Went along to an informal PEAK (Contemporary Art in the Black Mountains) Arts Alive event in Llangattock, Powys where artists Rob Smith and Charles Danby discussed work involving the construction of a fire replica limekiln to introduce their project.

I am simply going to discuss the event at a surface encounter level, what I saw and took from it immediately.

Having parked too far away – didn’t really get the directions and map printed clearly…found my way with other artists, slightly late, to the site. Reached the canal, saw the limekiln and then climbed over a most pleasingly built bridge with ‘floating’ steps down (steep!) the other side.  Approaching the event site, found the artists and audience gathering around a much smaller kiln made of breeze blocks and the size of an oil drum.  Inside it were layered coal and lime, several times.  (22 October they’ll be showing this, a longer event though – for as long as the lime burns – until it’s out as part of Cardiff Contemporary). So the lime in this set up turned into quicklime, which looks fairly similar to the original lime, yet it is much lighter (though too Alkali for us to test) and brittle.

The chemistry was explained at great length. I found myself thinking how this talk was entirely about the process and not enough about the Why? behind the work.  I did do a bit of background reading on the web before I went, but the language used about the project on the artists website just seems to tangle into intellectual worm holes.  If I have to consider ‘what do they mean by that?’ more than twice in a sentence I begin to wonder if the intention is at complete odds with communication.  Is the work the obfuscating?

The next stage – on top of the limekiln structure (the old industrial building we’d gathered outside)– we watched the process of quicklime being mixed in water, heating up and making white wash, which was flecked with a fushia pink impurity.  The mixing and reacting took a while, the reaction took a while to heat up with mixing.  Along with another guy I saw red flashes in the bucket and it turned out to be camera red eye function before a flash!  Whoops.  The cloud was already dark in the distance and covering the mountain behind us and as the sun dipped beneath the horizon we had hot drinks and got into discussions underneath an oak tree.




I have a system of working which often now involves pulling instructions / starting points at random.  I have a box entitled < INSTRUCTIONS TO SELF > from which I pull little life instructions for myself, as and when I feel like it.  (This is an extension of the January supplements I sent people last year, as a printable and through the post as a New Year boost to activity, these instructions I enjoy doing and so I thought I’d share them.  Got some happy feedback).  Some of my instructions that time didn’t really work or were hard to follow, so in advance of the midwinter season I am testing out a selection of the ones that I felt worked last year and adding in some new ones.  I don’t put any time limit on when the instructions have to be completed after they are picked, they are on my mind a little and then I often find I do them and only realise later.

This happened today, on return to my studio to see the photos and videos I’ve taken on my first trip to walk about the Clydach Gorge, off the A465 between Abergavenny and Brynmawr.  The last instruction I pulled for myself was Walk in a woodland and I did this while exploring Clydach.

The Clydach Gorge Collaboration has been initiated by Allison Neal, who also lives in Abergavenny.  Alli has written a list of nine notes about the cultural, geological, scientific and engineering history of the area as a starting point.

I had several ideas straight away – what I’d like to do, but when considering them they seem too definite, with no wiggle room.  Also – I feel I need to get an all-round, better grounded knowledge of these starting points.

While walking in Clydach I drew (though my pen was seriously running out!) and made notes of things that interested me through video, photo and written points.  The most natural and exciting thing for me to do now is to add my points to Alli’s nine and work with each picked randomly.  I can spend as long or as little time on each as desired plus I could add more notes and questions as I go along.

I followed the signs to the Iron works and came across a sign warning that the subway is closed, but followed the path as far as it went, with construction fencing keeping public out of excavation works.  My first photo is of the top of the diggers with the cloud topped mountain behind.

Next I took a video of the two visible diggers at work.  Looking like large, grazing animals.  There’s something very calm and elegant in their movements.

The noise of the area, the most noticeable noises: hum of machines, sometimes throbbing and the river. [took video of noise, camera aimed at trees and river unseen, distant below]

A sign and fenced off area NO ENTRY! Japanese Knotweed Invasive Species looked most odd in the context of so much manmade noise going on, a simply thought: isn’t that exactly what humans are?.

After a while I came across a sign to Clydach station and followed it, went down several wrong turns (there are not many, but I found them!) and after a steep road uphill, found huge arched railway bridge and station…or, at least – where the rails once ended (long since been taken away).

I wonder when the first humans inhabited this area?  Have there been cave dwellers here?  (Seems quite inaccessible to get to Shakespeares cave!  (after watching caving video: )

National cycle route suddenly stops at entrance to Clydach and begins again after the railway.  Landowner doesn’t want it.

I was close to entering the nature reserve on the bridge, at this point I walked back down to Clydach village.

Once back down I did a 360° video starting with the diggers through the trees.  I thought the (throbbing) noise of the machines would be picked up, but it’s not.

Some fantastically shaped trees on the walk down from the station to the village. Huge, damp, moss covered, knarled on a large scale.

I’ve started a YouTube category on my account for Clydach Gorge, so far with others video’s for getting familiar with the lay of the land.

Heard mention of The Valley of the Goblin (Cwm Pwca)

Cutting up the list and picking out text randomly the work having common starting point with my 254words series (just finished).  The difference here is that after picking the note I can research and or make work in any format that suits the subject, instead of sticking with painting on a set board.  This could become anything.



Where I am

What I’m doing.

Attitude……matter of fact…..(as I see the FT)….calm, authoritive and not afraid to look different.


I’ve been thinking- why can’t art be useful?   I’m so often drawn to projects where the result is useful, due to things I see that need changing.


My way of working has been fairly held back and restrictive for a while, I haven’t risked enough or let go (much).  Now, what might happen if I followed every distraction that captivates me, every notion of project / painting etc…?  This is my current approach, along with calmly getting on with everything that absolutely needs to get done and leaving the rest to fall by the wayside.  Action over reading & writing, the latter pair being my default position.   I’d like to change this habit, make reading and writing more focused and making less so (I think I’ve had things the exact opposite way).  I have a daring and risky journey ahead of me.


I have been getting disheartened, money has seemed to be at the root of my holding back, but it can’t be that, what am I hoping for beyond a little more money?  (Echoes my question of people buying scratch cards – what are they hoping for beyond the cash?)  I need to pay some attention to the questions I ask of others, these are really questions for myself.


I had a place to study for my MA in Fine Art at Gloucester, but funding is a problem, such a problem that I can’t take up my place (hadn’t realized Wales wasn’t in the EU for funding purposes for the post-grad student loan, if I lived in France I might stand a chance).  This took me an age to accept.  However, not doing the Masters may turn out to be just what I need.  I might having been rushing things.  What I need is action, not necessarily the academic side of things, with all the reading and writing involved (weaning myself off this is painful, but necessary).  I don’t mean I am not reading and writing, I am simply not over-reading and over-writing.  A bit like over-eating and drinking, but for me the amber liquid is text.  I’m on the first part of a 12 step program to de-text and re-activate myself.  Maybe I’ll do the Masters next year, maybe in five, who knows?  Perhaps I need to get to the point of not needing it to make the most of it.  I am now heading towards making opportunities for myself, sometimes creating opportunities for others along the way. Who knows what’ll happen if I throw caution to the wind?


Today is a studio day for me, and I finished priming the last two 254words calico boards (I am at that point, like with a good book, when I don’t want the process to end and I can feel myself making the painting of the last two last as long as possible!)


There’s a micro space to work in my studio, so earlier I began sorting through a tower of papers….bumf from shows I’ve been to, scrabbled notes, project notes..etc and came across a printed email from the town council from August last year – a reply to my question about who runs the public toilets in Abergavenny (as one is closed and another is only open on weekends).


A wide thought I have is that in the UK we really need toilet facilities like they have in France (not necessarily the squat loos, though these are 100% better than none at all!) along the autoroutes, every 5 miles or so, so regularly that you know if you hear child in back suddenly needs loo, you wont have the worry of 30 mins to next possible stop, or a risky layby stop (not even possible on motorway).  There’s always an easy place to stop and at the very least the simplest facilities … How could the UK have many more loos, maybe a set design that is easy to replicate? Maybe even composting ones.  Need only be one that can be used be everyone, young, old, disabled, male or female.  Make travelling so much easier. There’s an International Toilet Festival #wecantwait.  World Toilet Day 19 November each year.


But, for now, thinking closer to home.  Loos in towns are often few and far between and they are not easy to find.   In shopping centers, often none of the shops have their own loos, so the mass of shoppers all descend on what often turns out to be 3 functioning loos (often quite disgusting).  I am particularly interested in non-traditional places to show art and perhaps converting closed public toilets in a nearby park could be a starting point.  It would certainly mean that the art would reach people who wouldn’t actively seek it out, not sure how great this is for the artists showing.  May work best for socially engaged practices, maybe the art being something that is un precious and possible that can be added to / given away or in some way changing.  I am clear the art must not be static (i.e. if it was painted, then this would need to change regularly). Not sure of the why’s yet about all this.


The Lost Library R&D stage…awaiting replies from orgs about partnering up AND the partnership needs to have an experimental outcome in public sphere.  Less hesitation.

The Lost Library project had many elements which could have been works in their own right.

My projects are all bubbling together.  I am excited to see what will happen.