afterwards, looking at the images again, back indoors, I thought the shadows were directing me to explore tactility and alternative ways to connect and be together. I wondered about the ways that communication technology/web design could be made more tactile, comforting and sustaining, reaching out to the senses via audio and texture that can be felt, as well as imagery, colour and text. More of what the Danes call ‘hygge’.
I aim that my lockdown insights will be influential in the development of Outdoor Art School’s future activities, learning from nature together and apart, by encouraging ways to look at things differently.
Blog post written for Creative Lancashire series: ‘Creatives in Residence #02′ 01.05.2020
Literally in touch with nature.
Started out as digging, weeding in the garden and then my green fingers took over and made it into something else. The plant life showed me the way to go.
Good to feel connected to the earth through craft, making my Easter bonnets! Enjoyable, soothing, mindful, and making lockdown more bearable and a creative time.
Smiling is part of the neural mechanism that enables us to feel happy.