I have an existing blog on Art, Ecology and Learning on wordpress, and am starting this one to focus on the work that stems from my a-n bursary.

This is an introduction to me, and the work that I am planning on carrying out through the bursary, and the exciting things that emerge from that.

So what am I planning?

Firstly I am going to use the bursary to extend my existing collaborative practice with London based artist Karen Wood (I’m based in a small village in Wiltshire). You can read more about our work together here, and follow @UrbanRuralExchange on instagram, or search for #UrbanRuralExchange on Twitter. Karen and I are both Associate Artists with CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) in Andover.

Secondly I’m going to be having a couple of 1:1 sessions with artist/curator Rosalind Davies, exploring the relationship between my largely rurally based practice and artists making related work in cities, developing opportunities for exhibiting/collaborating in more urban settings. I also met Rosalind through CAS when she was invited to come and speak at an event we ran at Winchester School of Art.

Thirdly I am going to be taking joining the Rural Assembly conference in June at The Whitechapel Gallery and Wysing Arts Centre. Wysing was one of the first places I was employed as a professional artist, running a series of workshops there in 1997/8, so its good to be going back.

Here’s how I described the intended benefits in my bursary application

‘As a rurally based artist I can feel disconnected from wider networks and exhibition opportunities. My collaboration with Karen Wood will help combat the isolation and lead to an exhibition in November at Spitalfields Studios. The bursary will enable me to work with Karen in London/Wiltshire, rather than it remaining a largely online collaboration.

I want to build on this initial opportunity, by extending my network to include London based artists and curators, which is why I approached Rosalind. I have spent 20 years since leaving college investing in my socially engaged practice and now want to build my profile as an exhibiting artist.

Lastly, I want to explore how work made in a rural setting can be shown and understood more widely. The conference will enable me to consider how to frame my practice, by placing it within the wider national and international context of rural arts practice.’

Underpinning all my work is an ongoing exploration of how art can enable experiences of continuity and connection, ways and being with the world that are about perceiving it and us as a whole.

I recognise that seeing the world as divided, through inherited ways of seeing and being, leads to us damage the very systems on which we depend. You can read more about this in my blog post Beyond The Binary, and how my work relates/responds to the current climate and ecological crisis here.

I’m thankful for the opportunities that this bursary brings, and excited to be starting out on a new adventure.


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As we plan our exhibition together at Spitalfields Studios in November, Karen Wood and I are looking at how we can invite people into our collaboration, to share our working processes of noticing and recording.

This is in part informed by my 1:1 conversation with curator Rosalind Davis earlier this year, where we discussed how I can make the most of existing exhibition opportunities and working relationships; drawing on existing networks, and linking events and exhibitions together to make the most of current opportunities, rather than moving too quickly onto the next one.

Karen and I are working with CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) to develop a walking and drawing event in Salisbury city centre in October. Funding permitting this will see us sharing our working processes with members of the public, by leading drawing walks from the Market Square, to Salisbury Museum.

We visited Salisbury in June to carry out research for this event, and to take our walks together into a new location. Although a city, Salisbury has many of the elements of rurality that we have explored together in our other Wiltshire walks, with water meadows and open river frontage in the heart of the city.

Starting in the Market Square, we walked towards the Cathedral Close, stopping to draw with wax blocks and tape, and take photographs, mapping features of interest for future walks.

After reaching the Museum we moved to the River Avon, testing out different routes that we might take through the city in October. Salisbury sits at the confluence of 5 rivers, which are key to its history and culture. We are keen to draw attention both to the surfaces that we walk on, and what lies beneath them, including the path of water as it flows through a city. This also links to my current research into the relationship between rivers and human bodies with US based artist Kathy Skerritt.

My bursary from A-N is enabling me to explore how my different collaborations support me as an artist based in a rural location. I was invited onto BBC Wiltshire last week to talk about why Karen and I set up URE and what role it plays for me as a rurally based artist. You can have a listen here from 1hr 12 to 1 hr 17.

Maintaining a dialogue with artists like Karen (London) and Kathy (Cleveland, Ohio), and others closer to home including Wiltshire based artists Jo Beal and Jonathan Mansfield, is proving key to the ongoing development of my ‘individual’ (as opposed to socially engaged) work.

My practice has always been about people’s relationship with place, whether my own or the many people I’ve worked with in educational and community settings over the years. But this new focus on collaboration is allowing me to invest in my ‘individual’ practice in a new way, building a supportive community of place-based practitioners, and a clearer context within which to place my work. This makes it more sociable (and fun), expands on my opportunities to reflect and to share ideas, and by doing so deepens my thinking and makes my practice more sustainable.

NB. I’ll be exhibiting with Jonathan Mansfield at Pound Arts in early 2020. Together we will be exploring the relationship between my embodied experiences of place, and Jon’s emotional/spiritual responses to the land. I’ll share more about that as details are confirmed.

 


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Yesterday I went on my 4th Urban Rural Exchange walk with collaborator Karen Wood. In our last walk we followed the path of the canal from Kings Cross, and this time we started at Canary Wharf, before as Karen put it, following the water through the docks and quays and the Mudchute City Farm, under the River Thames to Greenwich.

As I mentioned in my last post, my ongoing work with Karen forms part of the work enabled by my bursary, in addition to attending The Rural Assembly conference and receiving 1:1 support from Artist/Curator Rosalind Davis.

I met with Rosalind earlier this month, and found it really useful, although not perhaps in the way I imagined. When I applied for the bursary and included mentoring sessions I imagined myself focusing on making new contacts and developing new exhibition opportunities, building networks and planning shows.

That is still a key part of what I am doing, but what I have realised is that the time to sit and reflect, to discuss what I want to achieve and why, is in itself really important. By talking with Rosalind I was able to see that I can create the most value out of investing time and attention in the opportunities that I already have lined up.

Rather than always leapfrogging over the top of existing plans to focus on what comes next, I need to make this time to stop, consider what it is I want to achieve, and go deeper.

I think perhaps the constant feeling of needing to look ahead is something that comes from being self-employed/freelance, and having worked that way for years. Going from project to project, planning ahead for the next source of income. But I’m realising more and more that there’s value in being present, and being 100% committed to where you are now. Through making the most of current opportunities, new ones follow.

For instance Rosalind helped me to consider what events I could run alongside my planned exhibitions, how my belief in the need for interdisciplinarity and dialogue could inform these, who could be invited/involved, and how such dialogue with my collaborators could be recorded and shared more widely.

Two of the exhibition opportunities that we discussed are the exhibition that Karen and I are having at Spitalfields Studios, launching on Thursday November 7th, and an exhibition with the artist Jonathan Mansfield, at The Pound Arts Centre in early 2020.

I’m also going to be carrying out some collaborative work with US based artist Kathy Skerritt in June/July. Kathy and I were due to be working together in Cleveland, Ohio, before I decided to stop flying, in the face of fast moving Climate Change (see my post Declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency). Now Kathy and I are exploring ways of linking and exchanging our place-based practices from a distance, and have started making work that weaves between my local river and hers.

Kathy and I share an interest in the relationship of our bodies to the body of the earth and bodies of water, and my experiences yesterday in London connected deeply with this, as Karen led me on a walk through the Docklands to the river.

I was saddened by the straight edged ‘cleanliness’ of the Canary Wharf area, with so much money invested in infrastructure for people to make even more money, and no investment in the plants or animals that could so easily be supported to live alongside. With no spaces created for natural vegetation, the geese were left to gather stray bits of plastic rubbish to make their nests.

As we walked, we noticed the water flowing between pools in a manicured park built above the underground, and as we moved away from the newer areas of development towards lower rise residential buildings, the number of water birds living among the buoys and docksides increased. Coots, Great Crested Grebes, Grey Wagtails, Canada Geese and Mute Swans.

If only, as part of giving planning permission for new developments, there was always a condition that the needs of the non human world be taken into account too.

We paused at the Mudchute City Farm for lunch, walking through a shock of tangled Spring green, in contrast with the controlled spaces and structures of before, before moving on to the Greenwich foot tunnel. From water above the underground, we stepped into a space dug beneath the massive River Thames, her enormous bulk flowing above our heads and cooling the air with moisture.

On the 1st June Karen comes to me in Wiltshire, and I will plan and guide her on a rural walk, although I’m not yet sure where. Our walks together are so packed full of noticing, of the collecting and documenting of experiences, that it takes a while for everything to start to settle and to make sense. Today I’m taking some quiet time, at home, to pause and reflect, before I start to follow the water once more.

 


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