Tag Archives: Wells

Out in the open air

Recently I have been re-reading books, that in the past, have been helpful in contextualising and backing up my practice. I am currently trying to ‘place’ the work I am doing at the moment and for some reason the reading isn’t helping.

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The solution, as is often the case, is to get out into the open and to feel the air, walk on the ground and to mingle with them.

‘in this mingling, as we live and breathe, the wind, light, and moisture of the sky bind with the substances of the earth in the continual forging of a way through the tangle of lifelines that comprise the land’. Tim Ingold, Being Alive

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To experience the landscape first hand is, for me, always the starting point. It is the place where you can let your senses and your imagination wander – to find something inside of you where there was nothing before and to find what you were searching for.

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Reading certainly has its place, but at the moment going out, looking, hearing and touching the landscape and then responding to those experiences moves me forward in a more fulfilling way.

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These were watercolours done in the studio immediately after a sustaining and refreshing walk.

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Out of the window

I seem to have had a lot of waiting around recently – waiting for paint to dry, waiting for plaster to dry and waiting for clay to harden. With time to spare I’ve taken a cup of coffee, my sketchbook and paintbox and have been recording what I see out of the studio window. The ‘bones’ of the view rarely changes: look left, right or straight ahead, but the light, the weather and what my eyes alight on at any one time is different each time.

Here are the last six sketchbook drawings.

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Thinking/making

My Iceland collection has expanded and this is what my work table looks like at the moment. I have made some more plaster reliefs, but you will also see that other found objects have crept in.

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Flints and oyster shells with holes made from boring sponges collected on the the beach here in Wells have been included in the collection as I start to make connections between the objects found in Iceland and more familiar objects found here on the beach at home. The shape and texture of the Icelandic bone fragments bear more than a passing resemblance to the pieces of broken flint and likewise the small Icelandic volcanic pebbles relate directly to the holed shells.

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I make some more plaster reliefs, this time of flints, and as a direct representation they work very well. However, I want something that is more open to interpretation …. something that has been created out of my own imagination and that is able to blur the boundaries between the bone/flint and shell/pebble samples.

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In an attempt to better understand the shape and form of the flints and bones I draw them and in doing so I realise that the reliefs don’t do what I want them to do; their bases are too square and uniform, and the pressed forms are incomplete. I want a full 3-d form. So I try something else and enclose a flint protrusion in clay and fill the resulting indentation with plaster.

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This small fragment (it’s about 5cm high) could be either bone or stone.

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I make some more ambiguous fragments and feel as if they are closer to, but not exactly what I am aiming for. I think it was the producer John Read who said, ‘Art is the expression of the imagination not the imitation of real life’. I am not trying to imitate or to recreate but to make something new and to create new connections. My thinking and making continues!

Whelk shed studio

Exciting things have been happening here over the last couple of weeks and I have just moved into a new studio in Wells. It is an old whelk shed and is one of a few buildings that were originally used by fishermen to process and boil whelks and other shellfish. These sheds have now been replaced with more efficient and modern buildings elsewhere in Wells and so some of them are now being used as artist studios. It is under 10 minutes walk from my house so is very convenient.

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It is quite a large space – approximately 10 x 5 m (although every time I go in there it seems to get smaller),

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and it is quite basic, with a tap, electricity and a wood-burning stove for heat in the winter (it has had a coat of paint since the photo below was taken).

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You can’t see from the photo above, but the view through the window is wonderful, and looks over the water and the marshes ….

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….. I’m not sure I’ll ever get any work done!

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I’m slowly moving everything in and putting up shelves and storage. Soon I hope to be showing you work that I have made there.

Wells Art Trail

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I’ve just had a wonderful 2 weeks driving around the whole of Iceland. However, I’m not going to talk about that at the moment although I’m sure that in the near future new work will come out of the drawing and writing that I did on my way round the island. If you’d like a flavour of the trip, pop over to my Instagram page where I posted a few highlights.

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Whilst I was away my work for the Wells Maltings Heritage Art Trail was put up on the quay at Wells by the Maltings hanging team. They have done a fantastic job! It was a thrill to come back and to see my piece hanging between two tall boat masts; gently flapping in the breeze and repeated as its shadow was reflected by the sun on the building behind.

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The work is called View from the Shipwright’sand it is a representation of the view across Wells Harbour from the residence next to where it hangs on the quay at the East End of Wells called the Shipwrights. The building was formerly a pub called the Shipwright’s Arms and its name gives a clue to the approximate location of a previous boatyard.

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The work is 2850 x 117 cm and it combines my own artistic practices with simple sail-making and knotwork techniques. It is protected from the weather in the traditional way using bitumen, beeswax and linseed oil. I hope that the materials will do the job over the three months that it will be hanging there.

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During the 19thcentury the main livelihood in Wells was the trading of grain and coal up and down the coast and many wooden sailing vessels would have been tied up against quay. There were two shipwrights in the town who built and maintained these elegant vessels and provided them with ropes and sails.

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View from the Shipwright’s is inspired by the ‘soft’ materials the boatyard’s sailmaker would have used in the 19thcentury: canvas, thread and rope, and uses bitumen and a traditional concoction of beeswax and linseed oil to preserve and protect it from the degenerative effects of the weather. Looking across the marsh from the Shipwright’s Arms 200 years ago a sail maker would have recognised the contours of the land and sea depicted in my work.

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There are 17 works in Wells Heritage Arts Trail that has been curated by John and Yvonne Milwood and each work has been created especially for the event. The trail takes you around the quay at Wells and onto the beach and it runs from 23 June until Sunday 30 September 2018. There is a free trail guide that can be picked up from the Maltings on Staithe Street, Wells.

 

Leading lights

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Recently two red and white triangles have appeared in the trees on the dune behind the last beach hut on Wells beach. The Wells Harbour website (I keep my eye on this for news when in Surrey) tells me that they are refurbished and reinstated channel transits. The triangles, which are visible offshore, are placed one above the other and when they appear in line, they indicate a safe course for boats in through the harbour entrance. At night they would originally have been lit by paraffin lamps, but now they appear to have up-to-date solar powered lights. These particular transits were in use from the 1700s to the mid 1900s. I have always known this type of signal as leading lights.

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As a child (and I must confess, still today) I was an avid reader of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books and anyone who has read them will remember the Swallows finding their way into the secret harbour on Wildcat Island at night with the use of leading lights.

Titty saw them, flickering among the trees and then disappearing again as they were hidden by big rocks south of the island.

John paddled on slowly.

‘There they are again,’ said Susan.

‘Close together,’ said Titty.

John turned round from his rowing and had a good look at two small stars twinkling over the water.

‘Right,’ he said, I’m going to do nothing but row if you’ll keep your eyes on the lights.’

‘Are they still close together?’ asked John.

‘Fairly close,’ said Susan.

‘Where is the top light?’ asked captain John.

‘A bit to the left of the low one,’ said Susan.

John pulled a stroke or two, pulling a little harder with his right. ‘Sing out as soon as it is just above it.’

‘It’s above it now. Now it’s a bit to the right of it.’

John pulled his left.

‘Above it.’

Tell me the moment it is one side or the other.’

‘The lights are exactly one above the other,’ said Susan.

John had shipped the oars and was now sculling over the stern.

‘The lights are quite close to us, ‘ said Roger, and as he said it there was a gentle scrunch as Swallow’s nose touched the soft, pebbly beach of the little harbour.

Captain John had used his leading lights for the first time, and had made his harbour in pitch dark.

 How exciting!

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The idea of a boat, or indeed a body in the landscape, having to move from left to right or up and down to get the correct view of something – to line it up – reminds me of research that I did during my MA about ideas of experiencing the environment. Anthropologist, Christopher Tilley writes in his book, The Materiality of Stone, ‘The body is continually improvising its relationship with things … constantly opening itself out to the world as it moves in it. The manner in which we sense the world remains forever incomplete and ambiguous because we always experience things from a particular point of view or relationship. The body is open to the world but things are always hidden from it.’

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The idea that I could make a piece of work that moves in and out of focus or that only appears as it should from one particular viewpoint is a powerful one. Different elements could line up, as with the leading lights, to make a whole. Or one part of the work could hide another, only to be revealed  as you move or peer around it. To actively walk around in order to experience a work would relate to the way we experience objects outside in the environment, where their size and shape appear to alter as we change our relationship to them. From different directions and with a different order of seeing, things do not have the appearance of sameness.

Seeing the Wells leading lights has got me thinking, but I’m not sure where this one is going yet …..

Walking without seeing

It’s freezing in Wells at the moment, but a sunny morning has enticed me out of the house for a brisk walk. The tide is up and the easterly wind is bitter. As I head, north, up the beach bank I pull the hood of my coat up to try and get a bit more protection. It is one of those deep hoods that have a furry edge and it comes right down to almost cover my eyes. My vision is severely restricted with it up but today I can’t do without it.

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As I walk my hood forces me to look down at the ground. If I try to peep up the furry bit goes into my eyes. I try pulling it back but it slips forward immediately. I resign myself to looking at the ground.

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The ground is not very interesting – black tarmac with puddles, but with my sense of sight essentially disabled the other senses kick in. It’s very cold. I feel my right side getting colder and even with a long coat the side of my leg starts to ache. My fingers are freezing in their gloves and I slip them out of the woolly fingers so I can form a fist and get a bit more warmth from my palm. I step briskly out hoping to heat up with the exercise.

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The wind blowing over me is the loudest, most continuous sound I can hear, but underneath this other sounds appear. A car on the other side of the bank, and in the far distance the dredger is at the never-ending task of keeping the channel clear. Occasionally a seagull flies over – squawking.

A low, pitched moan comes to my attention. It is coming from the air so must be either a plane or a helicopter – the moan gets louder and I hum its pitch. Middle C I think. I don’t have perfect pitch but I can often accurately pitch a note if it is in my vocal range. This note is four notes higher than my lowest sung note – the G below middle C (I have quite a low voice and always sing alto in the choir). I pull back my hood and peer out to try and fix it with my eyes but I can’t see it. Throbbing blades get louder  – so it’s a helicopter – and as it gets nearer and passes overhead the pitch drops down a third to A ands as it moves away it drops still lower – the doppler effect in action.

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Eyes down I hurry on. I’m not really looking at what is happening around me but I pull back my hood at the end of the bank and look around. Over in the east, towards Blakeney, the low lying land is completely concealed by grey cloud and the sun has gone in. Rain, or possibly snow is coming towards me. I take a quick look to see if there are any seals about (there aren’t) and put my hood up and hurry back to try and beat the cloud burst. The wind strengthens and the snow hits. Driving onto me from the east it is now hitting my left side. My coat is soon covered – white. It’s freezing and all I can think about is the cold and getting back home quickly. I pass a few other people and we grin and comment on the cold.

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And then, as quickly as it started it’s over. I’m wet and cold and by the time I get back to the quay the clouds have passed and the sun is threatening to come out again. It occurs to me that I haven’t seen much on this walk but I have felt and heard quite a lot and that highlights the fact that deadening one sense brings the other, equally important,  senses to the fore.