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.
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….
Time has flown by and I have had a thought provoking and sometimes challenging time at Airspace in Stoke on Trent. I am grateful that I have been able to learn more and more each passing day as well as to have the wee studio in which to reflect and write down/develop ideas. Its been a great gift and opportunity. From construction of the Brownfield Research facility something I have done plenty of times, to the fabricating of an artwork for Vicky Sharples – a first time for me. I have been using previous knowledge to get the best out of my time spent (identifying grasses for Rebecca Chesney – nice for me as a contract scyther and meadow/hay maker and much appreciated to be asked) as well as being open to new ideas – thanks Edward Chell! Producing a piece of work using Evening Primrose flowers and the remains of the ash.
I have been helping build and paint the new Airspace Brownfield Research Centre at Airspace Gallery Stoke on Trent.
It has been interesting and challenging at the same time. I have a reasonable amount of knowledge in building and fabrication work and tool usage.
First of all I was tasked with clearing out old studio spaces and moving past dreams about and putting them into store. Two of the full time resident artists and myself were kept busy for a couple of days. It was good to get to know them and chat about life, the universe and general stuff as we lugged and hauled kit/works and rubbish about. The resulting clear out enabled me to have a small space to engage with my own practice. It amuses me that the height of the studio I am in for the next couple of months is higher, ceiling wise, than its length and breadth! It has a great window though and much more salubrious than The Barn that three of us occupy as an artist led space in rural Cheshire.
Then the fun began: building/fabricating interior walls, lining out and painting. It was good to do. I was surprised at the amount of ‘kit’ available in powered tools that the Gallery owns – my past experience in constructing and reconstructing/renovating anything from old barns to houses has been based on the collected use, sharing and knowledge of human power and traditional hand tools but, in this case the world of electricity was king!
Working in a gallery space which is on a budget requires resourcefulness and imagination. Trust is a big thing here and works well however knowledge sharing is also key and – probably due to my way getting on with things, there have been moments of when the ‘resource of voluntary brought in skills’ (me) has not been used to the gallery’s advantage. I suppose because the staff are so used to working independently that volunteers such as myself can be considered to be a burden in as much as one has to spend time explaining what is required and expected.However I always felt welcome and valued.
I am looking forward to meeting up with the six artists that will be involved in the project and learning about their practice and ideas. It should be an amazing factory!