I have been continuing my work on my Moor series which was instigated by a trip away to Derbyshire. I’ve extended this remit to essentially include the more wildish aspects of the UK countryside as I normally spend most of my time in a city and urban environment.
What I notice most about being on a moor or open expanses of countryside is the infinity aspect where one can stare out into the distance for as far as the eye can see. No more buildings obstructing ones views and dreams from my usual ground floor perspective. Also the light is different and more changeable. In London, the predominant colour of the sky is grey followed by more grey. Having for years missed the light and bright blue skies of NZ it’s a blessed relief to see more dynamic and exciting skies.
As I make my art, different things spring to mind. Bits of poetry and literature, where others too have been influenced by their natural surrounds. The Moor in particular inspired the well known Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’, Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, W.H Auden’s poem ‘In praise of limestone’ to name a few.
The Moor is perceived as being wild and mysterious. The unstructured, the uncontrollable – refusing to be defined by man’s hand however much we try to contain its borders and development.There is something humbling and grounded about being surrounded by countryside. The whole thing about feeling just a small part of it, a tiny entity situated in the wider landscape.
The knowledge that hidden away but within close proximity is a variety of wildlife. This lurking delights and intrigues me and I often wish I could just sit in wait, hidden myself to see what might appear. I can quite understand the occasional story of a big beast or cat being seen on the Moors and how these stories are sensationalised in the news. If I were a wild animal a moor is precisely where I would head as well. A place to completely run free like a car without a speed limit. The enigmatic power of a beast roaming free, unpredictable and relentless in its bid for freedom. Ted Hughes poetry springs to mind.
We tend to romanticise these untamed spaces, delighting in the colours and moods the craggy environment displays. There is also often areas of dense bracken or woodland – many probably introduced by man in the first place. But somehow even these inscrutable spaces appeal to our sense of relief and surrender. There is nothing to prove in places like these. It’s not just about being at one with nature but we can’t help but come face to face with the reality of ourselves.
The pieces I’m working on take a long time to do. Photography followed by digital editing and some montaging, then deliberately roughly collaged onto surfaces I have put together myself. The handmade is an important part of the process for this series of work. It’s like working on the land. It wouldn’t have felt right to use pre- made and already primed canvases. Then it’s all about preparing the surfaces ready for painting. Matt varnish x 2 layers followed by 2 layers of clear primer – waiting to dry between each layer – like a ritual or preparing for the growing of crops.
The gaps between the collaged bits are deliberate – scars in the land; carved out and defining the shapes in the surface. Colour is equally important. Purples, pinks, greys, greens, browns, and yellows of various shades try to encapsulate the wide variety of hues of the ever changing landscape.
One of the things I plan to do whilst working on this moor series is to apply some of the same techniques and practices that I use on my urban city pieces. For example I like to seek out the patterns and movements that my original photographs suggest to me and emulate these with drawing and painting onto the collaged image – my interventions; walking with my fingers, instinctively using touch at a basic level to respond to what I see in front of me. The works I display here are not finished and I don’t know how these will turn out. Each has its own journey in terms of what and how paint or other material is applied. I like to let my processes guide me.