Tag Archives: memory

Painting

Looking through the catalogue of work that I have made this year I notice that I have done more watercolour paintings than anything else.

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Painting is something I enjoy. If the weather is good I will take paints and paper and walk to a place outside; if it is raining, I’ll paint in the studio, from memory.

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Painting gives me two things: an exploration of mark making and materials – in this case paint and paper; and it gives me the opportunity to consider something that is becoming increasingly important when I make work – that ambiguous space between an experience and how I may evoke it, either immediately or later. These ideas feed each other as I paint.

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A painting comes from my manipulation of materials to exploit their specific properties. How does paint move around paper? What tools should I use to move it around? What marks can I make? How much water should I use? It is a process that is largely intuitive and each time I squeeze paint onto a palette and pick up a paint brush something different happens. What I discover whilst working with these materials feeds the expression of the image that appears on the paper.

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These paintings were made in the studio and come from my memory. I find I am increasingly making work from the memory of an experience: the remembered sensation of seeing, of hearing, of touching that constitutes a moment of being in the world. These paintings explore that space between the original experience and how I might evoke it here and now.

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I have spoken before about artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and her idea of ‘outer sensing and inner seeing’. These paintings are an expression of contemplation and imagination and come from an amalgam of experiences within me: of space, of light, of time, of rhythm. They are the result of the interaction between my inner perceptions, my materials and my hands.

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These paintings are done on half a sheet (approx. 56×38 cm)  Bockingford,  300gm, not, watercolour paper.

Iceland collection

Some of you who follow my Instagram page will have seen some of the objects that I collected on my recent trip to Iceland. I have been mulling these over for the past month and have been stumped as to how to use them. I’ve got as far as making a ‘tray’ for them, which I then stuck in the window to look at and ponder.

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These objects serve as a reminder of place (indeed I can remember exactly where and when I collected each one), and even out of context their place of origin remains embedded, for me, within them. I could of course just leave them as they are to serve as artworks in their own right and they look quite nice sitting there on the tray in the sunshine. But I believe that the hand of the artist is important and that any artworks that might be created in response to them will be a more powerful and dynamic response to place.

P1030693Bone fragment

So, what to do?

First I asked simple questions about this particular collection of objects. What are they? Where did they come from? How did they get there? How long have they been there? These objects (there are more!) were found across two beaches in the North of Iceland. They are remains: mainly bones, but also some interesting dried seaweed and something that may be a tooth. The bones are obviously old and have been in the sea for a long time before being washed up on the beach. On many of them their lacy interior is revealed. I don’t know what animal the bones come from, but they are small, so my guess is a sheep…. Iceland has a lot of sheep. The wing-shaped bones, I think, are the breast bones of a bird.

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The beach on which I found the bones is on a small island in the middle of a fjord, and it obviously serves as a ‘net’, or a catchall where the local conditions of tide and current deposit detritus from near, and possibly far away. The beach was simply littered with bones and other natural detritus. I have never before seen such a quantity of small, white, broken bones collected together in one place; limb fragments, tiny jaw bones and other bone splinters mingled with black volcanic pebbles to create a rather disquieting resting place for broken animal remains.

P1030703Plaster relief of a bone fragment

These sea-worn remnants look old and their colour and surface remind me of plaster reproductions of plants, fossils and other natural objects that I have seen in other collections and cabinets of curiosities. It’s good to start with a simple idea, so I have started to make straight reproductions of some of my gathered objects out plaster. These plaster reliefs are just one step away from the real thing, but I have already started to make aesthetic judgements about them and to put my own stamp onto how they could look.

P1030706Plaster relief of a bone fragment

I’m not used to working with plaster and I’m enjoying the process of finding out what it will do – I’m amazed at the detail that it is able to pick up. Already I have ideas. Once I start playing and exploring I hope that it will be a short step to a less literal interpretation of these reminders of place.

P1030689Plaster relief of a bone fragment

PS. As you can see the new studio is starting to look more busy. Things are still in disarray and I need to get everything off the floor because of the possible flood risk, but I am very much enjoying the space and slowly getting to know what I need to make this a working studio and where it should all go.

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Place, memory and the act of recording

It is wonderful when you realise that you have gained knowledge without actually having to do anything particular!

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This is what happens every time I step outside and take a walk. Sometimes I take a sketchbook or a camera with me to record the things that I notice, but more often than not I take only myself. I walk and I chat (if I’m with other people) but I’m not consciously looking for something new and exciting.

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The natural world is always changing: the light, the direction of the wind, the weather and the atmosphere are never constant. Different forces, both visible and invisible, act with or against each other, on the land and in the air, to produce fluctuating conditions. Sometimes these conditions are fleeting – like the bright flash of the horizon when the sun shines on a stormy sky behind it or a strong gust of wind that catches dry sand and blows it across the beach. Because of this mutability there is nearly always something to notice and store away and I never know when these nuggets of information will come to me or what they will be.

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The walks I do up here on the North Norfolk coast are very familiar as I have been walking over the same ground for 20 years, and this repeated exposure to the same place has caused me to build a personal relationship with the landscape. What I take from the place: the things I see, hear and touch, I take in because I am me and because I am interested in certain things. I love this place because it provides me with these things and another person might well be immune to them. By walking repeatedly along a particular path new things seem to jump out at me (being deeply acquainted with a place makes uncommon occurrences obvious) and these are stored away, adding to the history of memories and experiences that I already have.

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Although the work I am making at the moment started elsewhere, I have become to realise that it is actually about these transitory moments. They are trivial, inconsequential things that, because of me being me, I have noticed: a sound, a movement and a play of light.  I haven’t recorded the ‘noticings’ anywhere other than in my memory and the act of making this work is an act of recording the memory of immaterial, and sometimes invisible, phenomena with physical materials. I suppose this reciprocal taking and giving between myself and the environment – me subconsciously taking and the environment offering – is, for me, one definition of a sense of place.

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These photos were taken recently on a walk from Morston to Blakeney …. and I did have my camera with me on that occasion!