BIDEFORD BLACK workshop @ the sandy brown museum 27914

a report

At a second attempt, a motley crew of eight interested and involved parties mustered opposite the Burton Art Gallery in Bideford for a day of exploration into the blacker than black, the dirty sticky stuff, the pigment pride of North Devon[i]. To lead the party were myself, an artist by most accounts who has previously dabbled creatively most deeply into this unctuous substance, and Dr Chris Cornford, director of IGI Ltd[ii], who has conducted personal but extensive geological research into the pockets of vitrinite (coal measures) that punctuate the underworld between Greencliff on the coast and Umberleigh on the River Taw 12 miles inland.

Chris Cornford waxing geological at Greencliff; a fossil tree fern leaf (photos © j bushel 2014)Chris Cornford waxing geological at Greencliff; a fossil tree fern leaf (photos © j bushel 2014)

Having chosen vehicles we headed to ‘the source’ at Greencliff to start the day. Dr Cornford settled into his rhythm, spinning geological tales, tales over hundreds of millions of years, tales of light and colour and structure and form, of crushing heat and weight, of forests and mountains before our imagination. For all we knew he could have been making it all up but science has a funny way of drawing us in – of describing our observations and imaginations with such doubtlessness that our questions seem trivial. Just let the waters flow over with the words and I’ll see you on the other side. The story wrapped up for another day. Given to permutations and evolutions in its dreams before it is unearthed on another.

drawing the seam; mini-mining; sketching at the source (photos © j bushel 2014)drawing the seam; mini-mining; sketching at the source (photos © j bushel 2014)

Thus we enjoyed the magnificence of the coast, the seam and its company for a while, taking our fair share as others had evidently done before us – mini mines punctuating the 70-degree cliff-face smudge, a puddle of paint appearing at its base, art and science happily wandering hand in hand, not adulterated pseudo-science or wishy-washy art-fangled nonsense, but ART & SCIENCE, making no excuses for their individual natures but co-existing and complementing, enriching experience in their own ways for whoever may have an ear, or an eye or a sense at all.

exploring bideford black at the sandy brown museum (© p ward 2014)exploring bideford black at the sandy brown museum (© p ward 2014)

So after a most generous lunch and perusal of past work in the Burton Art Gallery & Museum, the afternoon was spent in the inspiring presence and environment of the Sandy Brown Museum in Appledore, a starting point for my own earthy adventure. And armed with the morning’s preamble and a few buckets of black thick gritty carboniferous clay, we set to work in our own ways, exploring our own relationships, surprising our presumptuous preconceptions, being frustrated by a lack of colour and a dull ache for more. This is BLACK. I am BLACK! Do with me what you will and I will do as much as I can muster. I will sink in deeply, drawing light from this most pleasant day until we learn to play in joy and recognition of our own natures. Light and shadow arm in arm…

personal exploration 1, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)personal exploration 1, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)

personal exploration 2, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)personal exploration 2, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)

personal exploration 3, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)personal exploration 3, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)

personal exploration 4, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)personal exploration 4, bideford black and pva on paper (© p ward 2014)

Many thanks to all those who participated; to Sandy[iii] for sharing her space, to Chris for giving of his time, knowledge and enthusiasm and to beautiful Nature for sharing her abundance so generously.

 

© P Ward 2014

 

[i] For more information http://bidefordblack.blogspot.co.uk/

[ii] http://www.igiltd.com/

[iii] http://www.sandybrownarts.com/


a walk through ‘hallowed’ ground

chapel wood 19914[i]

a local woodland, newly discovered, a sense of the sacred and a poignant reminder that our work can reach beyond our own immediate realm of influence. yet how and why must we (humankind) consider and demarcate some areas of land over others? does this then allow us to abuse those not considered quite so ‘sacred’ or special?

in some ways such an argument reminds me of the concept of ‘ecopornography’[ii] that identifies how the selective/discriminatory practice of the visual arts and popular media, especially with regards environment, often mask and hence proliferate ecocidal abuses through denial of its continued existence. maybe it is one task to find beauty in all, to celebrate, embrace and value the mundane and commonplace – the often ‘dirty’, messy side rather than the idealized, pristine, ‘perfect’ and virtually impossible version of reality that inspires our continued dislocation from this dynamic emerging world!?

this said, it is hard to deny the restorative powers of an ancient woodland filled with birdsong at dusk, traces of other mingling with the moist resonant scent of regenerative earth…

chapel woods I (© p ward 2014)chapel woods I (© p ward 2014)

chapel woods II (© p ward 2014)chapel woods II (© p ward 2014)

chapel woods III, forest schools work with local pigments (© p ward 2014)chapel woods III, forest schools work with local pigments (© p ward 2014)

chapel woods IV (© p ward 2014)chapel woods IV (© p ward 2014)

chapel woods V (© p ward 2014)chapel woods V (© p ward 2014)

“DON’T GO TO NATURE, LET NATURE COME TO YOU.”[iii]

© p ward 2014 [i] http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/c/chapelwood/about.aspx [ii] http://ecoartfilm.com/2012/07/09/ecopornography-slow-violence-and-the-deep-slow-art-of-place/ [iii] from bench in chapel woods, author unknown.


fennel seeds, hele 21914

having waited all summer for our front garden fennel seeds to ripen, ready for collection and consumption, we were treated to a splendid downpour of autumn rain. the insects, that had already enjoyed the aromatic flowers and shelter of the umbilifer form, settled in with dusty webs and sporific mould, until we were left with an inedible mix. but, not to waste a visually creative opportunity, the seeds were gathered and sorted and dried and shimmied on paper in orderly array for pleasure and knowledge and wit. and they smelt great…

autumnal downpour, hele; deseeding the fennel (© p ward 2014)autumnal downpour, hele; deseeding the fennel (© p ward 2014)

fennel seed circle (© p ward 2014)fennel seed circle (© p ward 2014)

fennel seed shape I (© p ward 2014)fennel seed shape I (© p ward 2014)

Culpepper[i] says: ‘One good old custom is not yet left off, viz., to boil fennel with fish, for it consumes the phlegmatic humour which fish most plentifully afford and annoy the body with, though few that use it know wherefore they do it. It benefits this way, because it is a herb of Mercury, and under Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces. Fennel expels wind, provokes urine, and eases the pains of the stone, and helps to break it. The leaves or seed boiled in barley water and drunk, are good for nurses, to increase their milk and make it more wholesome for the child. The leaves, or rather the seeds, boiled in water, stayeth the hiccup and taketh away nausea or inclination to sickness. The seed and the roots much more help to open obstructions of the liver, spleen, and gall, and thereby relieve the painful and windy swellings of the spleen, and the yellow jaundice, as also the gout and cramp. The seed is of good use in medicines for shortness of breath and wheezing, by stoppings of the lungs. The roots are of most use in physic, drinks and broths, that are taken to cleanse the blood, to open obstructions of the liver, to provoke urine, and amend the ill colour of the face after sickness, and to cause a good habit through the body; both leaves, seeds, and roots thereof, are much used in drink, or broth, to make people more lean that are too fat. A decoction of the leaves and root is good for serpent bites, and to neutralize vegetable poison, as mushrooms, etc.’[ii]

fennel seed shape II (© p ward 2014)fennel seed shape II (© p ward 2014)

fennel seed shape III (© p ward 2014)fennel seed shape III (© p ward 2014)

© p ward 2014

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Culpeper

[ii] https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/fennel01.html#med


art has enriched my life…

ASCERTAIN

(the following series of statements were written some time ago to help redefine my work as an artist. the images document a similar process through actions within our new workshop space – eARTh.)

…more concisely it has enriched my relationship with the natural world – through observation and increased sensitivity to its rhythms, entities and energies – and with myself

my work as an artist (environmental, ecological or earth) hopes to share this sense of enrichment

from this statement it may be seen that there are strong similarities between my perception of art and of education (or forms of learning) – I make no apologies for this

art and education may both provide spaces for people to enhance and transform their experience and hence perception of the world, and they can both be enjoyable and entertaining

through utilizing my skills in graphic design and illustration this originally took the form of illustration and interpretation for environmental education projects

art may also be enjoyed as a form of escape, but to escape from what is always the question, or as a means to focus our sense of interconnection – art and life as ecology

painted concrete floor with light and shadow, eARTh (© p ward 2014)painted concrete floor with light and shadow, eARTh (© p ward 2014)

cordyline bushels (© p ward 2014)cordyline bushels (© p ward 2014)

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot

.

“Aesthetic appreciation of the natural environment is not simply a matter of looking at objects or ‘views’ from a specific point. Rather, it is being ‘in the midst’ of them, moving in regard to them, looking at them from any and every point and distance and, of course, not only looking, but also smelling, hearing, touching, feeling. It is being in the environment, being a part of the environment, and reacting to it as a part of it. It is such active, involved aesthetic appreciation, rather than the formal mode of appreciation nurtured by the scenery cult and encouraged by photographs, that is appropriate to the natural environment.” Allen Carlson, 2009

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“Re-engaging with the raw materials from which our lives are shaped is a potent reminder of the difference between what is real and what is only illusory” Anna Konig

sweeping the floor, eARTh (© p ward:f owen 2014)sweeping the floor, eARTh (© p ward/f owen 2014)

wool wire rings 1 (© p ward 2014)wool wire rings 1 (© p ward 2014)

wool wire rings 2; bundles, bushels and stacks; gathered wool (© p ward 2014)wool wire rings 2; bundles, bushels and stacks; gathered wool (© p ward 2014)

paper (© p ward:f owen 2014)paper (© p ward/f owen 2014)

painting with earth

as a painter my intention has been to share a sense of resonance and connection, a sense of the spirit of nature, that have inspired and supported my actions in this life

an obvious way to do this is to use earth pigments, to use nature itself

another way is through experiential workshops in the environment

initially I collected soil from mole hills and mixed this with paint

later I was invited to research earth pigments in north devon where there is a rich history and abundant supply

working with pigments, gathering and processing them, and learning about their nature and history transformed my art practice from one focused on the production of objects (paintings) to one based in process and collaboration

this is not to deny the fundamental processes and products of traditional art but to embrace all and any means and forms of communication and expression and to maintain my practice as an artist

my work has included illustration for field guides, interpretative displays for environmental education projects, environmental art workshops, collaboration with ecologists, geologists, geomorphologists, conservationists, foresters, dancers and choreographers and work for museums and ecologically inspired companies and even arts organisations; I have illustrated and written books, made paintings on canvas and cliff faces, installed installations in galleries and the environment, performed residencies, organised events and made films for public and online viewing

none of this has altered my artistic intent…

to enrich and inform experience of the natural world and ourselves within it.

 

© p ward 2014


eARTh

a space for creative investigation of an indigenous ecology

“I believe in empty spaces; they’re the most wonderful thing.” Anselm Kiefer[i]

as mentioned in a previous post myself and partner, francesca owen[ii], have recently taken on a new workshop space in the north devon seaside town of ilfracombe. it is the first time that either of us have had such a large space dedicated solely to our work and as such are somewhat daunted but very excited by what the venture may hold.

ilfracombe- derelict space, fuchsias, elderberry pavement (© p ward 2014)ilfracombe: derelict space, fuchsias, elderberry pavement (© p ward 2014)

having both finished the MA art & environment course at falmouth university and sharing a similar ethos and intent towards our work, as well as an interest in natural pigments, painting and now a beautiful baby boy called noah, we have taken the plunge and invested last year’s profits into this, our latest venture. as said, we are not yet entirely sure what the space may hold but apart from exploring our own practices as contemporary environmental artists we are looking forward to inviting others to make use of the space both through workshops and also possible residencies, events, talks and even small performances and film screenings. the general theme behind our work looks at how creative engagement with our local ecology, its animals, rocks and plants, may inform and enrich our lives. to do this we are willing to work with other individuals, groups and organizations with similar interests and motivations in order to share our skills as contemporary artists towards a more sensitive and sustainable relationship with the world.

eARTh- greenclose road twilight, ‘stuff’, sorting pigments (© p ward:f owen 2014)eARTh: greenclose road twilight, ‘stuff’, sorting pigments (© p ward/f owen 2014)

ilfracombe has most recently received attention for damien hirst’s input into the town, with a public sculpture, verity, on loan to the local council dominating the harbour, a restaurant, small gallery and most recently a controversial new housing development. whether we like his work and actions or not the changes that have been promoted by his presence have brought renewed vigour and investment to a previously deprived and neglected place. the town is now alive with newly opened and expanding commercial art galleries and shops and a more artistically-minded public now wander the architecturally intriguing lanes and streets. ilfracombe is still a working fishing port, with links to south wales through a now defunct but hopefully reopening ferry route, but essentially income comes from tourism. it is within this exciting and burgeoning environment that we have chosen to place our new and shared practice – eARTh.

eARTh- sorting past work (© f owen 2014)eARTh: sorting past work (© f owen 2014)

eARTh- storage (© p ward 2014)eARTh: storage (© p ward 2014)

so far we have been familiarizing ourselves with the space and area, taking time to reconnect with past contacts and meeting new ones, both human and otherwise. we have filled the space with our old work, made space to store it and even started to make some new work – francesca has somehow been forging ahead despite the constant demands of little noah! for myself, it is taking a little longer. I have a large quantity of paintings on canvas, paper and board from before our MA, as well as more recent sculptural pieces, and am sorting and evaluating this work in relation to my academic experience. this task is both tiring and emotional, if not somewhat liberating, but I hope that the process will help put me back in touch with my work after a long period of enlightening deviation but also debilitating rejection and disillusionment with the academic and artistic establishment and create space for new ideas and work to take root.

eARTh- temporary installations (© p ward:f owen 2014)eARTh: temporary installations (© p ward/f owen 2014)

our first scheduled event will be in november, to host the monthly meeting of combe business[iii], a not-for-profit consortium of local businesses aimed at supporting, advising and developing a sustainable business model for the ilfracombe, woolacombe and combe martin area of north devon. for us, it is an opportunity to provide a space for people from different areas of business, including fishing, agriculture and retail, environmental bodies, the creative industries and transition town movement, to share and discuss ideas and possibilities for the place of art and the cultural services within the region’s development. it is of course also a chance to share our own work with a new audience and make contacts of our own. obviously we cannot, and have no intention of shaping a specific outcome from the event, but hope that it will inspire and provide new ground for thinking creatively about our shared interests.

eARTh logo (© p ward 2014)eARTh logo (© p ward 2014)

but for now we must continue to sort and store, making our first tentative steps towards our new life here. i am looking forward to doing some painting again after many years away, seeing where my new knowledge and experience has taken me, and how my simple marks, my dots and dashes and stripes, may sing again with the resonance of this bounteous place…

 

© p ward 2014

[i] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/anselm_kiefer.html#ApMbhy1c1eD6hUms.99

[ii] http://dancingwithdyes.wordpress.com/

[iii] http://combebusiness.co.uk/


BIDEFORD BLACK workshop @ the SANDY BROWN MUSEUM 27914

My next workshop in North Devon with internationally acclaimed ceramicist Sandy Brown and geologist and Bideford Black expert, Chris Cornford

Bideford Black at the Sandy Brown Museum 27914 flyer for web

For further information please contact me…

© p ward 2104


to keep looking…

on eARTh

.

‘‘Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible’’ Paul Klee

.

as hours and days seemingly while away with baby,

new places and faces continue to appear

offering potential for the creative life we live

and I continue to see this wonderful world through eyes made bright by art’s rich spectre…

summer rain, hillsborough drinking fountain, ilfracombe (video stills © p ward 2014)summer rain, hillsborough drinking fountain, ilfracombe (video stills © p ward 2014)

‘legless lizard’; domestic cricket, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)‘legless lizard’; domestic cricket, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

window casualty, spotted flycatcher(?), ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)window casualty, spotted flycatcher(?), ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

making a home, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)making a home, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

past work 2012, woodlane campus, falmouth (© p ward 2014)past work 2012, woodlane campus, falmouth (© p ward 2014)

simple drawings, hele (© p ward 2014)simple drawings, hele (© p ward 2014)

echoes of times past I – laston green and the waverly – ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)echoes of times past I – laston green and the waverly – ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

echoes of times past II, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)echoes of times past II, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

herring gulls:public enemy number 1!, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)herring gulls/public enemy number 1!, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

holdstone hill, combe martin (© p ward 2014)holdstone down, combe martin (© p ward 2014)

working quay, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)working quay, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

repetitive form, hele bay and ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)repetitive form, hele bay and ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

eARTh, workshop space, ilfracombe (© f owen and p ward 2014)eARTh, workshop space, ilfracombe (© f owen and p ward 2014)

new work – saw dust, eARTh, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)new work – saw dust, eARTh, ilfracombe (© p ward 2014)

in order to further explore and share this rich and ever evolving dynamic expression of divine being my partner francesca and i are opening a new workshop (eARTh) near our home in ilfracombe, north devon, where we shall be making new work to enrich and celebrate our place amongst it all…

watch this space!

© p ward 2014


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