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.
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.
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.