Thursday, 26 April 2012

Riverlands and Spires

The premiere of Riverlands, a performance by Jo Bell and Jo Blake Cave, took place at Aldwincle All Saints Church in Northamptonshire, with the artwork by me and Kate Dyer on display.

Photo by Kate Dyer
The event was mesmerising, the venue magical, lit by technician Andy Eathorne to create gently rippling coloured light across the columns, evoking the animation of light on water.

The performance was rich with romance, humour, characters and birds. The audience (sold out on the first night!) were riveted from start to finish, not a sound or a stir until the double encore at the end.

I had worked with Kate Dyer to create artwork that incorporated my maps and drawings with Kate's photographs from the river. This had been a challenge as my drawings are linear and delicate with limited colour, whereas Kate's images were rich in colour and texture. Making them work together on one piece was a challenge! However, once I struck on the idea that the map was all about the shape of the river rather than the elements around it, this resulted in Kate's images also working with the shape of the river and creating the impressions of colour and texture that you experience on the banks.

I included my sketches and notes from the river on the reverse of the map. The drawings were received really well and I had some great feedback from the audience. This is particularly encouraging as I have just launched my shop of drawings for a personal project I have been doing, originally inspired by this commission.

I created an extra addition to the project, the Church Spires cutouts. My sense of travelling on the river was punctuated by the appearance of church spires slicing into the sky, so surprising when juxtaposed with the horizontal planes of the river. The spires along this stretch of river were significant to my experience and I wanted to find a way to include them.

The Church Spires cutouts is a set of unfolded spires, a selection of the shapes that I saw from the river. The spires are an A4 sheet of quality card laser cut to produce 5 shapes. When pressed out and folded, the shapes create miniature spire shapes.

These were really popular at the event and I sold quite a few. It's the first time I have worked with laser cutting and I was delighted with the results. Folded paper, paper forms and working with 2D into 3D is something that has interested me for a long time, so I will definitely be doing more laser cut paper sculptures in the future.

To see the map, drawings and Church Spires cutouts in more detail, click here.

Riverlands and the River map were commissioned by Rosalind Stoddart, Cultural Engineer.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Psychogeography of Standing Stones

Having returned from a week walking on Dartmoor, which included a number of visits to standing stones, I am once again reminded of the very specific sitings that ancient standing stones have.

Whether  you believe in things like ley lines or geographical vortices of power or not, there is definitely something about the locations that the ancients chose for their standing stones which inspire in us an imaginative power and mystery.

Dartmoor is spectacular, particularly in our overcrowded little island, as a place of miles of nothingness... one can walk for several leagues without meeting a road or building or, indeed, another person. It is always in these places, it seems to me, that birds take over as the dominant species - remove humans and birds move right in, coming and going in their flux of settlement and migration. Buzzards whirled overhead, appearing and reappearing day by day. A peregrine swooped below us as we stood on one of the high tors. A kestrel hanging in the air, that distinctive shape, before making his dive. Crows wheeling everywhere.

Beardown Man is a menhir, isolated, twice as tall as a man, that stands between the tors. He appears to be surveying the hills. His vertical presence on the endless horizontal planes of the moor is remarkable, and seems to draw attention to the horizons. You can see the weather coming towards you from all points of the compass. His presence seems to draw you to consider your surroundings.

It is quite a walk to Beardown Man, as there is only one road that really crosses Dartmoor, so to get anywhere you have to go by foot across boggy, grass tufted land. Many standing stones in Britain are more accessible now, but there are still a number like this that require effort to reach. Often high up on hills, isolated, placed in the centre of open, empty landscapes, the stones require a sort of pilgrimage to reach them. This must be how the ancients intended them to be, before we built roads to access pretty much everything. The effort of reaching the stones adds to their singularity.

Did they wish to place a stone and so sought the right place for it? Or did being in the place itself suggest a stone should be uprighted there.

It made me wonder, where would we place standing stones today? And what would they mean now, given our changed and constantly altering landscape, how would the surroundings interact imaginatively with that extraordinary presence?