Monday, 15 September 2014

Moving Forwards

There have been substantial developments in my work over the summer. A transition, perhaps.

My thinking about walking continues, however there has been a re-focussing, taking me from wider views to details; from landscapes to objects.

Forward Footing is a new project by Miles and Dacombe. Developing from my work in collaboration with Carole Miles, we are now creating a Landscape Intervention Kit - a means of interacting with your landscape creatively by introducing new elements into it. We'll be trialling elements of this idea over the next few months.

Intervention as part of Refractal, Kings Wood, Corby, Northamptonshire, 2014
This is a development from a lot of work that I've been involved in for a few years now.  At first, for me, walking as an artist was about choice, freedom of movement to explore a space (Paths of Desire project). Then it became about being a human in a landscape, how we sense and respond to what's around us, how it affects us and how we affect it; how we interpret our landscapes and how we map them (Myth Maps project, Map of the River Nene, Dukes Wood project etc). This brought me to become interested in intervening in landscapes, creating temporary interventions and re-interpretations of our surroundings (A Walk Through the Underworld, Refractal etc).

One of Miles and Dacombe's own interventions is represented in The Art of Walking exhibition, currently on at The Museum in the Park in Stroud, Gloucestershire. A diverse collection of artists responding to walking are shown. You can read the catalogue here.

Bones of the Chillingham cattle, 2013
More significantly, I have been developing a project with the University of Leicester School of Archaeology. This has culminated in a project I have called The Reliquary Project, which looks at archaeological animal bone finds and their significance within different contexts.

How has a project about bones come out of a walking practice? I have tried to explain some of this in an article I've written for Unofficial Britain, you can read it here: Found Things.

I will be continuing work on The Reliquary Project this autumn. This opens up a whole new world for me, and nicely consolidates some of my ideas about the layers of history and time periods that exist within our landscapes, with ideas about objects. It also gives me the chance to make some objects of my own. I wonder how this will change my practice further.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Refractal Revisited

On 5th-6th July I worked once again with artists Carole Miles and Kate Dyer to follow up our Refractal project.

Refractal was an installation and walk we created in the Kings Wood in Corby in March. Four months on, we turned up at NNContemporary in Northampton to continue exploring some of the ideas, this time in an indoor setting in NN's Project Space.

We didn't know exactly what we would do, the idea was to spend the weekend experimenting with the idea of reflections, refracting and bringing the woodland into the indoor space.

The Project Space is lovely and we were pleased with our results. We had some great visitors too, who interacted with the work; people played with our shiny pebbles, our mirrors and the light, wore our blindfolds and listened to the recording of the woodlands that I had made, and talked about the value of woodlands, the senses and personal connections with places.

We have developed some new ideas as a result of this short project so we hope to bring more woodland exploration to you soon!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Crossing the Bridge

For more details about the Bulwell Arts Festival, visit their blog or Facebook page.

View Bulwell Market in a larger map

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reflecting and refracting in the ancient woodlands

In March I was invited (with artists Kate Dyer and Carole Miles) by Made in Corby to create a walk in the ancient woodlands of King's Wood in Corby, Northamptonshire.

For the artists, the project was an opportunity to continue the collaborative ideas that we started in our Walk North project, a short residency in Brinkburn, Northumberland.

We knew we wanted to create a short walk with art interventions in the woods that would draw attention to some aspect of the site. However, until we met in the woodlands we did not know exactly what we would do, we wanted to respond to what the site suggested to us.

This time of year there is very little leaf canopy in the trees, you can see the structure of the tree skeletons way above you. The cool sunlight of early spring seemed to give the trees a silver shimmer. This eventually metamorphised into our idea for using only silver and reflective material for our interventions.

Silver and mirror suggest a precious metal, a shining object, a jewel. It seemed the right material for alluding to the value of an ancient woodland such as King's Wood.

The mirror also suggests the idea of reflection and seeing things from a different angle. I first wanted to use mirror when we discovered the pond, hidden deeper within the woodland and off the beaten path. A still pool of water reflecting its surroundings.

We discussed the precariousness of what we were trying to do, create temporary installations in a public space where they could easily be removed by passers by. There was something about the temporary nature of the installations, the fleeting moments of the natural world's changes and the precariousness of nature and woodlands generally in our threatened habitats that suggested our artworks should be subtle, hard to spot, almost invisible.

We placed shards of mirror under a tree, reflecting fragments of sky and the network of branches above. Looking down to look up. It made me think of the inter-relatedness of things in the natural world - the earth, the air, the sun, all working together to create growth.

We made three mirror shards and sunk them into the pond, reflecting the reflections and becoming almost invisible. The three triangular points alluded back to the Old Law Beacons (the name that we have adopted for us three artists when we collaborate).

We came across the Old Law Beacons on our visit to Lindisfarne. Seen in the distance from the Castle, the Beacons are 70foot and 83foot respectively red brick elongated pryamids, standing like enormous spikes at the edge of the island. They were built in the early 19th century as a navigational aid for ships. We felt we had to create a work that referenced the idea of navigation, so we made three of our own beacons for the pond - three because, well, there are three of us, and together we are navigating our own new journey.

The final intervention I felt was particularly successful was the tree slices. Seen from a slight distance from the path, we wrapped several ash trees in mirror foil. The appearance was that they had had a slice cut out of them. (The image above has not been photoshopped!) Again, I thought about the precariousness of our natural world, and especially ash trees that have become so threatened in recent years by the ash die-back disease. The tree slices looked a little like a part of them had been erased, a portent of what could happen but has not yet. Having made this work, I have an ambition to wrap an entire ash tree in this mirrored foil and watch it become invisible - will ash trees be invisible one day, leaving any trace of themselves behind?

Our walk was well attended by wonderful creative people who got fully involved. To see some of the participants' own photographs of the day visit the Made in Corby blog.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Inside A Box of Things

What's inside A Box of Things? The beautiful hands of Laura-Jade Klee show you what you'll find inside our box, created as a result of our imaginative cave tours, A Walk Through the Underworld.
Click here to visit LJ's blog and see the video.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Underneath 8 Castle Gate

As part of A Walk Through the Underworld, our imaginative tour of Nottingham's caves, we walked along Castle Gate and paused outside number 8.

No. 8 Castle Gate hides an intriguing little cave, only big enough for two or three people at a time to enter, so we couldn't take our tour group in. However we did stop outside and think for a moment about the idea of what was beneath our feet, and I was able to describe the cave, having visited it a few times myself.

Standing outside no. 8, a grand and decorative mid century red brick building, one would never think there was a cave complex underneath. To access it, you enter the building through its large blue wooden doors under ornamental stone arches, walk through modern offices, down a long corridor, before being led into a rather nice library and meeting room, with dark wooden bookshelves and deep blue fabric upholstered chairs. In the corner of this room, behind a glass door, is a hole in the floor.

The hole is just big enough for one relatively slim person to get through. A tightly spiralled wrought iron staircase takes you down steeply to a completely different world.

8 Castle Gate's cave has several circular spaces adjoining the central area at the bottom of the steps. The walls are golden sandstone with red blemishes. There is a large circular pit on the right, a ledge around it just big enough for one person to circumnavigate.

On the left is total darkness, but investigation with a torch shows carved columns holding up the arched roof, standing in very still, deep green water surfaced with the fluffy flowers of algae.

I imagine hiding down here, the dampness and cramped conditions all around, a chamber untouched from past times (other than the introduction of a little lighting), listening in to the modern day administrative concerns in the meeting room directly above. A strange contrast of worlds and times; the cave a product of the hard labours of men and a remnant of the dirtiest of manual work, tanners worked here, whilst directly above in the manicured modern day the work is cerebral and clean.

The building is now occupied by the main administrative office of The Congregational Federation, who are obviously very proud of their little hidden gem. As a result of our contact with them, they have commissioned me to create a drawing of their cave to hang in the meeting room by the cave entrance. This has been my project for the last month, and is near completion. I should be able to install it early in the new year.

I'm really enjoying making the work and it has helped to keep my mind in contact with the whole experience of A Walk Through the Underworld. LJ and I are both so excited about launching our Box of Things at the event on 19th January. We hope you can join us.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Reflections on A Walk Through the Underworld

Cosmic ray laboratory, cave installation, Sidelong 2013
Although the cave tours have finished, LJ and I are still creating work as a result of our Sidelong project A Walk Through the Underworld.

I knew at the beginning of the project I wanted to create installations in the caves, which would be small but powerful. However, working with two practitioners of other disciplines to mine,  Laura-Jade Klee (a curator with a background in performance) and Wayne Burrows (a writer with an interest in fictionalised histories), my ideas and work have been influenced and developed in new directions. I feel that, in this way, this has been a truely collaborative project; each of the three people influencing each other. Although much of the work is authored by one or the other of us, there are definitely elements that are seamless creations.

Underground herb garden, cave installation, Sidelong 2013

As the project progressed, we became lost in our fictional tales inspired by stories, research and the caves' physical presence, until I began to believe everything we said myself and to present everything as fact. I found myself entering the game wholeheartedly, and the performer in me began to emerge.

Participants discovering "relics", Sidelong 2013
I have always been interested in the performance of unwrapping an object, something we played with in the caves.  As the tours developed, they began to take on a theme of finding boxes, hidden relics, objects wrapped in cloth, scrolls rolled up. Each item had to be uncovered in some way by the participants, heightening the sense of anticipation, curiosity and surprise each time.

It is with this in mind that our "publication", originally intended to be a book, has developed into the idea of a box of things. Since the last walk in October, we have been working on the contents of this box, which will include stories, paper creations, printed matter, falsified leaflets and small objects. We will make 50 boxes in total as a limited edition, to be launched on Sunday 19th January 2014 at New Art Exchange, 3-5pm. We intend to make this event another installation of a sort, so expect the unexpected! We hope some of you will be able to join us.
A Walk Through the Underworld, Sidelong 2013
Sidelong projects, as well as some of my other walking related projects, will be represented in The Walking Encyclopedia, an exhibition of walking artists' work next year at AirSpace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.

A Walk Through the Underworld is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and by New Art Exchange.