Monday

In which the Drawing Devices go walkabout

Image copyright Pete Ashton 2017
Back in November artist Pete Ashton spent three months in the gallery at BOM making work as part of the Instructions for Humans exhibition. As part of his work on this project, Pete invited gallery visitors to take a typewritten instruction and use it to make a piece of art. I had the instruction, "walk in a straight line," and used this with one of my Drawing Devices to make a drawing for Pete's archive. As a result of that Pete invited me to bring some of my Drawing Devices into the gallery as part of his Data Art Week.
Image copyright Pete Ashton 2017
I assembled a dozen Drawing Devices and invited gallery visitors to take one out for a walk. The Devices were hidden inside sealed paper carrier bags. I explained that something inside the bag would make a drawing based in their movements, but participants had no idea what it was that they were carrying, or what the outcome would be.
Image copyright Pete Ashton 2017
Some people took the Devices for short walks, some kept them for several days. One participant uses an electric wheelchair, two participants used bikes, others walked and ran with their carriers.
Image copyright Pete Ashton
It was really gratifying to see the participant's responses when we finally opened the bags and revealed the drawings made. Each drawing was different, especially in the intensity of marks made. A couple of the drawings were very light, I guess the pens didn't deliver the ink very well. The most satisfying drawings were those that had been worked on over several days, making intense images.
One of my favourite drawings was the one made by the wheelchair user, which resulted in very delicate distinctive lines. This one was so satisfying because of it's uniqueness among all the images that have been created with the Devices. It inspires me to explore other forms of movement to create drawings; perhaps by train, canoe, horseback....
Image copyright Pete Ashton 2017
With the work I did over the summer using the wind to make drawings and the work I started at the Solstice drawing over ley lines and with dowsing equipment, I am beginning to amass quite an extensive catalogue of drawings.


Thursday

Winter Solstice walk 2 - the podcast



This is the first in a series of podcasts for 2018 in which I talk about my work and explore ideas around drawing, landscape, walking and autistic experience.

Episode 1 is about a Winter Solstice walk taken over two days from Long Compton to Charlbury via the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire.
(Apologies for the variable sound quality, the podcast was recorded outside using a portable Sony MP3 player. Any advice regarding affordable, portable sound recording equipment for outdoors would be very welcome.)

Looking up into the tree in Stratford-upon-Avon park


At the Rollright Stones

The first drawing

Oxfordshire landscape on Winter Solstice day

Towards Chipping Norton about 2pm Winter Solstice day

Looking over Cornbury Park, Charlbury 22nd December 2018

Tuesday

Winter Solstice walk 2017 - part 1

Winter Solstice walk 2017 from Long Compton to Charlbury via Rollright Stone circle.

The purpose of the walk is to use the time and location to develop the work I am doing making drawings in movement. It's also an opportunity to spend some time thinking about the experience of being alone in a landscape and to develop an idea I have been working on about what it means to be solitary as an autistic person.

A Pilgrimage of sorts
I spent most of my childhood living in Charlbury and Lower Quinton, on the Cotswold border. It wasn't until recently that I realised how close these two places are. As an adult, these villages are only a few days walk apart, but as a child they seemed unfathomably distant from each other. I lived in Charlbury until I was 8 and I was profoundly upset when we had to move away from the village. After a couple of years living in Leicestershire, we moved to Lower Quinton, not quite the Cotswolds, but probably as near to them as my parents could then afford.

In the last year or two, I have been walking a lot and recently made a short two-day walk from my house near Birmingham to my mother's (then) home near Stratford-upon-Avon. It has sparked a longing to do other walks connecting people that I love, or places that are meaningful to me. Biographical pilgrimages.

The original walk was to have been three days, from Shipston-on-Stour to Charlbury, but I caught a cold that led to bronchitis, so my health isn't quite up to three days unfortunately. I'm definitely doing the first day, from Long Compton now to Chipping Norton via the stones and will make the decision to continue on to Charlbury the next morning, depending on how I am feeling.

The Solstice and the Stones
The winter solstice is to me the most hopeful of the pagan festivals. Since midsummer, the days have been getting shorter and shorter. At Samhain/Hallows Eve the darkness has really got a hold of us and the season between then and midwinter is for me the most creative time of the year. It's a time of dark and cold and a time of rigour, a time when we are tested. The physicality of the natural world touches all of us in winter, no matter how urbanised we are, the ice, fog, frosts and rains affect everyone. For an artist who makes work using extreme weather, it can be a busy time.
It's also a time for fairy tales and ghost stories, a time for ancient things to be remembered. The foliage is dead or dying and the bones of the land and it's trees are revealed. Winter is a time for wights and graves, for archaeology and stone circles, for embracing melancholy and revelling in solitariness.
And then, in the middle of all that, there is the solstice, the shortest day. It won't get any darker now. This is the lovely moment, in the middle of the dark and cold and mud, when the distant song of summer and growth and green things is promised. I love it.

Solitary Solidarity
I have been thinking about the experience of being alone. I love to be alone more than I love to be with people and this is probably because I am autistic. But I love people too and long to connect. I think probably a lot of autistic people experience this contrariness; the need to be alone and the desire to be part of community.
I'm going to be making several pieces of work over the next year that explore this theme. While I am doing the solstice walk I will be taking time to stop and think about some of my autistic friends. When I find myself alone on the walk I will make small drawings on postcards expressing my happiness at being alone. These cards will then be posted to my friends.
It seems like an appropriately quiet, slow and autistic way of sharing an experience. A tweet or text message would feel too much like a shout, whereas a quiet drawing, made in a quiet space and sent slowly by post has a quality of space and time added to it and feels like a good way of sharing some happy aloneness.

I'll try and post more about the walk as I am doing it. I'll also be making sound recordings as I go about and walking drawings with a new Drawing Device made for the purpose. I'm also hoping to have some time to do some dowsing, which I've not done for years, I'm hoping to make some dowsing drawings at some point.

Walking

I walk a lot. I don't have a car, so my walking is done for practical reasons, getting from here to there and also for the joy of it.

This winter I am taking a short pilgrimage to places in the Cotswolds that were meaningful for me growing up, starting with a three day walk around the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire.

I have been making many drawings using a Drawing Apparatus, a simple, lo-tech device of my own design, which records any movement made while holding or wearing it.

This image was made with the Drawing Apparatus during a 3 hour long journey on the famous Number 11 bus in Birmingham.


This drawing was made on a 2.5 mile walk along the Birmingham Canals.




Out of retreat

I took some time away from the internet and social media recently in order to have some quiet time to think about my work and how I want to take it forward. It was an incredibly useful experience.

During that time I have been developing my drawing practice, working with the Weather Station over the summer and developing work out of a meditation and walking practice.

I was invited to give a talk by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art about autism and art which got me thinking about the importance of information to autistic people. Looking at my own work I can see this love of information and data is intrinsic to the work I have been making. I'm currently exploring how to work with data, including sound and digital information in my practice.


Drawing made with the wind.



In retreat (so to advance)

I am currently in retreat for three months until the beginning of August. Being quiet, making new work, thinking, sitting, walking. My practice, art and meditation, are the focus of what I am working during this time.

Saturday

Old work, new work.

I'm currently part of the Cultivate mentoring programme run by DASH and my new mentor, Dean Melbourne has sent me a list of questions to think about. He wants me to try and write 500 words describing my art practice, which is a really useful process to go through. Especially as I am returning to making work after a break, thinking and writing about my work from this new perspective is very useful and hopefully illuminating.









Part of this process is looking back at old work. I'm so surprised to see that what I thought was a recent obsession with drawing circles was in fact something that gripped me a decade ago. It's exciting to revisit these pieces. 




Tuesday

Not Something Else


This is a drawing of a circle made with a willow brush and ink,
it isn't something else;
it is not a representation of life after death,
  it is not a meditation on the Universe,
    it is not a representation of any object,
      it is not a representation of any emotion,
        it is not a representation of the artist's mind,
          it is not an intellectual conceit,
            it is not a political statement,
              it is not a display of artistic skill,
                it is not calligraphy,
                  it does not reference any art movement,
                    it does not pay homage to any artist,
                      it does not contain a narrative,
                        it does not reveal some hidden truth,
                          it is not an attempt at immortality,
this is a drawing of a circle made with a willow brush and ink.
Kruse 2017.

Saturday

Love Letter to an Inanimate Object. No7

Dear Kitchen Table,
You cheap, battered old thing, I do love you.
I didn’t buy you, you were a hand-me-down, but unlike many hand-me-downs I’ve owned in my life, I truly love you.

I love your simple wooden surface. I love to scrub you and oil you and make you look beautiful. I’m sorry for the paint and dye and wine marks that stain your surface. I’m sorry for the experiment with wire wool and homemade ink that I’ve never quite managed to erase.

I hope you like the olive oil?

Thank you for your patient standing. Thank you for your useful surface, which you offer up without any complaint. Thank you for your flatness and stoic legs.

Thank you for being part of our family and for still holding onto the marks that came from your first
family, whom I also love.

Dear Kitchen Table, it makes me happy to see you waiting there at breakfast. I love to dress you with flowers and candles in the evening, I love that sometimes you are my Kitchen Studio. I hope you are with me for a while yet.
With love and appreciation,

Me xxx

Tuesday

Breathing Meditations 1.


Watercolour on paper. Each circle is one complete breath.


Watercolour on paper. Circle is one breath. Line is one breath.

Monday

Love Letter to an Inanimate Object. No5

To my bed.

Dear Bed,
I am so lucky to have you in my life.
You know that because I remember to tell you often.

Thank you for your warmth and comfort.
When I am with you I sometimes think about the millions who don’t have the luxury of your peace and sanctuary and I am grateful.

You are an extraordinary privilege and I will never take you for granted.

With much love and gratitude,



Me xxx

Wednesday

Love Letter to an Inanimate Object. No4

Dear Walking Stick,
You were born in a hedgerow in one of the most beautiful valleys in Wales. You were recognized for your wonderful straightness and curved top just right for a handle by a kind and gentle giant, who cut you and fitted you with a sturdy foot and gifted you to me.

You are made of hazel wood, light and strong and straight.

There was a time in my life when I had Shaman spirit and I saw the hidden heart of you. I carved into your handle and released the Dragon hidden there. We spent a few years together exploring a world imbued with magic.

Do you remember the sacred wood and the flock of tiny birds that always came? 
Do you remember the fairy dog that walked at our heels? 
Do you remember sitting by that bridge watching that wren build his nest? 
Do you remember the sacred grove on a cold February afternoon, the glittering flame and that shaft of sunlight? 
Do you remember the winter wasp in the water meadow and the sudden realisation of the reality of death? 
Do you remember the evening between the setting sun and the rising moon and the skylark overhead?
Do you remember the rituals and the beauty? Did you feel as at home in those wild places as I did?

I love you old stick. I’ve not used you for a while, but we’ve had some adventures eh?   We’ve walked a lot of Welsh hills and many miles of the Yorkshire flats. Thank you for helping me in the rocky places and sitting perfectly balanced in my hand, like music, on the straight roads. Thank you for lying like a rod across my shoulders, stretching out the stiffness, easing my spine.

I’m sure we will have many more adventures together old stick. When I hold you all the memories of our past pilgrimages are there. My old Shaman mind and pagan heart flutter a little stronger.

You are magical, inspiring, an old, true friend.
I love you,
Me.