i am aware of my space
i am aware of your space
i am aware of the space between us
and the space around us
i am aware of space
i am conscious of my movement (and its limitations) in space
i am conscious of your movement (and your limitations) in space
i am conscious of any movements that may interrupt this space
this space around us
that is conscious of all our movement within it
whenever I move I dance
whenever I dance I move through space
in relation to you and me and space itself
wherever I am I am moving through space
whether seated or sleeping or running or riding
this space is in motion
and me within it
in relation with
this constant flow
it is beyond my control
but within my awareness
within our awareness
within this dance
where boundaries blur
P Ward 2013
1 hour in west dale 7913
beyond the hubbub and fond farewells
beyond the old friends and celebrations of an age
there is a space for memories made more recently
for futures and time immemorial
sitting between the big red rocks
as sun shines and waves break gently
enjoying the gallery of nature
in its infinite beauty
P Ward 2013
a gull turns its back to a thick cloud sky
alighting airily on the roof of a suburban home
grey in grey
a sublime moment of disappearance and reappearance
in an otherwise mundane day
P Ward 2013
bIDEFORD bLACK meets the cREMASTER cYCLE
Since creating the black wool balls with Bideford Black and locally gathered, seasonally molted sheep fleece[i], for some inexplicable reason I have had a strong urge to tie the wool to my head!? Its resemblance to a toupee or wig as it lay not-quite-passively upon the table was animatedly uncanny[ii]. So, having collected some white clay[iii], and following on from my recent facial investigations with Bideford Black[iv], it only seemed right to cover my head with the stuff and place the offending article of fashionable esteem quite reasonably on the top.
Francesca kindly agreed to photograph me, and to add more paint. The attendant lively conversation rendered a gamut of imaginative eventualities and furtherences – Old Mother Riley[v] (my mother said), French clowns, transvestitism, eighteenth century courtly wigs, tribal face painting and regalia with references to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, and then just plain daft! Again the process of obliterating my features with colour from the earth and its transformative inferences, both during painting, photographing and the resulting photo editing was invigorating and filled with power. When applying the clay in the mirror it is similar to painting a self-portrait but I am the canvas – thicker clay obliterating some features but highlighting others. There is definitely a physical as well as a metaphysical quality to the process. How much of this is due to the nature of the materials and the locale of their gathering, and how much due to the visual mutations and intensity of tactile and visual observation I am not sure, but it is an avenue I will continue to explore…
A selection of the resulting images and materials will be displayed in the forthcoming BIDEFORD BLACK exhibition at the white moose gallery[vi] in Barnstaple from September 6th. Many thanks again to Francesca for her patience, good humour and sensitivity[vii]. All materials have been gathered locally and responsibly in North Devon.
P Ward 2013
[v] Old Mother Riley was a music hall act which originally ran from about 1934 to 1954 played by Arthur Lucan, then from 1954 to 1977 by Roy Rolland. (Wikipedia)
I am an artist (among other things) – I do art: I observe things and place them in relation to others and myself; I gather things and stick them together and see how they behave materially and aesthetically and (even) ecologically; I investigate them; I share my explorations in a variety of ways and forms in the hope that it may give pleasure, joy, strength, courage and insight to live with integrity in this place we call home.
Here are some of my more recent adventures and a fantastic quote from my latest read…
3 types of black – experiments for Bideford Black exhibition at white moose gallery (p ward 2013)
‘Ecology teaches us that a diverse, open system, when faced with environmental stress, has more ways to respond than a uniform, closed one. That response requires semi-permeable boundaries that are neither too rigid nor too diffuse. In this view, the notion of “the survival of the fittest” finds a new meaning. No longer are the most fit those species or individuals capable of having power over others in a competitive struggle.. “The survival of the fittest,” as Lewis Thomas reminds us, “does not mean those fit to kill; it means those fitting in best with the rest of life.”[i] “Fitting in” refers here to the ability to be open to and to contribute, from one’s unique sense of self, to the well-being of the whole system.’[ii]
… and thank you again to family and friends and to the big wide world for providing such rich inspiration for more life.
P Ward 2013
[i] Lewis Thomas, “Are We Fit to Fit In?” Amicus Journal (Summer 1981)
[ii] Sarah A. Conn, “When the Earth Hurts, Who Responds?” Ecopsychology – Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind; Edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1995)
(a problematic statement of transmutable intent)
A close friend and fellow artist was recently asked about her feelings towards the current eco-art movement which among other things aims to engage audiences with the current ecological crisis we are experiencing and attempt to resolve such issues through creative activism and artful intervention…
“In answer to your question I do not see myself as an eco-artist, I am simply me, creating work as I am part of the environment. I collaborate with it as a source of inspiration, sometimes to connect with and sometimes to aid a deeper appreciation of it. But my work is much broader and most of my working hours at the moment are spent as a Learning Facilitator for adults with Autism. This is part of my art too. It’s a different form and I use this time to help them to enjoy and see that they are part of the environment. So I am not an eco-artist, I just work with many aspects of the environment because it inspires me, reconnects me and is important to me. I do not want to save the world for I do not know if it is broken, nor if such a massive responsibility should be placed upon my shoulders. I do what I can and I enjoy what I do out of love for creativity.” Francesca Owen[i]
Since completing and during our MA in Art & Environment at University College Falmouth in 2012 we have continually questioned how such political motivations forwarded by the course and the excessive focus on crisis may have undermined any spontaneous creative expression we previously benefitted from and enjoyed. We both chose the course because of our love for Nature as the source of our inspiration, hoping to further cultivate this creative link, rather than through any interest in the abuses which are presently being acted out upon the world. For many the relationship between art, in its many forms, and the environment is one integral to human creativity rather than a contemporary response to crisis. It may similarly be argued that such ministrations of putting the world to rights are beyond the realm of human influence and indeed unhealthy to any sense of wellbeing necessary for such aims, and further that focusing attention on such issues merely serves to exasperate and aggravate them rather than resolving them in any way.
For many years my own art practice has been strongly motivated by environmentalism (having been brought up with a deep respect for the natural world it is an obvious response to try to protect what is essential to my being through my work). However, continued participation and involvement with other similarly engaged artists and groups has brought to light an underlying frustration and discontent with such forms of creative activism and propaganda, coming as it frequently does from an ill-informed position, from political antagonism and a fearfully romantic perception of the human condition. The work produced is often and typically intellectually and conceptually distanced from any emotional or spiritual communication that I believe is the essence of ‘good’ art, as well as energetically divorced from the community in which it is employed. Thankfully my own practice is animated more by integrity to personal experience and reflection than a need for identification with any peer group and so has gradually allowed evolution towards one inspired by our intrinsic creativity as sentient beings within the cosmos. The following statements attempt to redefine my evolving practice, albeit within the limitations of this contemporary linguistic form (rather than through the preferred potency offered by poetic license to express such matters).
As an artist in an age of ecological understanding I see my respons-ability[ii] to explore and express my own nature in relation with Nature. It is not my place to judge this relationship or manipulate any response to it but to simply present what I am privileged enough to observe. Seeing Nature as an energetic interdependent evolving totality within which a plethora of transient entities act with and upon one another implies an inclusivity of intention and becoming. Such inclusivity may often be undermined by a pervading human predilection for arrogance and domination, exhibited and employed by capitalist corporations and didactic fundamentalism alike – whether in the name of profit and technological progress or environmental rescue. Such inclusivity may be similarly undermined through the desire to make definitive an academic movement or concept, rather than allowing that movement to do just that – move and flow and evolve in response to a constantly changing world. To believe that our actions as artists may ‘save the world’ (from our own and others’ actions) or change it for the ‘better’ (or at least in our own favour) is merely another way of ‘playing God’ – an attitude that arguably has led to the seemingly complex condition we presently face.
As an individual I do not always necessarily respond solely or consciously to any apparent ecological crisis but tend more to make tentative and aesthetic investigations of the world in which I live, a world that inspires every waking and dreaming moment of my life, through decisions based on intuition and personal need rather than rational thought and duty to some abstract ideal. Hopefully such intimate expression may communicate the sensory depth of my relationship within Nature, striking a resonant chord of recognition with others, human or otherwise. To celebrate and honour the wonder and beauty of Nature through investigations of our own nature maybe has more power and integrity than any political response that an individual or group may wish to pursue. The principle of Ecology, by its own nature and embodied within the process of art, includes both and all as valid expressions of Nature but most importantly expresses a sense of how actions may affect (individuals within) the dynamic of any immanent environment.
When I seek to understand my own nature as a human being, to find peace within myself, to find balance and health and happiness and harmony, I often do not like or am unable to easily accept what I see. Evidently humans are, among other things, warmongers, abusers and murderers; we can be violent, cruel, impatient, insecure and greedy as well as peace-bringers, menders, carers and nurturers, able to be brave and selfless and to appreciate beauty and to create culture with humour and joy. There is life and death, sickness and health and every subtle hue, tone and colour in between. We make mistakes. Without a comprehensive acceptance and assimilation of such diversity into my conscious being I may not be able to function effectively within the dynamic and constantly changing world. This is not to say that we should adopt or enact all and every behaviour but that we might evaluate and accept our potential and susceptibility to do so.
“It is never too late to give up your prejudices” Henry David Thoreau
Traditional shamans and healers often do not share the new age romantic vision of an ideal world sometime in the past, of a garden from which our kind has been cast and upon which the ministrations of many contemporary psychologists are based, but upon a world where all entities, animate and inanimate, artificial and natural, ethereal and corporeal, act according to their own (evolving and transient) nature. They are not looking for something or someone to blame for our suffering, but more a way to accept and assimilate change into the flow of life. If art may do anything within society it could maybe encourage fluidity of perception and being, to question any pervading, persistent and stultifying status quo and to celebrate and encourage a deep and residing respect for the world of which we are an integral but essentially transient part.[iii]
Yet within a world of cynicism, of over-analysis and lack of faith, and despite the prevalence of such ageless wisdom, where is the simple voice of love upon which all healing and sound human behaviour rests – where is acceptance and understanding? Where is joy and compassion? Where is the sharing and celebration of our sublime and miraculous existence? If art, in whatever form, does not exult and uphold the spirit of life at its very core then what place does it have in this world? What use does it have to society other than to subdue and undermine the sanctity of experience? It is so often easier to point the finger – to blame and despise whatever or whoever for our dis-ease, for our inner and outer dissatisfaction and frustration with existence – than to embrace its wholeness – its dirt and grime and lack of symmetry, its sadness, disparity and dirge, its resonant beauty and power – and our humble place within it and to speak with a voice of love for all…
P Ward 2013
[ii] “If the aesthetic is seen in contrast to the anaesthetic – or numbness, it can be understood more correctly as ‘enlivened being’. Reclaiming the aesthetic in this way enables us to understand the link between the aesthetic and responsibility: response-ability not as a moral imperative, but as the ability to respond.” (Shelley Sacks, UN Summit on Culture and Development, Stockholm 1998) from http://www.universityofthetrees.org
I live within this world
Within dirt and dust
Light and dark
Fluid and fire
Within us all
I hanker not after harmony –
A perfect point of perennial stasis
Where all is happy and peaceful forever
(Like death) –
But for change, for evolution and appropriate but arbitrary sensory adaption
For life amidst this ever-ending toil and turmoil
I live to learn to accept the flow
To recognize and embrace the power that pulsates throughout
Everything and everybody and everywhere
Defined not by class or sex or race or breed or genus or type
Not divided by intellect or motive or wealth or value to you and me
So maybe I will kick and shout
Or sit alone still
Or dance staccato in fashionable time with you
Knowing all is fine in the world
With or without my intervention
P Ward 2013
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!
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
expressions of an intimate ecology 1
whatever impression we make
whatever mark or intervention into the world
that we add or subtract from our immediate environment
in the grand scheme of things
it is merely a pin prick
a rudimentary breath of life, in and out,
a statement of our own nature
a purposeful manifestation of our own individual spirit
our essence in relation with all
we pick up matter along the way and cast it aside as we process it
as we use it, enjoy it, ingest, digest and excrete it
sometimes affecting us deeply
and other times hardly touching the sides
i was recently informed by a most learned colleague
referring to a prehistoric trace of worm movement in a sample of carboniferous mudstone
that all our actions may be divided into three basic categories:
and to escape
how true this is i have not yet had time to process
but it does beg me to wonder “so what is art?!”
and further, for example, “what are politics and science and faith?!”
into what category may such cultural realizations, exploratory or not, fall?
may our fundamental actions be likened to that of a most simple invertebrate
or do we really embody, within our large brained bipedal opposing-thumb-ness, something more?
more power perhaps
more understanding or more rights to annihilate and create?
and do we really have it in us to make amends
to unravel and undo the complexity
of our previously, largely subconscious, peripheral interference in this earthly dynamic?
for one i fear not
so as i draw giddy circles in the sand
or piece one word against another word most joyfully
expressing myself within this intimate ecology that we share,
i may only ponder what my true intentions are…
am i prancing like a peacock, all full and feathery, to ultimately impress some mate or other?
or aiming to provide nutrition of some kind, putting bread upon the table for myself (or not)?
or am i more reasonably aiming to find another world beyond this everyday world
this world of miraculous mistakes?
P Ward 2013