Trying to summarise the journey so far… It has indeed been difficult to keep on track every day to move forward with thinking and doing about making art – but I feel the need now to reflect on the processes I have gone through in order to get where I am…and what I might do with the remaining time I have before returning to the UK.
So at first it was drawing in direct response to the landscape around me:
This resulted in some fairly fluid pen and ink and watercolour drawings.
The forest is enormous and incredibly dense around where we are…with no vestige of a path to follow – and so it is easy to lose direction. This meant that I became interested in the way we find our way in the forest, and I drew parallels here with the general sense of finding a direction on arrival in a strange place – where to go on the journey?
I was wondering about the idea of THE NORTH – why it means to people in various parts of he planet, and also how to find north in the forest… and at the same time I discovered that I had a compass on my phone! haha… that seemed to be significant.
Hence the next stage in the development of work was to draw the view from various compass points in the forest, and then manipulate them by piecing together into 360 degree drawings. This I did both manually and in photoshop.
I had made these drawings onto newspaper pages painted white, as I liked the sense of the everyday immediacy that that gave to the drawings – and as they were quite fragile, I pasted them onto a scroll of the paper given to me by TAKO mill in Tampere. This would re-create the all-surrounding nature of forest, but at the same tine give me the opportunity to take the drawings off and bring them to UK. I had been reading words by Nan Shepherd in her book “The Living Mountain” – and some of these seemed particularly appropriate at this time when I was seeking a sense of direction in all senses of the word.
As I watch, each layer of the landscape bristles – though ‘bristles’ is a word of too much commotion for it. Details are no longer part of a grouping in which I am the focal point. The focal point is everywhere. Nothing has reference to me, the looker. This is how the Earth must see itself
I had also put out a request to friends to tell me of their mental images of THE NORTH. These included such ideas as aurora, icebergs,forests, snow, – fairly obvious ideas from people already in the northern hemisphere – to other more wacky suggestions – up/hoompa/watford gap service station/portsmouth (a small town in northern Dominica)/home/manchester… to some more abstract ideas – clarity/serenity/hope.
I listed all of these and placed them on the back of the final scroll work as follows:
I hoped that somehow I would create something that says that in fact direction is all relative – and our own place on the planet is virtually insignificant in a wider scheme of things. I have no idea if that comes over or not – and might need further thought…
I then began to make drawings based not on first hand experience of the forest, but on the memory of such experience, and in doing that, to try to simplify the marks:
I then was so impressed by the number of North ideas that had been sent to me, that I selected a number of those that I found most significant – and tried to develop a drawing for each of those ideas, but also to keep the simplification of mark-making to the fore.
Further to this, I began to make some much calmer works, but still inspired by the birch trees in the forest and their sense of both fragility and strength at the same time. I begin to wonder if this is what I mean by working more in the abstract – but is that a false alternative to representational, as everything I am doing has its origin in the immediate response to what I am seeing in the landscape – in other words it is a representation of that landscape. I remember an old art teacher asking me to distil work – I wonder if that is what I’m trying to do – find the essence through a distillation?
So the first of these distillations were on thin paper …
followed by a series on the thicker paper given by Tako…
and I find that they are always in pairs. What does that mean?
I had wanted also to make a very large drawing in direct response to the landscape – and given that Tako’s paper is over a metre wide, I took 5 metres of it and put it on the wall of the house – and then it rained and so it got rained on – just what I wanted…
This one will be impossible to take back to UK so it will get ceremoniously burned on the last night!
The Tako paper is just asking for further development as long thin drawings – which could also be rolled up as scrolls – and so some experiment went into how to present these….the birch bark offered the ideal starting point – and some paper twine I had bought in Tampere added obvious detail… I have made them 2-sided so that they can be either hung or scrolled.
Then the smaller pieces seemed to ask for being rolled up too…
The final larger scrolls look like this:
These are readily transportable and so I could work on them more back in UK if they ask for that.
At the same time as doing all this work on paper with drawing in indian ink, I was also working on the i-pad in Paper 53… here are some of the works made there – these could readily become the source of some print work back home.
This last one, together with photos of the Finnish bog landscape…
As much as a third of Finland originally consisted of bogs and marshy woodlands, and it has even been suggested that the country’s name in Finnish, Suomi, is derived from the Finnish word for bog – suo. Many place-names include the word suo or words for different kinds of marshes or bogs such as korpi – marshy spruce forest, neva – open bog, and räme – pine bog.
National Parks Finland website
…have given rise to my beginning to work with COLOUR! – and with simple print-making with tubes of ink donated to me by a friend from last month…
So I’ve been building up layers of colour inspired by this bog landscape…and I am at the point of now wondering where all that will go. What I am learning is not to be afraid to cover over areas I like if I want to knock them back to be calmer… and to try to make the colours simple rather than chaotic. Again I believe it’s about distillation… more to follow in next post.