on being grounded…

 Arrrrgh, Let me OUT!! (pen on envelope on human head) © p ward 2019

 

there are some of us

who are accused

of being ‘grounded’:

 

perceiving the world and our actions

through a balanced, responsible and rational lens

rooted in practicality and common sense.

 

but then some of us have also been ‘grounded’ as punishment,

our freedom curtailed by a parent or guardian

for actions that often do not lie within preconceived moral boundaries,

 

boundaries of balance, responsibility and rationality,

often rooted in practicality and common sense

often according to Nature and her Laws

 

Teignmouth, South Devon; Big Silver Bentley, Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall © p ward 2019

 

but how we wish to fly

to shed the shackles of good sense

for other and ourselves

 

in search of learning, perspective and sensual joy

defining new boundaries beyond our knowledge

or otherwise fleeting original experience

 

before our time is out

 

in magic

we see

in magic

we live

 

Trease Mine, Boscaswell, Cornwall © p ward 2019

 

© P Ward 2019


and yet…

this climate emergency, part 2

drawing on my face 4: seeing (masking tape and marker pen on human head) © p ward 2019

and yet,

 

the sun and moon still rise and fall

birds sing

grass grows

everything is somehow in place.

 

despite imagery evocative of an abrupt demise,

despite rising popular opinion and attendant fearful frenzy,

despite the corroboration of a high percentage of scientific peers,

despite indicative physical, ideological and pecuniary global suffering and conflict,

despite a lifelong personal acknowledgement of our continuing abuse of Nature…

 

I do not sense

I do not feel

the end.

 

I cannot sense

I cannot feel

the end.

 

I do not, cannot

and will not accept

the end.

 

so what of instinct and intuition (the antithesis of science)?

what of individual response?

what of collective consciousness?

what of the uninformed, the common man?

are we, en masse, running from the ensuing fire?

and anyway, where can we run in this apparent global catastrophe?

 

if I do not feel it,

if I stand aside the mindful stampede,

am I simply burying my head in the sand

in denial of empirical objectivity,

in fear of the inevitable?

 

or is it that

I do not know within my power what more I may do?

 

as I stand on this excellent brink of oblivion, this ending of sorts,

with the knowledge, wisdom and capability of all I have before

there is opportunity

there is technology

and there is love.

 

I must either believe in the magic and wonder of the human spirit within Nature or not

 

like every day

like any day

I breath

I choose

I act according to (my) Nature…

 

drawing on my face 4: seeing (masking tape and marker pen on human head) © p ward 2019

 

© P Ward 2019


it is like being told I am dying

this climate emergency, part 1

 

in a climate of overwhelming societal and professional expectation as an artist and an earth being i have struggled to know how to meaningfully and effectively respond directly to this ever-present issue. here are some of my thoughts and feelings expressed through words and an ongoing visual project…

 

it is like being told I am dying

that I am in the final stages of a terminal disease

after a long chronic illness or complaint

and that if I live the way I always should have,

the way I always have,

the way I have always known I should,

the way I have always said we should,

then maybe, maybe, maybe

I will not die.

 

it is like being told I am dying

but that everyone else and every other life is dying too.

that we are all dying and that it is all our own fault,

well, maybe not allour own fault

but somebody’s fault, some system’s fault, some thought-form’s fault,

that this beauty, this wonder that we experience on a daily basis

will no longer exist (for us)

because of us

 

it is like being told that everything and everybody that we love

is going to die, to not be.

 

it is a just like dying,

my experience of dying and death

in normallife –

 

we are all dying.

we are all going to die.

we are all living with the knowledge that we are all going to die,

that everything and everybody that we love is going to die

and that we shall experience suffering (and joy)

together.

 

it is still a shock when it comes.

when the reality of our imminent passing becomes apparent.

the utter enormity of it 

combined with our inherent inability to conceive of such.

 

and who are we to talk to

other than those others similarly afflicted and condemned,

others who love and feel and care,

those who are afraid of what might become?

 

so

how shall we live?

how shall I live?

how shall I end this final sentence?

 

drawing on my face – smile (masking tape and marker pen on human head) © p ward 2019

 

© P Ward 2019


eggs have legs and other tales of intimate rebellion…

(more paintings from the end of earth 2019)

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”― Rumi

 

as I sit with peaceful abandon

far out upon my churlish perch

painting pontifications of intimate expression

in relation with place and time and all,

I have most recently been given good cause to reflect…

 

beneath me now (Cornish earth pigments on canvas; 30x25cm) © p ward 2019

 

not only upon an inherent inability for punctuation (and breath)

or the ability of egg (local and free range to boot),

both yolk and white, with most moist unctuous fluidity

to stick and bind and glaze (with a little vinegar to dilute;

PS1: tempera is not a light batter originating in Japan)

but upon movement and change and responsibility

and power and loss (and hence gain) and intent and motivation

and communication and honesty and truth

and (of course) magic and then stories and pictures and love.

 

the time has come to pick up our arms and dangle our feet

to the tune of an age old heartache – our connection (or lack of)

to life that gives and takes and breathes and yearns to live again.

 

so, thank you to the warriors,

the shouters and dancers,

the artists who care,

the thinkers who dare

to speak their thoughts for all and all and all,

hand in hand with birds and beasts,

with clouds and sea and rain falling in the sunshine fields.

 

I am me and you in you.

It is once more… rebellion!

 

inconsequential wildlife of an aquine persuasion (Cornish earth pigments on board; 40x40cm) © p ward 2019

memories of life after life (Cornish earth pigments on reclaimed wood; 64x18cm) © p ward 2019

heady (Cornish earth pigments on reclaimed board; 30x50cm) © p ward 2019

as loud as a moon – lord and lady muck (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 17x18cm) © p ward 2019

9 cornish earth forms (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on paper; 48x42cm) © p ward 2019

dichotomous circumstance (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on reclaimed wood; 45x45x4.5cm) © p ward 2019

walking through time (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on reclaimed wood; 29x14x4.5cm) © p ward 2019

approaching the ocean; bridleway (on wood); stars and stripes; dark head; track; lake; across the river (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on paper; various 16x14cm) © p ward 2019

head I (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on paper; 28x28cm) © p ward 2019

head 2 (Cornish earth pigment egg tempera on paper; 28x28cm) © p ward 2019

oops, upside your head! spring equinox full moon (Cornish earth pigments on reclaimed board; 78x78cm) © p ward 2019

the pigment hunter (Cornish earth pigments on reclaimed board; 87x87cm) © p ward 2019

you are stronger than you think you are – dancing with the goddess (Cornish earth pigments on reclaimed board; 98x90cm) © p ward 2019

consequences of loss I – catering (gaffer tape and glue remnants on repurposed card; 50x25cm) © p ward 2019

consequences of loss II – patellidae (true limpets) (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 36x35cm) © p ward 2019

consequences of loss III – walking with spirit (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 43x28cm) © p ward 2019

earth heads I (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 37x28cm) © p ward 2019

consequences of loss IV – exclusive (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 25x27cm) © p ward 2019

consequences of loss V – holding on too (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 36x44cm) © p ward 2019

earth shield (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 52x17cm) © p ward 2019

riding fox-back in the cloud of cuckoo-land before the almighty deluge begins… (Cornish earth pigments on repurposed card; 55x47cm) © p ward 2019

PS2:

this is not an intellectual activity,

doomed to a critical aloof

or heady reevaluation in words alone,

it is body and blood

co-mingling

conjoined

codependent

striving for and in

action

to survive

 

© P Ward 2019


living within limits – an affirmation

(Thanks to Mat for a good conversation about politics, age and forward thinking)

 

while the universe may be perceived as infinite,

as our imagination does allow,

this world (upon which our existence depends) is not.

 

there is life

and there is death.

beginnings and ends.

 

throughout our history, especially in certain cultural geographies,

there has been a gradual shift towards arrogance as our understanding has increased.

with our own permission, in the names of progress, evolution and survival,

we have plundered, transferred and transformed the dynamic integrity of earth.

 

yet for us, as humans, omnipotence is not a possibility.

and while we may have broken it

and know how and why

we are not capable of mending it

beyond abstaining from activities and attitudes

that may perpetuate such demise and hopefully promote a self-sustaining recovery of sorts.

the universe is quite simply too vast, too diverse for us to knowingly manipulate or predict.

 

although we may want more,

whether that is peace or possessions or power,

there is little more to be had.

there is already more than enough.

we are simply regurgitating past revelations in a different guise,

re-appropriating wisdom again for our own selfish ends.

 

to be grateful

to be thankful

to appreciate what there is and what we have

to strive for less

to recognize our own limitations

and to live within them

while not profitable or fashionable

may provide and define a feasible space for creativity, for resourcefulness, for compassion and for joy…

 

but then, who am I to say?

 

trellisick trees; cot valley, cornwall © p ward 2018

levant mine, cornwall © p ward 2018

© P Ward 2019


painting a parish future – Pendeen in St Just, Cornwall 

ESRC Festival of Social Science, 10th November 2018

 

background

 

I met Dr Joanie Willett at a ‘Melting Pot’ event at Exeter University’s Environmental Sustainability Institute at Penryn Campus in Falmouth, Cornwall. The purpose of the event was to provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaborations. Dr Willett was fascinated by aspects of the geology behind earth pigments, particularly of those connected with mining waste, and of the potential for public engagement that my workshops provided. I was intrigued by Dr Willett’s studies around Parish Councils and how to promote public engagement in the political process, reminding me of conversations I had in Australia around the ecological basis of Aboriginal tribal councils. 

 

After a further meeting, held as a walk along the ‘Tin Coast’ in West Penwith between Pendeen and Botallack, we decided to organize a public workshop exploring these principles. Funding was obtained from the Economic and Social Research Council and Exeter University as part of the Festival of Social Science, a national event making Social research accessible to the general public. 

 

where the personal becomes POLITICAL: the idea

 

Our personal experiences, knowledge and perceptions of the places we live are all valid contributory factors to the cultural truth of a place. In Western democracies the starting point for policy decisions are ideally based in such cultural truths. Parish councils, of which there are some 10,000 in the UK, are the gathering places for the diverse cultural perception of our local communities. Beyond this such cultural perceptions are strongly influenced, if not determined, by the geographical identity, the physical ecology and resources, of a place. 

 

painting a parish future offers a creative space to cultivate and share personal experience, knowledge and future visions of the places that we live. 

 

It is hoped that the creation of such a space within a working Parish may encourage a spirit of commonality and cooperation within groups that may too easily become competitive and detached from the truth of a regions imminent ecology, in respect of all its inhabitants.

 

painting a parish futureis a collaborative research project led by politics lecturer Dr Joanie Willett and ecological artist Peter Ward in association with Exeter University’s Environmental Sustainability Institute. The project will utilize a shared knowledge of local political process and creative environmental engagement.

 

An initial enquiry will gather local people, parish councilors and experts to walk and share experiences and knowledge in a reflective process in the Parish of St Just in west Cornwall. The daylong event will culminate in a communal painting using gathered materials to express a shared vision of the future. The painting and further documentation of the event will be exhibited at the ESI at Penryn Campus and at a local venue in St Just Parish.

 

painting a parish futurewill run alongside ongoing national and local initiatives ‘Going Wild’ with Cornwall Council and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the St Just and Pendeen Neighbourhood Development Plan.

 

The project will provide a model for further actions in local communities across the UK, international research with Indigenous communities in Australia and the basis for an academic paper in relation to such activities, as well as a real focus for community action in the place it is performed.

 

 

in practice

 

The event was advertised locally in the Parish ‘Outreach’ magazine, through flyers in local shops and on notice boards and through personal invitation to relevant experts. It was hoped that we would have a group of about 20 people for the event. In practice, we were fortunate that a County Councilor expressed her interest from an early stage, inviting a simple presentation at a Town Council meeting in St Just to further promote the event. On the day, 2 people who had signed up did not show leaving us with a group of 7, including Dr Willett and myself. While the response was a little disappointing, and indeed raised a very important discussion regarding public engagement, the small number did allow for more focused time and intimate space for discussion and sharing and better engagement with the process.

 

Part of my personal motivation for the event was to begin to learn more about the place that I live. Both my own background research about the area and the process of organizing the event provided interesting insights into the present social dynamic and historical roots of the parish. Another part was to establish contacts within the community and with relevant organizations for future projects. 

 

Poster/invitation for painting a parish future – Pendeen in St Just; 7 Cornish pigments, earth colours used in communal painting © p ward 2018

Participants included an artist, a politics lecturer, an environmental educator and project manager, a childminder, County Councilor, Town Councilor and a geologist, providing the basis for lively, diverse and informed discussion throughout the day with many thoughts for positive action being shared. 

 

The morning walk took us through the village of Pendeen to the recently restored leat (a community project initiated by a member of the group), through the historic mining community of Lower Boscaswell, to the medieval ‘holy’ well and then through remains of Geevor Tin Mine and ancient field networks down to the coast, before heading back to the Parish Hall for lunch. Conversation within the group flowed easily between the whole group and individuals and covered topics from local planning policy, local history and geology, the influence of the environment on agriculture, national environmental and political attitudes, interspersed with a shared appreciation of the natural world, and in particular the local environment. Lunch was a homemade vegetable soup, made using exclusively local produce from the community farm, along with local cheese and bread and a splendid array of cake.

 

Pendeen Parish Hall, photo courtesy J Willett

 

The process of painting (interesting for my part for the lack of ‘artists’ in the group) took participants a little out of their comfort zones but allowed us to ground our thoughts in a meaningful and enjoyable way. The pigments themselves offered further insights into the local environment, as well as paint making. The painting itself was structured through an approximation of the evolutionary process, starting with imagery around geology, then land use and flora and fauna and lastly human intervention. Despite the initial discomfort, participants recognized the value of the process, at whatever level individuals felt able to contribute, and enjoyed the end result.

 

painting a parish future – Pendeen in St Just, photos courtesy J Willett and M Ward

 

conclusion and further action

 

Despite the somewhat disappointing public response to the event, it was agreed that it had been a useful and inspiring day with everyone feeling they would use what they had learnt in some way. Some said they ‘had never participated in anything like it before’ and that it had revealed a new way of working in the public sphere. I was personally encouraged by how everyone got involved with the process and in particular how the act of painting with local pigments was enjoyed and valued.

 

As a facilitator, whenever I approach an event such as this I will necessarily fill my mind with any relevant information I wish to share and a structure I aim to run the day through. In practice, especially when working with adults, it is essential that such plans are held merely as guidelines and that the process and dynamic of the group are allowed to express themselves for a satisfactory outcome to be achieved. Indeed, it is inherent to the process that the day is allowed to progress organically within any practical limitations, such as time, space, numbers and sustenance, to be true to itself. What is exciting about such a process is exactly those surprises or unknowns that arise, leading us to new ideas and future actions.

 

Through contacts made at the Town Council presentation, it is hoped that the painting and research will be exhibited at St Just Library, while also being shared with the Town Council and Local Neighbourhood Development Plan as an example of public engagement. Discussion has already begun regarding further collaboration with Dr Willett with the possibility of developing the event in other areas. Business and public groups in the area have also approached me to run similar workshops for upcoming events.

 

painting a parish future– Pendeen in St Just, communal painting, earth pigments on board © p ward 2018

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the event, for the support and interest of the local community and especially to Joanie for her contributions and collaborative insights.

© P Ward 2018


a journey of wonder down under…

february – march 2018

In February I was most fortunate to enjoy a holidayin southeastern Australia, although like all ‘holidays’ for artists it became an excellent and inescapable opportunity for some research. I travelled with my partner and two young children, adding a beautiful dimension to an already very special journey.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, NSW © p ward 2018

White Ibis and rock face, Sydney, NSW © p ward 2018

From childhood I have had a fascination with Aboriginal culture and part of our visit was to meet up with friend and elder Noel Butler of the Budawang people from the Yuin Nation (http://nuragunyu.com.au). Noel generously welcomed us to his land and shared some memorable, and not always comfortable, insights into native and contemporary culture that strongly influenced my sense of Australia during my visit. Spending time with Noel, in his own land, also inspired much creative ecological experience and thought that I aim to explore more deeply over the coming years.

Home for a while, Nura Gunya, NSW © p ward 2018

Barbecued clams from Burrill Lake, Ulladulla,NSW © p ward 2018

Being the furthest I have ever travelled I was not sure what to expect. I am quite new to international travel, spending my life so far enjoying and celebrating the wealth of experience and life present closer to home. I carried with me a glut of preconceptions of Australia that didn’t take too long to be completely pulled apart. Having spent a few days exploring (and recovering from Jetlag) in Sydney – on first impressions a fascinating, vibrant and multicultural city – we set off in a small, and somewhat temperamental, hired camper van.

Even before leaving the city the wealth and diversity of unfamiliar flora and fauna had sent my senses reeling. What struck me first was that I did not see one species of bird that I may have seen in Europe and as we travelled this became more and more apparent. Added to the wonderful heat and climate the flora cloaking the immense Pacific coast landscape brought me to realise how different this place was. The sun was in the North!? The wind was coming from the ‘wrong’ direction. The weather patterns were beyond my comprehension…

Bush (Murrumbidgee River, Canberra), ACT © p ward 2018

Playing in the water (Murrumbidgee River, Black Mountain Peninsula), ACT © p ward 2018

Fire, Flora and Fauna (Murrumbidgee River, Australian National Botanic Gardens), ACT © p ward 2018

Roadside, Namadji National Park, NSW © p ward 2018

Brayshaws Homestead, Namadji National Park, ACT © p ward 2018

Kangaroos, Namadji National Park, NSW © p ward 2018

Long Plain, Namadji National Park, NSW © p ward 2018

From Sydney we headed south along the Pacific coast as far as Bateman’s Bay before heading inland to Australia’s new and strange administrative capital, Canberra. From there we drove further south and up into the Kosiosko Mountain range where temperatures dropped to as low as 6C (in contrast to a pleasant 32C in the city). Staying with friends and family and then becoming familiar with the ‘free’ camping grounds in the country’s National Parks our travel was relatively inexpensive. It was so refreshing to be in a place that actively encouraged outdoor experience, with excellent facilities such as gas barbecues and compost toilets provided in the most remote places, although the road surfaces often shook us to our very cores.

Cooleman Homestead, Namadji National Park, NSW© p ward 2018

Blue Waterholes Campground , Namadji National Park, NSW © p ward 2018

Blue Waterhole, Namadji National Park, NSW © p ward 2018

To fully articulate or describe the depth and insights of the whole experience would need a book, with a great many pictures, even more than I have shared here, so I will spare you that for now. However, I know that over the coming years such experience will become evident in my work both in terms of further travel, sensitivity to my own cultural and ecological identity, and participation in Australian culture and the understanding communicated through it. I have already been invited back to explore local pigments and art with Noel and hope to take up that offer as soon as I am able.

Coast (Pebbly Beach, Nuggan Point, Pretty Beach), Shoalhaven, NSW © p ward 2018

Bush Walk, Nuggan Point, NSW © p ward 2018

Bush Shadows, Nuggan Point, NSW © p ward 2018

Coastal Forms, Nuggan Point, NSW © p ward 2018

Nura Gunya, Ulladulla, NSW © p ward 2018

Aboriginal earth pigments, Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, NSW © p ward 2018

With many thanks to Martin for making the journey possible and to Francesca, Noah and Agnes, Sally and Miles, Noel and Trish and Alex for making it such a rich and beautiful experience.

© P Ward 2018