At the beginning of this year, just after the first lockdown began, I was supposed to be having an exhibition of new work here at the Art Gallery in Wells. Unfortunately, lockdown happened and it was postponed. For various reasons, and the fact that everything is so uncertain at the moment, I am unable to reschedule it in the near future.
I have been wracking my brain as to what to do. I am still hoping to find a gallery to show this new body of work soon, but in the meantime I am going to do what others are doing and just show some of the works to you digitally here on my blog. In the New Year, I hope that there will be a new publication with writing and photographs as well.
I have called the whole body of work Fragments and it is a response to diverse recollections of my experience of walking the coast, both during the day and at night. I have created word-sketches, drawings, 2-D and 3-D textile works that explore evidence of natural phenomena and the continuous, and often infinitesimal processes of change that transform the landscape and the objects in it.
At the heart of this work are words that I have written. In the essay at the beginning of the book I say, ‘At first, I just write down words as I recall, and try to articulate the experience. Nothing fancy, just a stream of narrative consciousness. But very soon I find myself trying to find a different, or better word. I move words around. I cut words out. I simplify. I compose. My aim is to find an expression that is the essence of the experience.’
The first two pieces I am going to show you today are titled Day Moon and Night Walking. They highlight two really very obvious phenomena, things that you will probably have noticed yourselves, but the two works came about when I questioned what I was looking at and didn’t fully understand what was happening or I was seeing. Curiosity, I find, is one of my fundamental criteria to making work.
Norfolk Fragment: Day Moon
The first week of January.
For the past week, around midday, I have been watching the moon rise.
Hanging low in the sky a slivered crescent has slowly grown
to its present bloated, waxing gibbous state.
In a few days, after the full moon, the pale day moon
will again become a luminous night moon.
Question – I always think of the moon as being in the sky at night, so why exactly do I see it during the day? I didn’t know, so I looked it up. The answer?
- Half of the moon’s surface is always illuminated by the sun.
- It takes 27.3 days for the moon to make a complete orbit around the Earth (sidereal period)
- It takes 29.5 days to for the moon to appear in the same phase in the sky (orbital period)
- The moon goes through 8 phases in the orbital period
- At the start of the cycle, when closest to the sun, the moon is hidden by the brightness of the sun and disappears for 3 days before it appears again as a New Moon.
- The only phase that the moon is in the sky all night is the Full Moon when it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. After that the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. (which is why we see the moon during the day).
The second piece that works very well alongside Day Moon is called Night Walking.
Norfolk Fragment: Night Walking – Betelgeuse
The beach bank, wrapped in darkness,
Catch at the back of your nose cold and very, very clear.
Looking north, away from the sodium glare of the town,
more and more stars are revealed
as my eyes become accustomed to the dark.
To the west, an indistinct smudge of light above is the Milky Way,
Orion’s spear is clear and bright beneath his three-starred belt
and W-shaped Cassiopeia.
To the north the Plough.
And then a star falls, and another, and again,
out of the corner of my eye in my peripheral vision,
another falling star and another.
Five shooting stars in a row are a rare treat.
Question – what stars am I looking at?
Night Walking simply satisfies my curiosity as to what stars I am looking at when I look up. It highlights Betelgeuse, the red star, and you can see it just above Orion’s Belt in the Orion constellation. It is the rusty red eyelet.
The slightly larger eyelet below and to the left is Sirius or the Dog Star. It is in the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest star in the night sky.