Sept 2016

I have a system of working which often now involves pulling instructions / starting points at random.  I have a box entitled < INSTRUCTIONS TO SELF > from which I pull little life instructions for myself, as and when I feel like it.  (This is an extension of the January supplements I sent people last year, as a printable and through the post as a New Year boost to activity, these instructions I enjoy doing and so I thought I’d share them.  Got some happy feedback).  Some of my instructions that time didn’t really work or were hard to follow, so in advance of the midwinter season I am testing out a selection of the ones that I felt worked last year and adding in some new ones.  I don’t put any time limit on when the instructions have to be completed after they are picked, they are on my mind a little and then I often find I do them and only realise later.

This happened today, on return to my studio to see the photos and videos I’ve taken on my first trip to walk about the Clydach Gorge, off the A465 between Abergavenny and Brynmawr.  The last instruction I pulled for myself was Walk in a woodland and I did this while exploring Clydach.

The Clydach Gorge Collaboration is a creative group brought together and initiated by Allison Neal, who also lives in Abergavenny.  Alli has written a list of notes about the cultural, geological, scientific and engineering history of the area as a starting point.

I had several ideas straight away – what I’d like to do, but when considering them they seem too definite, with no wiggle room.  Also – I feel I need to get an all-round, better grounded knowledge of these starting points.

While walking in Clydach I drew (though my pen was seriously running out!) and made notes of things that interested me through video, photo and written points.  The most natural and exciting thing for me to do now is to add my points to Alli’s nine and work with each picked randomly.  I can spend as long or as little time on each as desired plus I could add more notes and questions as I go along.

I followed the signs to the Iron works and came across a sign warning that the subway is closed, but followed the path as far as it went, with construction fencing keeping public out of excavation works.  My first photo is of the top of the diggers with the cloud topped mountain behind.

Next I took a video of the two visible diggers at work.  Looking like large, grazing animals.  There’s something very calm and elegant in their movements.

The noise of the area, the most noticeable noises: hum of machines, sometimes throbbing and the river. [also took video of noise, camera aimed at trees and invisible river]

A sign and fenced off area NO ENTRY! Japanese Knotweed Invasive Species looked most odd in the context of so much manmade noise going on, a simply thought: isn’t that exactly what humans are?.

After a while I came across a sign to Clydach station and followed it, went down several wrong turns (there I not many, but I found them!) and after a steep road uphill, found huge arched railway bridge and station…or, at least – where the rails once ended (long since been taken).

I wonder when the first humans inhabited this area?  Have there been cave dwellers here?  (Seems quite inaccessible to get to Shakespeares cave!  (after watching caving video)

National cycle route suddenly stops at entrance to Clydach and begins again after the railway.  Landowner doesn’t want it. (Photos of signs)

I was close to entering the nature reserve on the bridge, at this point I walked back down to Clydach village.

Once back down I did a 360° video starting with the diggers through the trees.  I thought the (throbbing) noise of the machines would be picked up, but it’s not.

Printing / drawing views from the Gorge on new five pound notes. Why? Fix the time as now (while the notes are new) when the prints/drawings are made.

Some fantastically shaped trees on the walk down from the station to the village. Huge, damp, moss covered, knarled on a large scale.

I’ve started a YouTube category on my account for Clydach Gorge, so far with others video’s I’m somewhat interested in.  Mostly for getting the hand of the lay of the land.

Heard mention of The Valley of the Goblin (Cwm Bucca it sounded like in Welsh)

When thinking about cutting up the list and picking out randomly, it initially seems like a cop-out; my 254words series (just finished) worked this way.  The difference here is that after picking the note I can research and or make work in any format that suits the subject.  This is wide open and it could lead anywhere.  Let’s do it!


This blog is really merging with my main blog  now…

{It was temporarily true!}


Well, my familiarity with the Gorge is increasing.  As with my encounters with the people who comes and go. The other days whilst I sat in my car etching (it was torrential rain) I saw a large group of walkers making their way up to the limekiln area.  Also – I walked down a road I hadn’t before and found the best high vantage point of the roadworks so far.  Could see the work force quite clearly working together laying in the pieces of the bridge structure in place.  This now seems closer to me as I’ve just arranged with the construction company for the group of artists and writers to meet with them.  The group I know is two artists and two writers, though I think others are also interested, just not able to come to our meet-ups (I missed one a few weeks ago due to not wanting to pass on a cold).

I reckon we may each have different ideas and so I’ll share mine and ask for others’ thought on it later.

Etching aluminium is a new process for me (I did a couple of days last year) and in my first batch of etchings that I have recently printed I had a variety of approaches – from trying to capture the texture of the land, to etching a collage of two images one of the current machinery at work on the land and another of children in the road at Clydach in around 1900, hovering in the sky, watching the changes.  This hasn’t worked particularly well, so I may work on with this on PhotoShop at some point.  I’ve etched very basically imagery looking out of an unusual looking cave (more like a mouth, perhaps!) with people dancing on the land.  I’ve found that the smaller plates are producing more interesting results that the larger ones, plus the results when using lard as a resist produces results that are often unexpected, but also often the most intense and photographic looking, which is intriguing and needs pursuing.

Starting with text I’ve moved through ideas on people on the land (in paint) and in etching.  I have begun working on aluminium before I’ve felt ready because I just needed to get interacting with the medium.  My work for this is bouncing between ideas of people and text in place, to the texture of the place, and now I’m thinking about the way the workforce are moving around the changing site.  I’d be really interested to take stock of the movement of the people (workers) over the contours of the changed landscape.  I thought I had a plan on my approach for the aluminium at the start of the project, but it turns out to be inadequate.  Tomorrow I am printing at the Print Shed in Madley, the pieces I’ve etched so far.  To become clear the motivation and ideas behind the work need to come to the fore more.  People, and contours of the land.  I have notions of people responding to the site through movement (as in performers) but what has been staring me in the face in the fact that people are already doing this.  The workforce.  I wonder how I could work with the movements of the people on the site?

I’m particularly interested in where people have contact with the land and their movement over it.


I am trying to get in touch with the construction company to arrange a site visit to the road works – I want to get closer!

I’m currently etching using hundred year old photographs of people in Clydach village and a still from the video I made of diggers at work on the new road.

I’m also developing performative ideas for this project.  In talks with a dancer….


At Clydach Gorge yesterday I explored the lime kilns, in the cave like space I found small stalactites formed in diagonally drawn lines across the bricks.  It was misty when I walked up there, the mist came closer while there.  I also met outdoors activity leaders of the Gwent Outdoors Centres with hard hats.  Later I thought of caving further.  I’d quite like a taste of these immense cave systems that start here.

I’ve received the Arts Alive Creative Network Mini Fund to produce new work and I am now about to clear out my shed and order and collect the kit in readiness to set up etching aluminium plates.  I’m also trying to find paper to print on in order that the print becomes transparent when hung in a space.  At the same time I feel it’s necessary to spend more time at the Gorge and get more acquainted with the place.

I find due to my over organized approach to the rest of my life that I’m thinking ahead to the potential of an exhibition Roadtrip for this collaboration on the A465 Roadworks.  One of the outdoor activity leaders had a link with the local Gilwern Village Hall (other side of A465 from Clydach Gorge) – this got me thinking about showing the results of the collaboration.  Now it’s time to forget all that and get down to the Gorge again…