Sunday, 28 October 2018

Catching the Wind September

In late September I led my final walk in Aylestone Meadows.

As autumn sneaked up on me, I began to become more aware of the wind.  The Invisibility Walks also drew my attention to the wind, in the way it sounds, moves and its visual effects.

As part of the Walks I asked the group to sit in a field with blindfolds on.  One day it was very windy, and in this wide open space surrounded by trees, you could really hear the wind whirling around your head and sculpting the space in 360 degrees with its sound.  We all made drawings of swirling, spiraling shapes that day.

Another time, it was a still, bright day with a clear sky and a gentle breeze.  As the group settled into their blindfold listening, I gazed over the field to a line of willow trees.  As the breeze brushed against them, they sparkled their silvery leaves like sequins.

Since then I have been trying to catch the wind in my work.  On a sunny day I run down to the Meadows with a bowl and cyanotype paper and try to "print" the movement of the wind. Sometimes this doesn't work at all, but other times I have managed to catch movement and ghostly shapes in the prints.

Ash Keys, cyanotype, 2018
Willow and ash are both particularly good at responding to the wind. The elegance of ash keys, their weight drawing down the branches like clusters of chandeliers, become brushes as they move in the breeze. As I walk along the far western edge of the Meadows, there are ash trees that creak in the wind quite loudly, as if calling to you to notice them.

Willows are so flexible that their movement in the wind is marvelous, especially with that pale colour of the leaves that reflect light on a bright day and make them shimmer. The willows overhanging the river in the Meadows seem to dance with the light on the water, both moving with the wind together in a glittery waltz.

This week I have a meeting at the University of Leicester about an exhibition in the new year, when I hope to show some of my wind-catching experiments.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Unconditionally light August

My second Invisibility Walk was a delight.  A small group, but often this allows for deeper conversation and we were all able to share our specific areas of knowledge and ideas.  Our spontaneous, in-the-moment group poem was wonderful and really captured the feeling of the day:
Amplified unconditionally light
United, strong, free
Creatures were in abundance; we encountered butterflies, yellow frogs, house martins and dragon flies. Taste was provided by the hedge blackberries, and sloes made a surprise appearance! Are they early?

Thank you to everybody who came, especially Joe for giving up his Saturday afternoon to help out.  My final walk in Aylestone Meadows is on Saturday 29th September, click here for details.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Invisible Aylestone in July

Thanks to everybody who came to my first Invisibility Walk last weekend. The rain held off just long enough, and it was a lovely day.  Great chats with interesting people I'm glad I got to meet.

Thanks to Kate Dyer for this photo from our walk.

The next Invisibility Walk will be next week on Saturday 11th August, do join me if you can to creatively explore the invisible things in the woods.  Details are here.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Valley Thick with Oaks

This academic term Imagining Woodlands ran a course for English Literature students at the University of York.  The course looked at woodlands from different perspectives including literature and poetry, art, archaeology, science and conservation, and involved lectures, practical workshops, and visits to local nature reserve St Nick's.

The students were then asked to create their own project as a response to the course, and present their work for assessment and for the Imagining Woodlands team.

The range of responses was excellent! Students had thought about woodlands from a wide range of perspectives including poetry, film, novels, politics, mythology, tree symbolism, topiary, soundscapes and music, walking, psychogeography, slowness and speed, and nature in the digital world. After each presentation there was a fantastic exchange of questions, comments and ideas, with deep thinking and real engagement in the subject.

Particularly encouraging was the realisation that a group of 25 young people had spent time thinking deeply about the value of woodlands and our relationship to them through this experience, and would take this knowledge into their futures. There was a real sense that each student had engaged strongly with the subject and would be continuing to be inspired beyond the course itself.

And the Valley Thick with Oaks? The course takes place in Derwent College, a beautifully landscaped campus with mature trees around a lake. The name Derwent, as Suzi revealed to us in the session, means the valley thick with oaks. A suitable setting for our subject.

Thank you to the University of York for enabling this new course to take place, and to St Nick's Centre for Nature and Green Living for their contributions.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Events to engage with the invisible

I have a number of events coming up this summer, which are informed by my explorations in Aylestone Meadows for the microseasons project. I will be exploring Things We Can't See (as I wrote about in my last post), do join me if you can.

Friday 15th June - Fruit Routes - 12-6pm
Barefoot Orchard, Loughborough University Campus.

Join me in the Yurt to experiment with ways to make visible the Things We Can't See. Part of a 3 day programme of events for the Fruit Routes edible campus project. See their website for details.

Saturdays, July - September - Invisibility Walks, Aylestone Meadows -1-3pm
Assemble at the car park at the end of Marsden Lane, Aylestone Meadows, Leicester.

Take a creative walk around the Meadows to engage with the invisible. This will be a gentle walk where you will be guided to do simple creative activities to connect more closely to this lovely nature reserve. These walks are commissioned by the University of Leicester's College of Life Sciences Health Matters project. Suitable for all ages, children must be accompanied. FREE BUT PLEASE BOOK!

Click on a date below for details. 

Saturday 28th July Invisibility Walk
Saturday 11th August Invisibility Walk
Saturday 29th September Invisibility Walk

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Printing with UV

I started collecting things that make pollen (grasses, wildflowers) from the pollen trap sites and I wanted to experiment with how I could make images from them. When I'm at the sites, I keep thinking about the air and what's in the air that we can't see... pollen, pollution particles, etc. and how could I make this visible?

In the past I've done a lot of work with cyanotypes, making images from the sun's UV. UV light is from the part of the spectrum that is invisible to our eyes, so it's on my list of Things We Can't See. I took some of the things I had collected and placed them onto UV sensitised silk screens to see what I got. I've been layering up prints from these screens and I'm starting to like the results. It seems to me that layering up images goes some way to representing the many layers of the sites I am working with, and I like how some of the prints have background colours that could be things floating in the air.

I've also started playing around with a microscope to make images, especially of pollen and the pollen traps. My microscope isn't powerful enough to see pollen up close, but it's still interesting to see what is revealed. I could definitely see particles floating in the liquid in the pollen trap which I couldn't see with the naked eye. I will see if I can process these images into prints too.

I'll be exploring more ways of making images using Things We Can't See at the Fruit Routes event on 15th June (check their website to see what else is happening that week). As well as using the microscope some more, I'm hoping to do something with gravity, and possibly try something with the weight of air!

Saturday, 12 May 2018


As a visual artist, I think a lot about invisibility.

I have made a number of "invisible" works in the past.  A memorable one I made in Leicester, on the third floor of a beautiful empty building, where I pinned lines of thread from the ceiling to the floor in a pattern at 45 degree angles. You could only just see the thin lines shimmering and you had to move around it to see it,  and it was impossible to photograph.  Another one I made was a thirty foot long chalk drawing on the floor which worked with the play of light through the windows, to the point that people didn't realise the drawing was there and walked all over it!  There is something very satisfying about creating a work that big that people don't see it!

Why would a visual artist want to make things you can't see? Recently the microseasons project has been making me think about this again. Working with pollen traps, where you really can't see if there is anything in the trap or not, has made me think about how we can't see what's in the air, even though it will have an affect on us, in what we breathe in. Am I trying to make the invisible visible in this project? Or does "Imagining Woodlands" require the invisible to remain in the imagination only, as intangible but real ideas?

I am working with the University of Leicester to run creative walks in the Aylestone Meadows this summer, as part of their respiratory health and wellbeing campaigns by the College of Life Sciences. Breathing links nicely with both my exploration of pollen and invisibility in the woodlands, so I think engagement with the invisible will become the theme of these walks. I will publish the walk dates on this blog soon, I hope some of you can join me.