The slow realisation of impending things...

... also known as the realisation that your first solo show is a mere 3 weeks away and you haven't told anyone yet....

So folks, my first solo show is in three weeks. It's at the Width of Circle gallery a new, artist-led gallery, studio and teaching space in Stourbridge on the furthest western edge of the Birmingham conurbation. 

In an old Victorian canal-side factory, housing other makers and a micro-brewery the space has an amazing atmosphere and is still totally un-gentrified. Like much of Stourbridge itself, Width of Circle leans away from slick urbanisation and leans metaphorically towards the lushness and mystery of an imagined and real countryside. 
I think Width of Circle takes as it's patron the God Pan, or Cernunnos and certainly the work exhibited in it's inaugural show had elements of the bucolic and mysterious. With the exhibiting of Dominic Shepard's painting The Beast, Width of Circle was nailing it's colours to the mast.

The Beast, 2017, Oil on Linen, 40x56cm, Dominic Shepherd
copyright Dominic Shepherd 2018
So it will be interesting to see what the reaction is to my show, Solstice, a collection of drawings made by the wind and part of my 2017 30 Days of Summer project. My work is very spare, very simple, hopefully very quiet, so physically the work will be very different.

However, the impulse to seek out and connect with mystery, the numinous, to find magic in the world, that the gallery is basing it's programme around, is also something I hope that I tap into with my work. Although my work is made outside, in often crazy weather conditions, the works I am exhibiting at Solstice are somehow still and quiet. Well, that is what I am trying to achieve at least. It's like when you go into a church, all soaring columns and vivid glass and yet, in the best churches, there is a sense of deep ineffable stillness.

So, three weeks out from the show, I am still framing work and thinking about the space and feeling, not a deep, ineffable stillness but a somewhat nervous anxiety! 

Solstice will be on show at Width of Circle gallery from 21st June 2018 to 21st July 2018. 
Opening night Thursday 21st June - all welcome. After that, visits by appointment.

Hogchester Artist Residency Diary.

“Where are you going before you get there? And after you go there, what would that line look like?”

This is a short diary written during my week-long residency at Hogchester Arts in Dorset. Hogchester is a small-holding and nature reserve offering residency opportunities for artists. It’s run by artist Chantal Powell and her husband Rob and I was invited to stay at the farm by Chantal through a connection made with my friend, artist Dean Melbourne.

Pre Hogchester ideas:
1. Walk the boundary with drawing devices
2. Walk to the sea
3. Find the Roman/Drovers road
4. Record a podcast
5. Video my walking
6. Think about GPS – how to use my phone to make work?

Arrival. 30th April
This place is lovely. After a long train and bus journey from Birmingham a tramp over 2 fields, a bit steep and muddy in places, bought me to the farm by the back route.
Met by Chantal, we sat in the sun surrounded by pygmy goats and talked about landscape, animals, illness, story and myth.
Chantal admits that she is a town girl, bought up on an estate and that the impetus for the work on the land comes from her husband, Rob. I’m looking forward to walking around the farm with him at some point and finding out more about his vision.
I had a quick look at Chantal’s studio, where I have been invited to work at any time. It’s really lovely and strangely intimidating. As my practice is not studio based I didn’t feel particularly comfortable.
(Towards the end of the residency, I started to use the studio more and found I really enjoyed being in the space)

I’m incredibly tired. Not much sleep last night, maybe 4/5 hours. I never do sleep well when I am travelling the next day. Fear of missing the train maybe. Anyway, part of me wants to go out and explore the space and part of me just wants to go to sleep.
I’m still thinking about output – thinking about audience response rather than my own interest. Must try to be selfish this week though.

My first instinct is to look at the map (thinking this might be an interesting place to start with workshop participants too) Anyway, I’m looking for evidence of ancient places on the map – also interested in stuff that is not seen, for instance, the sea is unnamed on this map. I’m also interested in the things that are named as this is a totally unknown landscape to

Slept well, up at 8. Somewhat overwhelming this morning, so much to explore. Of course, no wind (for making drawings). But no complaints really as it is a beautiful, sunny day, much welcomed after this long winter. I think I might start with recording sounds here – am also going for a walk with Rob around the farm later.

“Am I afraid of drawing?”
This though came to me as I was leaving the cottage and I think the answer is yes. I am afraid/frustrated that I cannot draw what I see. I’m surprised by this thought.

I spent a lot of time recording sounds today; the stream, wind in the trees, some of the animals. Also videoing stuff and taking pictures. I started leaning the camera up against the tree trunks, looking up at the crown. This is really interesting – the tree branches make great drawings of course, but also, I like the weighty stillness of the trees seen from this angle.

Things to investigate:
1. Sound
2. Ink washed on paper then rain
3. How brush pen works in rain
4. Drawing rivers on the map.

So today was busy. I started a couple of wind/rain drawings. I wanted to work in the Quiet Space more because I feel I need to get used to being in there, loving the cottage which is quiet and peaceful.
(For the first few days I had a lovely cottage on the farm all to myself, I also had use of the Quiet Space, a very sweet, very rustic old stable with no water or electricity, but heated with a paraffin stove and lit with candles. In the second half of the residency I also slept in this space as the cottage was rented out)

Rob took me round the water meadow. We charged round at a hell of a pace, I can’t believe how slow I am. (I have arthritis and am a rather stiff old bird.)
 After this I went for a walk through the fields near the house. I noticed that there are animal tracks crisscrossing all the fields. Some are made by the goats, who walk in a very orderly, single file along them, even the babies fall into line. Others must have been made by foxes or deer maybe as they are in fields where the goats don’t go.

In the pm I recorded a podcast segment and made some drawings with trees. I fell asleep after lunch and came up to bed at 7pm. Reading and knitting. Feel really tired. Still can’t figure out how to use the animal paths in my work, but I really want to. I like following them.

Making drawings with trees. I feel that my job is to stand before nature as a witness. Thinking about what it is to be human as I spend time each day either with the goats or in the company of trees. Are humans here to witness? Is that what our consciousness is for?

Thinking about the animal tracks. The Way. Tao. The Way of The Goat – Pan, Beltane. Is walking the Way of the Goat like walking a labyrinth?

I cut some tracing paper into small sheets that would fit inside one of my walking devices. I walked along animal track in the goat field. At the start of a track I fed a fresh sheet of tracing paper into the drawing device and then followed the track. At the end of a track, or at a junction, I put in a fresh sheet of trace. After doing this for an hour or so, I had a palimpsest of drawings made along these tracks.

Thought about my fear of drawing. I realise that this is a frustration with not being able to draw the truth of a line. When we look at a thing we overlay the truth of the object with our own thoughts. We have an idea of what that thing is ‘supposed’ to look like. We bring our personal history to our ‘seeing’ of that object. We bring our physical prowess or disability to that seeing. In fact we never, ‘see’ something in objective truth (is there even such a thing?)
Looking at the trees in front of me I attempted to draw the truth.
Just following a line with my eye and my hand on the paper unlooked at.
One day I will draw one truthful line.

Things to do today:
1. Make water drawings – Use copper springs
2. More Drawings with Trees
3. Quail feather drawing
4. More translucent animal track drawings.
5. Podcast with Dean and possibly Chantal?

Today I took a day off. After a leisurely morning, I decided to walk into the nearby village of Charmouth, which is by the sea. It wasn’t far, about a mile, though quite hilly. Stopped to lunch and then went to beach. Overwhelmed by all the people. I had wanted to do some fossil hunting, but it was too busy for me (being a hot, sunny day) so I just turned around and tramped home.
Found out that Dean is not coming here today. Had hoped to do a podcast with him and Chantal. Am missing having someone to talk to, surprisingly. After our initial meet on the first day I haven’t spoken to Chantal much. Expected more conversation and now Dean is not coming I feel disappointed.

This evening I visited the Soay sheep. Collected some of their wool from the brambles and fences, not much but it is lovely colours – soft brown and cream. Also found a lot of lichen on the ground, fallen from trees during winter storms. Great for making dyes/pigment.

Sunday thoughts
1. Take large pictures home and make into cyanotypes?
2. Do something with Soay wool? (Although in land they don’t feel as ‘authentic’ as goat tracks)
3. Remember to make dyes with lichen
4. Research how others have recorded tracks, paths, ley lines.

Stitched the goat track drawings into a booklet.

Have decided to go home, had planned on Tuesday, but feel I need a day free between being here and going back to work on Wednesday, just to process it all. It’s a bank holiday tomorrow, so figure I stand a better chance of a good journey by travelling today. Also, again surprisingly, I’m not enjoying sleeping in the Quiet Space. There is a ‘vibe’ in the space I can’t quite put my finger on, but I keep one of the candles lit all night. The funny thing is it’s not the whole space, which is lovely, and charmingly rustic, but one corner of the room which is quite honestly freaking me out. Odd.

The residency at Hogchester was tremendously helpful. It gave me space and time to think and also threw up challenges that I could not meet at the time, but that generated new avenues to walk down (metaphorically) when I came back to my own studio.