a simple film about connecting with the earth – just walking barefoot along a muddy track in west somerset. the film was made with francesca owen as part of our ongoing collaboration and research towards the SOIL CULTURE project 2013-17 led by CCANW and RANE (http://artsandecology.info/pdf/Soil_culture_info_Oct2013.pdf). the images were captured on continuous shooting mode and edited using i-movie.
© Francesca Owen & Peter Ward 2014
not strictly environmental art but…
the wonder and beauty of nature, its diversity and resonance, is evident in all things.
take these mass produced (made in china), solar-powered dancing plastic monkeys I found in my local toy shop (price £2.50 each or 5 for £10). I saw one and simply fell in love with the charm of its cheeky little face and seductively hypnotic movement – it’s hard to walk past one without a smile and an attempt to emulate that hip action!?! despite the hideous process and materials of its production, packaging and transportation, the fantastic little fellows meet many of the criteria for environmental and ecological art, animated as they are by the sun and drawing us to interact and participate bodily with them, offering health, wellbeing and joy through their simplicity, as well as an opportunity to share. and despite the seemingly identical mechanical process of their manufacture and materiality each monkey also displays a subtle individuality of form, detail and movement, reminding us of those qualities within the ‘natural’ world*.
while it is easy to judge and criticize this evidently crazy ecocidal world in which we sadly and unavoidably participate on a daily basis, it is most heartening to observe the presence of Nature – of birth, life and decay, of joy, sadness and monotony – in even the most inanimate and overly manufactured products of contemporary life. our lives, the technologies that we rely upon and the products we so wastefully create, and even the political systems and civilizations that we uphold and tear down, are all intrinsically and thankfully founded in Nature and subject to its laws.
so, please take a moment to dance with me a little, secure in the truth and beauty of Nature…
serving suggestion: accompany with music of your own choice (i particularly liked sinnerman by nina simone) or just watch it as it is. enjoy!
© P Ward 2013
* or is it merely our perceptions that are shifting from moment to moment, our relationships that are altering as our experience evolves? maybe that’s a question for another day. whatever, let us not forget a sense of humour in our work, however great or small, however humble or potentially far reaching. as the well known saying goes “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”!…
“In every society where working the land has involved class distinction, getting your hands dirty has been low status. After generations of that, its no wonder society develops an environmental crisis. The people who have the power to make a difference are people who no longer want to get their hands dirty. But getting your hands dirty is an integral part of having a healthy environmental movement…”[i]
I wanted to make a brain sized ball from Bideford Black[ii]. I wanted to dig it up and form it with my hands, in my hands; to feel the weight and age and history, the texture and resistance of the unctuous material as I shaped it. I wanted to get my hands dirty, to attune my being to this thick black sticky living earth.
The best place to do this was at the other end of the seam[iii] at Greencliff near Abbotsham on the North Devon coast, where there is a plentiful supply of Bideford Black clay or culm and seawater. Over the last few years it has become something of a place of power for me. Cut off by high dark cliffs and big round pebbles, by muddy paths and narrow lanes, not many humans venture so far. But ravens patrol and peregrines shriek their acrobatic displays and oystercatchers whistle their next move while the sea pounds endlessly past Hartland Point, past Clovelly’s cobbled descent and all the way across Bideford Bay to Westward Ho!, Braunton Burrows and Baggy Point. I have listened here, I have watched here, I have drawn and made films here, I have painted and I have shared knowledge and dreamed here. Maybe my actions, my predilection for isolation, my penchant for a more than human company, my indulgence in natural history, do not directly confront or resolve any of the often-terrifying issues facing the earth at this time. But then maybe communing as I do with much broader relational entities and lives, as rocks and birds and wind, I am living more fully with all the world may offer and aligning my sensibility with everything more. That such attunement with my foundation, my evolutionary bedrock, may enable a stronger, a more powerful voice to be profligate in the name of those whose voices are more often not heard.
To work so extensively with one material, to watch my response and to see it behave in its own way, to let it speak for itself if you like through the processes of art, both my own and others, to study and enjoy its interactions with different materials, on different surfaces has been inspiring and enlightening. To appreciate its history and others’ relationships to it, to see children and adults play for the first time with this locally unique substance, simply through joy and the spirit of enquiry, has only affirmed the wonder of this planet and the beauty of our becoming within it all, bringing me closer and more in awe everyday.
So I continue to dream, to sing the song of love for life. I pick up the earth and sling it with joy. I mix it and make it. I drip it and dribble it and hope that such aesthetically orientated sharing may enable another way of being, another way of seeing the bounty in which we wholeheartedly reside and for which we may only be eternally grateful[iv]…
[i] Theodore Roszak from an interview with Carl Anthony, ‘Ecopyschology and the Deconstruction of Whiteness’ from Ecopsychology – Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind; Edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E Gomes and Allen D Kanner (Sierra Club Books, Sna Francisco, 1995)
looking through some old work for a recent commission proposal i found this early short film and realised it hadn’t been published yet. the sequences were captured on a basic compact digital camera during a two hour walk on windy afternoon in the forest of bere in hampshire…
P Ward 2013
i am without time and without form with you
a friend from hereafter
this, my home
as often mentioned, the importance of connecting with the more-than-human, the land and fellow beings about my home, to just spend time here, to allow time to feel, to see and to heal and to be consequently open to inspiration, is an essential element of my arts practice, and arguably of any healthy participation in this miraculous existence. this short film and set of images documents one such circuit, one small journey, one mindful walk around my home – northam country park and westward ho! in north devon.
while I feel privileged to enjoy my time with nature – others are not so fortunate to live within easy reach of such obvious beauty – a classically grounded education in the arts has deeply enriched my everyday experience, helping me see more clearly, to observe more rigorously, to feel more deeply and to appreciate and enjoy the wonder of life as a whole. it may not be for everyone to paint or to become what has been traditionally known as an ‘artist’, but the skills, insights and experience that the arts give, combined with an informed respect for the natural world, will most often make us more contented and creative beings in every aspect of our lives. on days such as these when all I see and everything I do becomes a thing of immense beauty, an intricate part of this rich complex tapestry of life, I am more than grateful to be alive. my only desire is to share such joy with others, to enrich lives as mine has been enriched and to continue to do so…
P Ward 2013
“All things start on the land – not least the townsman and most surely the mechanic.”
John Stewart Collis, The Worm Forgives the Plough
having volunteered to help with some bramble clearance at courage copse – a local woodland restoration project in north devon returning a larch and fir plantation to a sustainable oak and hazel coppice enterprise – expecting a quiet day usefully connecting with nature, i was called to reflect on the ever present necessity and reliance on modern technology even within the most well-meaning projects, being accompanied all day by the sound of chainsaws felling and trimming trees nearby. this selection of stills and sounds from the day were captured with a kodak HD camera and edited using i-movie…
P Ward 2013
“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, to feel the breathe of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, … , is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” from Under the Sea Wind – A Naturalist’s Picture of Ocean Life by Rachel Carson (1941).
Over the years I have been fortunate to spend much of my life close to the sea, aware of the tides and its constant changes and power. My present home near the magnificent Pebble Ridge at Westward Ho! in North Devon is often dominated by the low rumble of waves breaking, drawing the large round cobbles back and forth across each other. Such timeless action and the living landscape it produces fill my spirit with a power, energy and peace as ageless and deep as the ocean itself, bringing life and its problems into perspective. This short film hopefully captures something of the immanent tranquility and power such moments inspire…
(…although my old dog’s concerns about rising sea levels are maybe somewhat more evident!)
P Ward 2013