Only six weeks till my departure to Le Havre.
I have had some time to reflect upon the opportunities and other issues that will possibly be rearing their heads on this residency.

Calling upon my past experience of walking which is usually in the countryside or mountains walking in a city will be very different. Probably quite uncomfortable – not physically but emotionally and for my ‘Elan Vital’.  I will have to engage a very different head.

These are a few of the questions I have been pondering upon:

What kit do I need?
What should I take?
What do I need to consider for comfort?
What do I need to include to enable whatever to result?

I have learnt that trying to second guess what may happen is probably never a good plan – it then fixes ones brain and then becomes hard to un-do. Flexibility is the key however…..

I have had time to consider what I don’t need: 
Heavy Boots
Compass – although this could be useful to orientate myself
Full waterproofs – an umbrella will be fine
Bivouac/tent
Sleeping bag
Sleeping mat
Cooking stove
Spare food – although a muesli bar will be handy
Spare clothes

What I think I will need:
Carnet de Voyage/Sketch book
Pencils/pen ( I tend to use an ink pen for notes/sketches)
Small pan water colours
small brush and flat 1/2inch wide brush
Fuji x100T rangefinder
Olympus Trip film camera (TBD)
Probably a small Manfrotto tripod for shooting at dawn/dark (February when I have this placement)
Hat
Gloves
Warm jumper
Coat
Study shoes
Although I am comfortable with French a wee dictionary is always useful!

My hosts from Le Havre will make me most welcome no doubt.
So……I have decided not to treat this as I would my other walks. I did consider it otherwise but prefer to look at it completely differently to have an alternative experience altogether.
I have looked at the idea of ‘The Flaneur’ as per French poet Charles Baudelaire’s essay The Painter of Modern Life 1863

“Il a cherché partout la beauté passagère, fugace, de la vie présente, le caractère de ce que le lecteur nous a permis d’appeler la modernité. Souvent bizarre, violent, excessif, mais toujours poétique, il a su concentrer dans ses dessins la saveur amère ou capiteuse du vin de la Vie”

but this can be decided at a later date.

I went back and re-studied the work of my pal John Riddy

http://johnriddy.net/selected-works.html 

and talked to him about wandering through cities and coming across moments of what one looks for.

I have recently read 3 of his books:

John Riddy  2000 Camden Arts Centre London
Praeterita     2000 Ruskin School Oxford
Views from Shin-Fuji 2008 Frith Street Publishers London

Plenty to consider here regarding city/views/moments/journey

It just making  time now to consider what track/tack I may take.

 


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Finding space and moving through, by, over is never going to be straight forward. Environmental aesthetics will be called into question as a walking artist. The impossibility of creating an image of/with the experience will forever be thus.

Taking ownership of the experience is easy but then owning it is not as easy at it sounds. The experience has happened, the evidence is only what one has through it – a passing temporality – nothing solid.

I walked across the Roaches (Peak District) recently. I had forgotten about the moorland fires of last year. The ground still scored, dotted with new growth and in the sky a mournful call of a Curlew holding territory.

I stopped and knelt down, smelling the burnt peat. It filled me, flooding my passages, memories came flooding back.

I looked up, and watched the hikers and other families tread the path.


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Dovedale – the all encompassing view that Ilam embraces. My residency this week has, by default, been all about this. Walking the lost paths that I have worked out and discovered (hours of old and newer maps – transposing routes to work with new OS maps. I chose, as always not to do this digitally by with analogue technology – pencil and papered compass.)

On walking them out I was bombarded by questions flowing out of me.

John Muir, environmentalist and explorer was right:

‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

I stooped and scribbled these thoughts down, shaded by a fine Ash tree.

The View………

What does it mean?

Who’s allowed it?

How accessible is it?

How do we measure it?

What is our response to it?

What are the benefits?

Who is affected?

Suddenly it seemed I was on the wrong track, not literally but  the connections were too great to be confident of this type of walk being an artwork. I couldn’t place my hand on it. I finished early. All paths complete. Not rushed but not given the time that I thought I would have done.

Hamish Fulton said in one of his pieces:
“A walk has a life of its own and does not need to be materialised into an artwork”

I have a few days of reflection now before heading back – who knows where this journey will lead.


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Three weeks into my residency at Ilam Park, National Trust,  I am realising that I know even less than I did at the beginning. In my proposal I wanted to explore the relationship between people and landscape. My realisation is that this is a much bigger question than I first  imagined. Engagement has been good – lots of families, seniors and hostellers have taken up my offer for them  to paint (over 100 paintings and drawings so far)  the picturesque (which is why Ilam Park was created 270 years ago ). I have deliberately chosen not to ‘vet’ or criticise these creations and as a result  it is liberating for all. Each piece carries a deep pleasure of image making for the sake of it.

Luckily the Trust has a lot  of documentation about the development and history  of the estate which has enabled me to open  discussions and record them with lots different types visitors – walkers, day trippers, families ….

Some families and individuals come back regularly, for others it  is just a one off.

Often times their reason for  visiting Ilam park is to find recovery from busy lives and work, enjoying the view through to breathing the clean Peak District air. Understanding the necessary needs of these visitors is key  to the National Trust’s status and visitor experience. The organisation needs visitors  to serve and ‘grow’ their members.

As an artist I am driven to the land, my language and narrative is of the landscape.

On this residency I have started to walk the lost lanes and paths (discovered by pouring over many maps and documents – some predate the build of the estate). Being ambulant gives a certain timelessness to my practice. These roads are paths once built, routes that historically  humans created are now  been absorbed back into nature. I  absorb and recognise what I see around me and realise that there is a continued impermanence of the land  as well as  the moment of being and creating. The experience can only be realised once completed. I can imagine it through the time spent research and pouring over maps however  the artwork is the  walking itself and so I must continue.


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Am now into the second week of my residency at Ilam Park. It has been refreshing to be based out of doors in spectacular scenery and, so far, sunny weather.

Ilam Park is a National Trust property which has been highly influential in the development of the picturesque landscape in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It has been culturally important as well – visits by William Gilpin, Thomas Whately and Samuel Johnson recorded the landscape, promoting ideas of good taste in the landscape and design as well as pushing the idea that such landscapes imbedded good character in the people who responded well to them.

Gilpin rough notes of 1772 state

“Nature, in short, has been profuse of her charms to Ilam and art has well supported her.”

 

So I have a lot to live up to – cripes.

I have spent a lot of time going through maps and documents, discovering places old and new as well as recording visitors conversations about what/why they come to Ilam.

I have re-discovered and am starting to walk and document the ‘lost roads’ as well as photograph original views. I have run a children’s workshop with year 8 from a school in central Nottingham and have spent time with a local art group as well.

I am building up quite a portfolio of information.

 

Where this will go, who knows, but I certainly feel I am pushing the door upon the idea of Henri Bergosn’s ‘Elan Vital’.   ….so who knows….

 


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