After my first session as Visiting Research Associate at LAU I was left with many questions about my identity as an artist and how i portray myself and justify what I do. One of the questions I was confronted with was ' What identifies me as an Environmental Artist?' which has brought to light my own constant questioning about how I justify myself as an 'Environmental Artist' under the impossible legacies left by the original Environmental & Land Artists of the '70s. These artists physically connected to the land in (how I see) monumental ways, carving out the land, creating large land art using the materials of the land. However, I do feel Environmental artists of the 21st Century work within a different context and manifest themselves in different forms. I've always been very focused on the act of restricting my materials to only organic matter, which is limiting, but I always feel that I am being authentic and true to myself, but maybe it's time to reassess and change my approach? I've worked within the flower & horticultural trade for over 30 years and grew up within the countryside experiencing making and playing within a rural setting on top of my work ethic within my practice, so I do feel qualified to be able to call myself an Environmental Artist, but my ethical approach does leave me limited at times.
Practically wise I've been exploring the properties of cyanotype further combining clay and charcoal as painting mediums and aspects of burying sheets of paper in the ground, the space below ground level, ground level itself and the space above. There have been some great painterly type results with beautiful fine lines of clay deposits. The blocks of colour presenting themselves on portrait positioned sheets of paper have really caught my eye reminiscent of Rothko's rectangular paintings.
Recording particles created by the elements on paper is a time-consuming process that takes months even years as can be seen with Stephen Turners 'Tree Rings' consequently I've been thinking of ways to facilitate faster responses to elemental mark making.
After seeing an image from an Instagram post by @margaretsoraya; a photographer based in the Isle of Harris, I started to look at my project #disjointedhorizons from a different perspective. Margaret had taken a particular image submerged in the ocean, with the snowy mountains in the distance and the sea in the foreground, this linear/horizontal close view of the water soften the image and portrayed the view as if swimming in the sea and the water enveloping around you. The stunning image got me thinking about viewing the earth from a different perspective.; instead of always viewing work and making from above, as is often the case with Google Earth and images from space, this horizontal position feels like a new way of observing and making.
. I've always been fascinated by the act of digging into the earth and the enormity of carving out the land for both construction and quarrying earth's resources. Working on a horizontal level, going down into the earth below the borderline of ground level presents some new challenges and ways of working.
After visiting my good friends exhibition (click Here -) Nunnington Hall opens for 2022 with a new exhibition - Castles Gardens (castlesandgardens.co.uk) I started to revisit the light sensitive process of cyanotype and the process of placing paper within cut out openings in the ground to enable a juxtaposition between the above, the below and the broken 'crust' of the earth. Cyanotype for me can be very restrictive as far as always being blue tones but by using materials unconventionally i.e. mixing with earth pigments such as clay, charcoal and rust and allowing the earth and detritus to connect with the paper there have some surprising results. Using the cyanotype more as a painting medium at the point of experiment rather than prepping paper before hand which is traditionally done has helped me push the process further. There's no getting away from the fact that cyanotype is a great light sensitive medium that can interact with the elements and produce some great marks and drawings but I want to work through ways of making the cyanotype a less dominant feature in the work.
I've been lucky enough to have been chosen to take part in a new programme at Leeds Arts University as a Visiting Research Associate. This is a fabulous opportunity and something I've been in need of to kick start new work and pull me out of the uninspiring phase I've been in!
This period will give me the chance to develop my practice based research skills further, acquire more knowledge and experience and gain further insight into the processes of practice based research in the context of the university.
As my work can be mainly ephemeral in nature I've relied on photography to capture permanent records of much of my work. Recently I've been focusing on ways of producing more lasting paper based works that can become more 'permanent' pieces. My main theme of inquiry is exploring ways to capture climatical changes and the physicality and presence of the elements within the environment.
In a basic sense my plans are to work through ways of facilitating the elements to draw on the surface of paper. The challenge is that many of the the elements such as wind and sun cannot be seen as a physical entities, and elements such as rain, ice and snow are ephemeral in nature and don't stay around for long. The elements are transient, fluid and everchanging which presents challenges.
As a starting point I've experimented placing stones on small circular filter paper outside the area around the studio. (seen above) Over time the elements and the particles of plant life and organic ephemera connect with the stone as an object and deposit onto the paper. These particles would otherwise not be seen but by placing an object within the space on paper the presence of climatical changes and presence is validated; a connection between elements and entity is recorded on the paper. It is this thread of examination I wish to take further; experimenting ways of capturing ephemeral moments, not naked to the eye , as physical drawings.
The clay and charcoal drawings seen above are experiments centred around the application of water in order to nurture movement. Over the past few years I've used both clay (Excavated from the land where I live) and charcoal both in a liquid form as mark making tools. They have a beautiful quality when used together forming textured rivulets and stunning natural marks and i feel have a relevance to facilitating mark making.