Gun Hill

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Despite the fact that it has rained just about everyday for the last few weeks the paths along the edge of the marsh are dry. In winter they are permanently wet and muddy – too muddy to walk along without wellies. However the irregular intervals of warm sun and wind at this time of year, coupled with a week of small tides, means that the paths have dried out to a crazy paving of cracked mud and they are now negotiable.

I reach the hut (portacabin) where I was hoping to sit and draw but someone is there before me, perched on a convenient ledge, face up to the sun and quietly enjoying the heat. This is a favourite spot and I have sat here and drawn many times. I move on and find a dry, sand-pebbled spot at the end of the point overlooking the Scolt Head channel.

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The tide is out and there are many birds poking about in the mud. A group of oystercatchers chirp continuously with their ‘peeping’ call. They run around on short, red legs and then suddenly rise up, black and white stripy wings flashing in the light, only to land a few yards away, to continue feeding, talking and bickering – a typical family.

A streak of white comes in from the left and lands. Elegant legs and a crooked neck. A little egret stands out brightly against the dark mud. These egrets are a common sight here now on the marshes. At this distance I can’t see its bright yellow feet.

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Gulls wheel on the thermals and a skylark rises up from the dunes behind me. Its melodious song strengthens as it flaps its wings and climbs higher and higher. It is still singing half an hour later as I get up and walk on.

Cley16

For the past couple of days I have been at St Margaret’s church, Cley-next-the-Sea, helping to get the Cley16 exhibition off the ground. Today I hung my large suspended work, Curlew Song.

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I have been working on this piece for the best part of four months and it has been a stupendous effort to get it done on time. Because of its large size (350 x 150 cms) I haven’t been able to get a proper sense of its scale and proportion. Hanging in my studio it seemed enormous, but I knew that in the vast, airiness of the tall church aisle it was likely to get lost and I felt very nervous this morning as we suspended the pole, slung the cloth over it and hoisted it aloft.

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I think it’s ok. There are other works around it (a 6m tall dress, a swan in flight and an angel)  and it feels right. The open, drawn thread work reflects the black leadwork of the latticed glass windows that line run top and bottom all down the side of the church. The large, sewn rings provide ‘holes’ through which there is a clear view to the other works and the beautiful architecture of the church. It has been made so that it can be viewed from either side. It moves back and forth gently in the breeze from the open door. Yes, I think I’m pleased.

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You can read some of the background to this piece here and here.

The exhibition starts next week on 7 July and runs for a month until 7 August at St Margaret’s Church, Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.

Right …. I’ve got to get on with the work for the Knitting and Stitching Shows in the autumn now …. I’ve a busy summer ahead!

 

 

Exhibitions

I have work in two exhibitions that are showing over the summer.

The first exhibition is The 62 Group exhibition, Making Space at The Silk Museum, Macclesfield which opens on 17 June and runs until 3 September.

Holed Cloth 1 and Holed Cloth 2 are wall hung works. They are both made from one long piece of folded cotton duck that has had iron rings sewn into it and then soaked in a saturated salt solution for about 6 weeks.

‘A hole is just a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. I have made holes in cloth to give form to space and to make visible the invisible’.

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The second is CLEY16 , a group exhibition at St, Margaret’s Church, Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. It is from 7 July until 7 August, 10am-5.30.

I have two works in this exhibition that are inspired by vividly remembered engagements with the North Norfolk coast and explore how I can communicate visible and non-visible processes such as light, movement, sound, rhythm, erosion and regeneration.

Curlew Song notates the call of a curlew: a low drawling sound that rises to an eerie, trilling, bubbly ripple. This is a large, suspended work that can be viewed from either side. It measures 350 x 150 cms and consists of one large cloth (300 x 350 cms) that hangs double, over a long varnished spar.

Here are a couple of details.

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Molluscs are objects from my imagination that could well have been found on the strand line – the threshold between the land and the sea. 40 salt, encrusted ‘tubes’ stand upright, partially buried in sand.

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Starfish

Cley beach is a place I love to walk. It has everything: birds to watch, proper rolling waves and pebbles and stones to collect, but it is particularly special when something unexpected appears along the shoreline.

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On a sunny day a few weeks ago the receding tide stranded hundreds of orange starfish high and dry on the shingle. At first I thought they were all dead, but closer inspection showed that some were still alive as tiny tentacles were moving about slowly on their undersides. I carefully picked one up to throw it back into the sea (possibly a futile exercise as the waves would probably fling it back). It was bigger than my hand and its arms were fleshy, muscular and stiff  and surprisingly heavy.

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I imagine that the heavy water of a storm at sea must have lifted them from their feeding grounds on mussel beds and washed them all ashore. It is sad to see so many creatures tossed out of their natural habitat and I wondered if they would stay alive until the next high water when the tide might carry them back out to sea.

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The Common Starfish – Asterias Rubens –  can grow up to 30cms in diameter. It has five stout arms and the amazing ability to regenerate if an arm is lost. The lost limb can grow back completely within a year. If a part of the central disc comes away with the arm, that arm can, incredibly, become a new fully functioning starfish.

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Seeing so many starfish on the shore reminded me of this,

‘.… when she saw the shimmering pattern of orange stars, she thought the world was upside down and the heavens finally within reach.’

From a Year of Marvellous Ways, Sarah Winman.

I like the idea of sea stars dotting the shoreline like the night sky.

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A week of documenting: Cornwall – Day 7

Day 7: The Lizard Point and Kynance Cove

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I write one word in capital letters in my sketchbook – GEOLOGY?

I don’t know enough about this subject, but all week I have been looking at, climbing over and collecting rock and stones and I need to find out more.

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Rock formations – Lizard Point

The one thing I know about the Lizard Peninsula is that it is made up of serpentine rock. My grandmother had a serpentine lighthouse on the windowsill and similar can still be bought today from a man who carves and polishes the stone in a beautifully painted, white, wooden hut at the southerly most tip of England. The stone has a greenish or red mottled hue and my book The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis tells me that the pebbles are ‘usually ovoids and they possess a wax-like lustre. To touch them after the removal of their coating is to become aware of a sensation that can best be described as caressing.’   Of course I know this for myself because at Kynance Cove I couldn’t resist picking up a beautifully striped green ovoid pebble of my own to take home.

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Rocks at Kynanace Cove  (waves, roar, hot sun)      

A week of documenting: Cornwall – Day 6

Day 6: Zennor

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Not many words today – just a small painting done on the headland at Zennor with Gurnard’s Head and Pendeen Watch in the background. We had just walked for 3 hours towards St Ives and back the same way – I say walk, but it was more of a scramble and hard work – I was, frankly, exhausted!

All along this coast from St. Ives to St. Just are signs of Cornwall’s industrial past: There are many disused buildings and edifices and terraces and holes that indicate the man-made ways and exits of tin and copper mining. I know nothing about the past of this place and I know that I can never understand this landscape without knowledge of its history. For the time being I can only look and appreciate its surface.

A week of documenting: Cornwall – Day 5

Day 5: The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

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In searingly bright sunshine the enclosed sub-tropical garden of Barbara Hepworth’s Trewyn Studio feels more like the Mediterranean than Cornwall. With such strong light the shadows seem deep and dark and the reflections on the shiny metal are heightened to a sharp, dazzling white. My gaze is continuously drawn through openings and gaps that frame the view beyond. Sculpture frames sculpture, sculptural plants frame hard, metal sculpture and branches frame glimpses of the sea and sky beyond the perimeter of the garden walls.

I take lots of photos but after that I just sit on a stone bench in the middle of the garden and take it all in. This was a working space and by placing her sculpture outside in the garden Barbara Hepworth would have been able to see them change in all lights and weathers – it must have been a great source of inspiration.

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