new home new earth

discovering colour in west cornwall

Pendeen, Trewellard, Boscaswell and Geevor Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

moving home is always an exciting (if not somewhat stressful) time for discovery, for exploration, for new knowledge and for refreshment of life paths. I have recently moved with my family from North Devon to West Cornwall, as far south and west as one can go in the British Isles (apart from the Isles of Scilly, of course). The move was made to connect with the flourishing and historic arts scene in the area – Newlyn and St Ives on the Penwith peninsula being significant places in British art history over the last few centuries. The area is also remarkable for the globally significant tin and copper mining industries that flourished during the nineteenth century providing a wealth of metal ores and new technologies that contributed to mining knowledge around the world. The industry has now all but died out, due to cheaper sources elsewhere, but has left its mark ecologically and architecturally to this rugged, wet and windy section of Atlantic coast.

Sennen Cove, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Rainbow over Geevor Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Phone Box collection, Trewellard, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Lamppost, Pendeen, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Leswidden block works, St Just, Cornwall © p ward 2018

‘Montol’ Midwinter celebrations, Penzance, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Turning on the Mousehole Lights, Cornwall © p ward 2018

having spent the last ten years intensively researching the geology, history and uses of earth pigments found in North Devon, and establishing an international reputation through it, it is quite nerve wracking to up sticks and start again. Added to this sense of newness, is that of the unfamiliar. North Devon is my mother’s family home and a region I have known all my life. While the wild and austere beauty of West Penwith is visually and culturally inspiring it will be a while before I feel it as my home, despite feeling very comfortable here, nestled in a cosy old granite cottage close to the north coast. However, the process of taking root has begun and exploration to reveal the individual peculiarities of my new home, and especially those qualities that appeal to my own nature, have gripped my thoughts and actions.

Lanyon’s Quoit, Penwith, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Merry Maidens stone circle, Penwith, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Lanyon’s Quoit in the mist, Penwith, Cornwall © p ward 2018

within six weeks we have found four excellent and bold earth colours locally, associated with historic mining activities. We have revealed a dolmen in our living room as well as starting to visit the plethora of ancient megalithic sites in the area. The sea, the mist, the rocks and wind are ever present on this extreme peninsula, the most exposed place I have ever lived. Having studied for my MA in Falmouth and consequently visited the county on numerous occasions, I am vaguely familiar with the area and some of the sites of interest, but was unaware of the incredible natural and cultural richness it provides. The county of Cornwall is one of the few Celtic strongholds on the British Isles, with its own language and a pride in its unique history, both ancient and modern. This is evident in so many ways – its folklore, place names, wildlife, art and its connection to the sea and land. I am very excited to see how this feeds my own creative output.

Levant mine entrance, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Red ‘clay’ at Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Bottallack Mines, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Purple and red ‘clays’ at Levant Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Leswidden China Clay Pits, nr St Just, and Spoil heaps at Tywarnhayle Mine, Porthtowan, Cornwall © p ward 2018

the pigments we have gathered so far include red and purple ‘clays’, residues from the slag heaps at Levant Tin Mine, apparently deposited alongside, and hence coloured by oxides within, the seams of black tin (casserite) found in cracks in the 340 million year old granite mass that forms the majority of landmass here. The huge forces, pressures and temperatures experienced as the molten granite forced its way through weaknesses in the overlying Devonian sediment created a wealth of opportunities for metallic minerals ores to form alongside metamorphic rocks. According to one source the area has some of the most varied and mineral rich geologies in the world! We have collected a yellow ochre-like residue from mine waste heaps further northeast at Tywarnhayle Mine, Porthtowan. The yellow deposit also contains fragments of ‘green’ rock that will be interesting to separate and hopefully use. The oldest China Clay pits, formed in lakes as eroded granite deposits, can also be found near St Just in Penwith with a wealth of local history and national significance. We have been given access to this beautiful smooth white clay by the present landowner, whose father spent some time working in the drying kilns on site during his youth. We are experimenting with different approaches to processing the raw pigments, relying on water extraction, sieving and drying, similar to historic methods of extracting ore, rather than the more physical drying and grinding that we employed with the very different pigments in North Devon. This is partly due to the different nature of the raw pigments but also as a safeguard against inhaling potentially dangerous bi-products of the mining residues, such as arsenic! We are presently seeking geologists to aid in our research.

shapes, marks, patterns and forms, Cornwall © p ward 2018

textures and marks, Penwith, Cornwall © p ward 2018

As you can see, it’s all really exciting stuff. However, as yet, we are still to find a suitable workspace, tubs of pigment being stored and worked on convenient window ledges and in the cramped garden shed. But time will work its magic and the right space will reveal itself. We have already been made aware of a possible arts space development in old buildings at the entrance to the mining museum at Geevor mine in our village, as well as studio spaces associated with the established art schools of St Ives and Newlyn. Work still continues elsewhere too with talks and workshops coming up in North Devon and further afield in East Sussex, so all is good with the world. And all this while juggling childcare priorities and other homemaking eventualities. So, thank you to family and friends for your support during our transition and also to the warm welcome and help we have received from the local community. I am certainly looking forward to seeing how everything unfolds…

Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Levant Mine, Cornwall © p ward 2018

Geevor and Levant mines, Penwith Heritage Coast, Cornwall © p ward 2018

© P Ward 2018

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with sadness (and in love)

.

at times of loss and grief

we may turn to Nature for solace,

to water, wind, fire and earth

to rocks, soil, fungi and trees

to insects, animals and birds

.

for guidance

for resilience

and strength

.

we may immerse ourselves

in the mundane, in the everyday

in routine and simplicity

.

not to avoid the pain

but to live with it

to feel it without distraction

.

we may assimilate our feelings and thoughts

through our work

through creative activity

through cathartic acts

through play

.

I sit in the flowing river

the cool water moves around my stationary working form

touching my legs, ankles and hips, hands and forearms,

I feel connected to life

once more

.

or through physical activity

where the rhythm of movement,

of muscles and breath and heart working in time,

lift us to an alternate state

.

to see our situation anew

in a different light

not with mind

but with body

.

and in fantasy and dreams

the world becomes larger

not illusionary but more real

past present future revealed

.

through our actions we may sense

the wonder of each passing moment

of being alive with our pain

of feeling at all

.

and with thanks

we can move forward

and in love

.

la grille d’entrée, Les Perrières, France © p ward 2017

les crânes et les plumes, Les maison troglo de Forges, France © p ward 2017

pic vert, les Perrières, France © p ward 2017

graffiti, Ackermann champagne vaults, France © p ward 2017

morning lake, Offwell Woods, Devon © p ward 2017

pollen path, Coombe Woods, London © p ward 2017

blocks, The Lizard, Cornwall © p ward 2017

blue butterfly, Hele, Devon © p ward 2017

mine shafts, Penwith, Cornwall © f owen/p ward 2017

Portland Place, Ilfracombe, Devon © p ward 2017

Croyde Bay, Devon © p ward 2017

.

© P Ward 2017


terms of engagement

a conversation of sorts 121117

Q:

“What’s the difference between a social or educational project and an artwork?”

uncomfortable orchids, London © p ward 2017

A:

each may indeed have much in common and much to share.

it is the means and manner through which they communicate,

in which they engage, inform and sometimes transform that renders them effective or benign.*

.

an understanding of an audience, a demographic, an ecology

may encourage participation and transformation

reaching out and beyond those and that originally targeted.

.

the artist, teacher, social worker and ecologist intuit a means

to estimate, interpret, facilitate and hence empower (oneself and others)

literally, pictorially, intellectually, imaginatively, actively, physically, emotionally and most skillfully

.

the aesthetic that directs whatever intent motivated the craft,

that manipulates, interferes with and informs the intrinsic (or created) dynamic

towards a specific end or beginning or…

.

it is not necessary to determine how or when or what

those (or that) which experiences may take away

or if anything further does become

.

but it is in relationship that one may experience and affect movement

from one moment to the next

.

from one breath to another

.

so different too

that a tension reveals

swinging back and forth and around

.

we are all children in this world

vulnerable

unknowing

.

dancing under the stars

of this earth

that we share

.

pavement, London; pavement, Nantes © p ward 2017

© P Ward 2017

(* yet how we may quantify such effectiveness is another matter.)

 


in Transit…

new works of a more temporary nature…

.

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” Bertolt Brecht

.

what does one do when one is in transit, on the move, between stations, so to speak?

just how does one occupy oneself in a meaningful and creative manner when one’s foundations are all asunder, albeit temporarily?

it is a most unsettling situation indeed (quite literally), this moving about, this uprooting and replanting, this altering of, well, almost everything…

.

perceptions

perspectives

.

I am making ready for change

but unwilling to predict or control just how such changes may manifest.

they will more than likely simply emerge quite naturally,

not without a struggle perhaps,

but in an organic way.

.

in the meantime

there is the matter of packing away stuff,

clearing space for the new

both physically and emotionally,

and simply getting rid of that which no longer serves a purpose.

then there is of course the more mundane,

taking advantage of a lull or space to administer and catch up with paperwork and websites etc

and, of course, the constant reflection upon where one has been, where one is now and where one might like to go…

.

the studio, my place of creative refuge for two years is already dismantled

neatly stowed in a safe space, a strange sensation, a sense of detachment from my life vocation.

and yet all this has been done before.

and we adapt,

we make the most of what we have,

we continue to create, to cast our influence in the world

and the new situation inspires newness in all

.

it is rather exciting

this nomadic nuance

.

so here’s to new life

to new possibilities

to uncertain futures

.

isn’t it always this way after all…

.

walking up Holdstone Down, Exmoor, North Devon © f owen 2017

après les Perrières (boots, sheep dung necklace, ibis feathers, clay model (courtesy Majid Ziaee*), tickets, red valerian sprig, stick and string) © p ward 2017

flowers and earth, red valerian posy, earth pigments, pestle and mortar © p ward 2017

XO, boots with ball clay and cordyline parcels © p ward 2017

red valerian posy © p ward 2017

walk in Brownsham Woods, Hartland, Devon © p ward 2017

tides, offcuts on canvas; we are a break in the waves (my beach) © p ward 2017

walk at Shirley Heights, London © p ward 2017

woodland graffiti, Shirley Heights, London © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Prince Albert Bridge, River Thames, from Battersea Park, London** © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Peace Pagoda, Battersea Park, London** © p ward 2017

Shirley’s boots © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, Southbank, London** © p ward 2017

OXO – the City from the Southbank, London © p ward 2017

pavement arrangement, Shirley, London © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire** © p ward 2017

daisy earth ball; procession; Stonehenge, Wiltshire © p ward 2017

new year sunrise, Hele, North Devon © p ward 2017

no Wales today, from Hillsborough, North Devon © p ward 2017

samhain, Hele (heal), North Devon © p ward 2017

offcut composition, wood © p ward 2017

3 is better than 2 (apparently), Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

brick, Lynmouth North Devon © p ward 2017

Contisbury Head, from Lynmouth © p ward 2017

driftwood arrangement, Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

finding a temporary equilibrium, Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

with many thanks to family and friends, new and old…

© P Ward 2017


* http://www.majidziaee.com/index.php/en/

** Les Trois Galets de Marc Averly is a project by French artist Marc Averly (https://www.facebook.com/marc.averly) . He asks friends to photograph his hand formed wooden ‘galets’ in different places around the world and is compiling a fascinating and entertaining compendium of the images. Much of Marc’s work focuses on wood and trees, and he has a massive knowledge around the subject that he shares at interdisciplinary symposiums and workshops.


real time Sisters

(Samhain) 311017

.

today time returns

and darkness drags us home, amidst swirling russet leaves,

to its familiar solstice resting place

as another year quietly slips away.

 .

shadows lengthen

losing their resemblance to matter

and we descend into that underworld

of ancestors and past deities,

 .

to industry and wonder,

to miraculous machines

and steam and noise –

hell for some, power for others –

 .

weaving what was once made by hand

beneath clear open skies lit by a million stars,

connecting us to all that has been

and will ever be.

 

and the Sisters still sit

sharing their charms,

weaving mystery and fate

beyond our control or simple understanding.

 

tall chimney, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

engine houses, bobbins and spinning machines , Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

skein maker, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

threading the loom, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

water wheel, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017


Last weekend I visited Dunster, a charming Medieval village in West Somerset with my family. We ‘watched’ stars inside an inflatable dome as part of Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies program celebrating the unpolluted ‘darkness’ of the area and stayed at my brother’s cottage amongst the massive oaks and rich red soils of the Brendon Hills. On our way home we stopped off at Coldharbour Mill Museum in Uffculme, Devon, for one of their regular ‘Steam Up Days’. This restored working woollen mill is powered by water and steam engines (and electricity) and gives a fascinating insight into the ingenuity and industry involved in the production of wool and woven cloth over the last few centuries when Devon and Exmoor were one of the main centres for the wool trade in Britain. And all this on the days the clocks are turned back to solar time again and the Celtic New year begins – quite a brew for the imagination…

dunster, west somerset © p ward 2017

nettlecombe, west somerset © p ward 2017

© P Ward 2017


una nuova foglia si voltò/ein neues Blatt hat sich gedreht/une nouvelle feuille a tourné…

(a new leaf did turn) 

paintings after GNAP France 2017

My time in France as part of the GNAP residency has left me inspired in many ways – through the people I met and energy exchanged, the places visited and the scale and scope of work achieved.

danza/tanzen/Danse/dance, earth pigments on reclaimed wood © p ward 2017; a fischiare/Pfeifen/siffler/to whistle, earth pigments on board © p ward 2017

Only just more than a fortnight has passed since my return and it has been quite a journey finding my way back to life ‘above the surface’, to ‘normal’ life. I have missed the people, the fun and sharing on such a multicultural, multilingual level, the singsong chatter, the banter, the partial misunderstandings and the poetry of ‘pigeon’ language. I have bemoaned the romance of life in another country and the space to create so utterly supported by the structure of the residency – we were very spoilt. My wings did truly spread. My hair did get utterly let down and shaken.

le mani intrecciate/Hände verschlungen/mains enlacées/hands entwined, earth pigments on board © p ward 2017

But what is the meaning of experience if it cannot be carried forward in life, if we do not learn from it or use it in some way? On a personal and professional level the residency allowed me the confidence to see myself fully as an artist again, capable of working in an international arena. It provided me with the confidence to travel and communicate with others beyond my own cultural ecology. Through contact with other artists, more experienced or simply with different approaches and goals, I began to understand principles and pathways within my own practice (and that of others) that will help my work evolve and grow.

un nuovo modo di parlare/eine neue Art zu sprechen/une nouvelle façon de parler/a new way to speak, earth pigments on reclaimed wood © p ward 2017

I now aspire to make and show my work internationally as I begin to appreciate more fully the social and ecological significance of what I do, as well as the desire within myself to create and share my work as part of the global art network. The experience offered me new perspectives on my work in terms of materials, context and application, as well as a feast of new imagery, ideas and stories to share. Through language limitations I started to learn to describe my work more simply and universally.

lupo/Wolf/loup/wolf, earth pigments on board © p ward 2017

Here is a selection of paintings completed since returning home inspired by my time on GNAP France 2017. I have included titles in four European languages (via Google Translate) to acknowledge and celebrate my geographical and shared cultural identity.

il pipistrello e la leper/die Fledermaus und der Hase/la chauve-souris et le lièvre/the bat and the hare, earth pigments on board © p ward 2017

sorriso dentro/innen lächeln/sourire à l’intérieur/smile inside, reclaimed wood and rock © p ward 2017; una capra in turbolenza/eine Ziege in Aufruhr/une chèvre dans la tourmente/a goat in turmoil, earth pigments on board © p ward 2017

Thank you again to everyone involved. I hope that the friendships and professional relationships created will enable many new adventures in the future.

diversità culturale/kulturelle Vielfalt/diversité culturelle/cultural diversity, earth pigments on reclaimed wood © p ward 2017

© P Ward 2017


invisible friends

musing upon the muse 91017

.

you warm me

encouraging and invigorating

my muscles, mind and breath

you are so close

yet not here

I long to share a meal, a drink, a show

a long slow walk home

valerian hapa-zome print © eARTh 2017

sometimes in life we encounter people

to whom we feel a deep attraction and connection –

a zap between the eyes

an undeniable pull towards,

unwarranted and unthought-of,

an often beautiful but emotionally inconvenient surprise.

whale shark on my doorstep © p ward 2017

yet circumstances mean our relationships are curtailed

or must take forms different from those we conventionally recognize.

contemporary communications may allow a frustratingly superficial contact,

hand written letters and gifts another, maybe more real,

sometimes even these are not possible

when we honestly crave a wholly physical means –

eye contact and the subtle nuance of body language

the time and space to freely exchange the energetic dynamic

that common interests and diverse histories reveal,

to share a meal, a drink and a long walk home

hands entwined

dragged through sand, woolacombe bay © p ward 2017

as an artist, such desire may act as muse:

a light in the darkness, a spark of imagination

exploring the unknown undiscovered spaces,

a chance to meet the familiar through another’s eyes,

or identify and examine new aspects of ourselves –

dreams undreamt , fears as yet unconfronted, renewed aspirations,

detaching oneself from the mundane,

an illusion or delusion

but inspiration all the same;

or fuel to intention

to communicate more wholly

through pathways beyond the visible

ground earth pigment rings © eARTh 2017

and for those of us who entertain such fantasies about a subtle sense –

who honour a telepathic connection,

like that between a mother and child

or soul-mates

or lovers,

then the distance between may become an ethereal whisper

a breath, a feeling, a warmth, a glow

a longing acceptance of fate

still not manifest

buoyancy aids and clamped wheel, hele © p ward 2017

so maybe this is ‘hope’

or merely wishful thinking

a means to find strength and courage in isolation

to believe in another way

in spirit

in love

.

I do

.

(with love and thanks to those who are not here)

© P Ward 2017