I thought you might be interested to see how my experiments/artwork
using Halen Mon salts are progressing.
I’ve been using the chalk (washed from the salt) as a ground on the
surface of glass sheets. I then cover with salt solution and paint, and add resin. This gives a 3D effect to the finished piece of work which I love. I also find it very pleasing conceptually because in these works I’m reuniting the chalk and salt which have been separated during the refining process.
The other technique I’ve been exploring is to place the glass sheet into
a dish of brine. Thus the chalk surface absorbs
the salt and the salt crystals are embedded within its surface.
I hope you find these outcomes interesting- I’ll post more pictures as and when the work progresses!
Friday. My final day with Halen Mon is drawing to a close. It’s gorgeous here, and I’d love to stay. I have so many ideas for art, ranging from the semi functional to the more fantastical, but how best to progress? Between us we’ve decided to start with the practical and work from there. Halen Mon is a functioning production site, with a soon-to-be built visitor centre on the way. This means the priority for artworks is to serve a function, whether through their placement so they subtly direct visitors, or decorate blank surfaces, or through their content so they educate and inform about the chemistry and production of salt.
I’m taking a massive collection of resources back to my studio, ranging from photos to watercolours to all sorts of items I’ve found and been given. These will form the inspiration from which I’ll work. We’ve arranged to have a catch up online in a couple of weeks to recap, regroup and consider our progress, so although we’re at opposite ends of the country we shouldn’t lose too much momentum. Another visit? Yes, that’s on the cards for later on this year. By then both of us will have progressed and we should be able to recombine our ideas with physical elements on site.
My second day at Halen Mon has been a day of finding connections and correlation. There’s the fascinating visual likeness between the mountains of Snowdonia visible across the Menai Straight, and the pyramid-like salt crystals produced from the Menai Straight water.
Then there’s the intriguing similarity between the colours of the local countryside and coastline and those of the various Halen Mon salts.
And finally there’s salt and art, linked together by chalk and gypsum. Chalk is used as a filler in paint and to prepare grounds for painting. Gypsum is crushed and dried to make plaster of paris. Both are formed when seawater evaporates and are by-products of the salt making process.
Seawater > gypsum + chalk > salt
Can this process be reversed somehow I wonder, and art made with all elements rejoined?
Chalk + gypsum + salt + water = ?
Tomorrow will be my 3rd day here before I head back to my studio in Cardiff. These have been a precious few days to me, almost like a mini residency, and have given me time and space to explore new surroundings and thrash out new thoughts and ideas. I can feel my practice developing in new directions which is very exciting, with new artworks begging to be made. However I mustn’t lose site of one of my aims for this collaboration which is to work with Halen Mon to produce site responsive art which can also be displayed at this location. And to do this I must keep in mind the use of more robust materials too: slate, stone and perhaps transparent panels to call to mind the sea, water and scenery of this fantastic location. After today there are the makings of some great ideas on the table. Let’s see how we can move them on.
My first day in Anglesey at Halen Mon has passed by in a blaze of glorious sunshine. As an artist trying to utilise the outcomes of science within my work, my primary aim for today was to discover just how Halen Mon crystallises the local seawater to make their salt flakes. I’ve been crystallising salts in my studio and they’re incredible, but the crystal structure of Halen Mon salts are a in a class all of their own. Truly a thing of beauty.
I was first given an induction and shown the process of salt harvesting, beginning with the seawater filtered through mussel beds on the Menai Straights, through to the concentration of the brine, salt crystallisation, rinsing of the salt flakes, drying and packing. Who knew that so much goes in to producing salt! I’ve read somewhere that in the past salt was scarce and cost as much as gold, and seeing for myself the care that goes into producing salt crystals of this quality I can truly believe it.
What I’ve gathered is the pride that goes into harvesting this salt, and the extreme care that is taken to ensure each batch (and indeed each crystal) is perfect. I feel this theme will prove to be a vital part of the collaboration.
I also witnessed for myself the cloudy chalk that’s released when salt is rinsed. This is new to me, and explains what the white residue is that I’ve seen around the edges of pans after boiling vegetables in salted water. Calcium carbonate is naturally found in seawater; organisms such as plankton, algae and molluscs all contribute, but it’s considered an impurity in salt and so the more that’s removed, the better. I love the fact that a by-product of salt crystallisation is chalk, a substance that I already use within my work….. Is there a way of reuniting the salt and chalk, I wonder?
The remainder of the day was spent taking photos of the area and drawing. Once again the theme of beauty resurfaces; the scenery here is glorious! And the colours! I feel it’s perhaps more important to capture the colours rather than the overall forms; again I feel these may prove to be an important element within my work.
So after the first day I have lots of ideas and a brain full of stimuli, but everything is loose and unformed. Tonight will be spent thinking and assessing, and making a list for tomorrow. I hope too to have a good brainstorm with the directors David and Alison and start to steer things in some kind of a direction.