In a vain attempt to appreciate the conceptual nature of my ongoing MA ART & ENVIRONMENT project, A BUNDLE OF STICKS, I have been tempted by drastic but most sensible measures. What could be more logical in light of my year long, artfully intensive and obsessive research into the practical, metaphorical and ecological implications of this primitive action and entity than to embody a most literal interpretation in practice?

 a latent bundle (pward 2012)

‘The Ashen Faggot is a West Country Christmas Eve custom – it’s a large log with withies bound around it to make a bundle which is burned indoors in the hearth. Drinks are consumed as each withy breaks in the flames, which sounds like an excuse for a good drink! The practice still survives in country pubs notably the Lutrell Arms in Dunster, Somerset – their faggot consists of twelve thick sticks bound in a bundle using ash withies and the Dunster Carol is sung while it burns in the vast fireplace. It’s a revived custom dating back to the 1930s but with much older roots.’

 workshop (pward 2012)

How often have we heard the phrase ‘to listen to nature’, or been puzzled by an intuitive resonance of substance or place? ‘Each according to their own nature’, we may declare, or ‘the substance of things may only be perceived through practice’ said Mr Beuys. As I struggled to consolidate and configure the diverse and intrinsic ramifications of A BUNDLE OF STICKS towards my own emerging practice within the confines of a 7000 word dissertation I was struck by how much I had begun to see the world through it – how I had become both the subject and object within the the nature of my study.

 seeing the world through a bundle of sticks (pward 2012)

As an artist there is a definitive emphasis on the sensory appreciation of and response to the world, which may then be most mystically synthesised with our intellectual, relational and tactile dexterity to perform our communal craft. An adult interest in earth spirituality and indigenous culture has been both enjoyed and indulged through the more traditional celebrations of our ecological connectivity, its ritual, its power and its lore, to enable an active expression of this essential sensibility within my evolving environmentalist practice.

And for a change, more pictures and less words …

  camouflage 1 (pward 2012)

“Owing to the failure of intellectual leadership, the breakdown of religion, and the short-cuts to culture, our minds are now for the most part demoralized; in any true sense we know nothing, we understand nothing, we are incapable of reflection.” John Stewart Collis; THE WORM FORGIVES THE PLOUGH (LONDON; Vintage, 1973) 

 sticks for ears 1 (pward 2012)

 a good cure for a headache (pward 2011)

 lampost (pward 2012)

For more images visit my mummer-me-a-bundle-of-sticks gallery on facebook


bideford black face 8713

Continuing my research and experimentation with the North Devon earth pigment Bideford Black for both The Story of Bideford Black project[i] at the Burton Gallery and the forthcoming exhibition at the Whitemoose Gallery in Barnstaple[ii], I have felt inspired to paint my face (in keeping with my tendency to gain intimate knowledge of my subject matter[iii]); both as a response to its commercial use in the make-up industry (as the basis for mascara), and also through the local miners’ stories of being continually covered in this sticky sooty substance. During the 1950’s and ‘60’s the miners were given a bar of carbolic soap to wash themselves at the end of each day but it often took months after leaving the mines for the pigment to sweat out of their skin – their clothes, bed sheets and furniture constantly ingrained with the stuff!

black face 1 (p ward & f owen 2013) bideford black face 1 (p ward & f owen 2013)

black face 2 (p ward & f owen 2013) bideford black face 2 (p ward & f owen 2013)

black face 3,4,5,6 (p ward & f owen 2013) bideford black face 3,4,5,6 (p ward & f owen 2013)

black face 7 (p ward & f owen 2013) bideford black face 7 (p ward & f owen 2013)

black face 8,9,10 (p ward & f owen 2013) bideford black face 8,9,10 (p ward & f owen 2013)

The sensation of smearing the 350 million year old  earth pigment into my face (albeit in a somewhat suburban setting) but more so seeing the images that such a primal action creates (for no other purpose than visual exploration) was pleasantly liberating, slightly unnerving in its transformative power and most enjoyable (to both myself and my long suffering and supportive family)! The process of washing it off was equally appealing and visually remarkable – a little like removing charcoal from paper, working back into a painting or washing a really dirty car. Thankfully it came off a lot easier for me than for the miners.

With special thanks to Francesca[iv] for taking such a wonderful selection of sensitive and intimate portraits for me to work with.

P Ward 2013



[iii] mummer-me-a-bundle-of-sticks