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

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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


painting in croatia, june 2017

On a recent visit to the ‘long island’ of Dugi Otok on the Adriatic coast of Croatia I was taken by the unfamiliar marks of paint daubed on walls and buildings. Not graffiti as such or even nonsensical paintbrush cleansing ablutions but intentional spots and splashes of household paint. We thought they were maybe way markers or boundary signs. Whatever their purpose I enjoyed how they honed my vision both to the unfamiliar in such a rich but alien culture and also to another sense of painting in and of the environment.rocks and soil I + II, framed; dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

dockside paintings; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

Wherever we travel it is the unfamiliar colours, patterns, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes and materials that inspire and refresh our imaginations and remind us of the richness, diversity and potential of this planet that we share while also refreshing the ‘familiar’ in our own backyards. It only leaves us, as creative people, to show our gratuitude through sharing our vision and inspiration with others, hopefully continuing the cycle.

paint daubs; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

le citron de provence (Gonepteryx cleopatra) butterfly wings; dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

ant highway, roadkill toad, pink flowers, white admiral; sali, dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

festival procession flowers; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

a boat and three doorways; sali, dugi otok, croatia @ p ward 2017

confectionery constellation, casual installation, pink house; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

handprints and paint; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

urban sights I, II + III; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

pigment and paint I + II; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

playground moths; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

four colours; dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

sticks and stones; dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

unfamiliar shrub; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

red and yellow makes orange, walls; sali, croatia © p ward 2017

nature park telašćica, dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

flying; dugi otok, croatia © p ward 2017

With thanks to the people, animals, plants and places of Croatia for a most inspiring experience and to Francesca, Noah and Agnes for sharing it with me.

© P Ward 2017


home: research, research and inspiration – early 2016 update

water, air and earth

sticks and stones

and, somewhere, fire

.

as the year unfolds

to a new life

within us

.

and you grow

and hold us rapt

in your emphatic personality

.

we deliberate upon Nature

each delicate

and deafening response

.

there is red and black and grey and green

dirt to some

riches to others

.

grinding away

what is left

to leave

.

more

and more

and more

.

we play

and learn

we play together

.

knees

teeth

home

.

home- county clare, Ireland © p ward 2016home: County Clare, Ireland © p ward 2016

The year began with family and friends in a rainswept County Clare, Ireland, my home for 10 years. Many of the places I wanted to revisit and share were beneath meters of water. Things, of course, had changed for better and worse but the spirit of the land still shone through.

home- lake vyrnwy, powys, wales © p ward 2106home: Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales © p ward 2106

Then more mountains and lakes, family and friends, as my brother’s path shifts to the Welsh borders, an area I have not visited before but will visit again. This time snow, ice, fog and sunshine accompanied my journey. Lake Vyrnwy reservoir submerged a Welsh village to supply England with water.

home- Ilfracombe, winter 2016 © p ward 2016home: Ilfracombe, winter 2016 © p ward 2016

And at ‘home’ the winter lashes the coastline, reshaping and reforming. Ilfracombe was originally named after King Alfred and was gifted to two of his sons as a sheltered harbour on the western approaches to his kingdom. Before then an iron-age hill fort overlooked the natural harbour from, what is now, Hillsborough nature reserve. This part of the North Devon coast is formed predominantly from Devonian slates, sandstones and shales and boasts some of the highest sea cliffs in England. We have a new studio here that we hope will provide a base for our creative endeavours and space for others to enjoy.

home- Barnstaple Bay and Hele, North Devon © p ward 2016home: Barnstaple Bay and Hele, North Devon © p ward 2016

home- Holdstone Down, Combe Martin, North Devon © p ward 2016home: Holdstone Down, Combe Martin, North Devon © p ward 2016

let’s talk dirt! (White Moose Gallery, CCANW, Heritage Lottery Fund, Bideford Pottery, IGI Ltd, Roger Cockram)let’s talk dirt! (White Moose Gallery, CCANW, Heritage Lottery Fund, Bideford Pottery, IGI Ltd, Roger Cockram)

In May, as part of the CCANW Soil Culture project, I led a walk and talk with the White Moose Gallery and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to celebrate North Devon’s relationship with its earth resources. “Let’s Walk and Talk Dirt!” involved local potters, Harry Juniper and Roger Cockram, geologists Chris Cornford and Andrew Green, and soil scientist David Hogan to present some different perspectives about our local resources. Participants really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the events but were frustrated by the lack of time to explore the subject matter in more depth. We are now working towards a ‘summer school’ to further explore North Devon’s potteries, pigments, rocks and soils.

Sidmouth, East Devon © p ward 2106Sidmouth, East Devon © p ward 2106

Jacob’s Ladder beach, Sidmouth, East Devon © p ward 2016Jacob’s Ladder beach, Sidmouth, East Devon © p ward 2016

The Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, East Devon invited me in May, to run painting with earth workshops to accompany their ongoing Soil Culture exhibitions. The first workshop introduced the ideas to a small group of partially sighted children from the WESC Foundation, providing a space for us to enjoy the more than visual experience of the process and materials. I was also excited to be exploring a new area of the country, encouraging me to find new pigments and learn about their geology and history. The second workshop, for artists, included an invigorating morning field trip to Jacob’s Ladder beach in Sidmouth to gather small quantities of the iron-rich red and green mudstones, and whatever else took our fancy, followed by an afternoon of furious experimentation grinding and binding a selection of pigments with a variety of mediums. It was great to meet some new faces in such a lively and friendly gallery.

home- Wessex – Branscombe beach, East Devon, Hardy country (chalk and flint) © p ward 2016home: Wessex – Branscombe beach, East Devon; Hardy country (chalk and flint) © p ward 2016

Something that did surprise me was the presence of chalk in the landscape of East Devon. Having been raised in Portsmouth I am familiar with the chalk and flint of the South Downs and Isle of Wight but wasn’t aware of it so far west along the coast. The sedimentary Cretaceous beds at Beer, that I saw from Branscombe beach during a day of research, lie above Upper Greensand that then rests on the more familiar Mercian Triassic red mudstones of South Devon. Apparently there is an ‘unconformity’ here in that the interceding Jurassic layer is missing, the area being land during that era. The nodules of flint and chert present in the Chalk and Upper Greensand that make up the beaches are also apparent in the local architecture creating further similarities to the South Downs and other Chalk areas across Europe.

One such region, that I also feel an affinity with through my ancestry and boyhood cycling adventures, is the Wessex Downs. The ancient country of Wessex encompassed Hampshire, west to the Cornish borders, and Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Somerset. In more recent times its character and characters have formed the backdrop for the literary works of Thomas Hardy. I was recently contacted by a research fellow from Exeter University to collaborate in a project to explore the value to health and well being of arts-based environmental workshops. His previous research looked at the work of Thomas Hardy in relation to the Wessex landscape. We are now waiting to see if our initial funding application has been successful before embarking on a major AHRC project around a similar theme. It has been fascinating working with a complete stranger towards a shared goal.

Hele community group sculpture proposal sketches © eARTh 2016Hele community group sculpture proposal sketches © eARTh 2016

Meanwhile, closer to home again we have been working with the local community towards re-landscaping an unsightly patch of ground behind the bus shelter in our village. It was good to be invited, to meet some more of our neighbours, to learn about the history of the village and to think how to we might alter such a space to celebrate the area. It was recently discovered that the area is owned (rather than it being public space) which has put the project back somewhat!?

sketches in wood and stone © p ward 2016sketches in wood and stone © p ward 2016

And back in the studio I have been enjoying putting together some new work (see previous post) using old offcuts of wood, old pots of paint and some new pigments. After 9 months I finally feel like I am settling in, enjoying the space and making something new, as well as finding time for my other interests and beautiful family. With a new arrival imminent we’ll be working hard to keep it up…

jacob’s ladder, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2016jacob’s ladder, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2016

corn mill close, masonry paint on painted board © p ward 2016corn mill close, masonry paint on painted board © p ward 2016

offcuts – sketch in wood © p ward 2016offcuts – sketch in wood © p ward 2016

© P Ward 2016


eARTh has MOVED…

MIDWINTER OPEN STUDIO

Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th November, 1100-1600

After an exciting first year, including a great exhibition at the White Moose Gallery, a number of successful workshops and OPEN STUDIOS and participation in other international projects, eARTh has relocated to a smaller, more rural space at Hele Corn Mill where we (myself and partner Francesca Owen) will be continuing our work with local earth pigments and plant dyes.

eARTh at Hele Corn Mill hele corn mill and eARTh studio © f owen 2015

Hele Corn Mill dates from 1525 and is a unique working watermill in North Devon. Located just 300m from stunning Hele Bay beach just east of Ilfracombe, a visit to the mill makes a perfect family visit. Opposite the mill is the Miller’s Wife Tearoom, where you can relax and enjoy a traditional cream tea or a slice of one of many delicious cakes, which are homemade every day. For directions, parking and opening times please visit www.helecornmill.com.

You are warmly invited to a pre-Christmas opening – a chat, some nibbles, a glass of wine and some art. If you cannot make the opening please feel free to visit anytime. eARTh will be open on a regular basis along with workshops, exhibitions and events throughout the year and is looking forward to seeing you soon.

For more information please visit www.earthnorthdevon.wix.com/arts

© P Ward 2015


Saying hello to the Faeries…

One week on the Isle of Man, 2015

It is nearly thirty years since I last visited Ellan Vannin – the Manx name for the Isle of Man. Situated in the middle of the emerald waters of the Irish Sea, within sight of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Heaven, so it is said, this self-governed commonwealth nation is probably best known for the yearly motorcycle TT race. For me, as an idealistic teenager surrounded by radical older students, it became a place of great significance in my own spiritual development. For the Celts it was the centre of the Faerie Empire, the royal thrones sitting atop the second highest mountain, South Barrule. Even today, respect for the other realms is still very much in evidence. Beyond this the island, once you have accepted the proliferation of lycra-clad outdoor pursuits, the squeals of cliff-leaping coasteerers and the constant stream of motorcyclists, is still a peaceful haven with stunning views and coastline, a place of folklore, local heritage and marine and avian wildlife.

manx dog by unknown artist, fired clay; carpets; crushed quartz pebbledash, Port Erin © p ward 2015Manx dog by unknown artist, fired clay; carpets; crushed quartz pebbledash, Port Erin © p ward 2015

Port Erin garden I-IV © p ward 2015Port Erin garden I-IV © p ward 2015

malachite and sea glass, Port Erin © p ward 2015malachite and sea glass, Port Erin © p ward 2015

found stick figure, Silverdale Glen © p ward 2015found stick figure, Silverdale Glen © p ward 2015

Mull Tomb Circle; Lochtan sheep; Manx thatch, Cregneash © p ward and f owen 2015Mull Tomb Circle; Lochtan sheep; Manx thatch, Cregneash © p ward and f owen 2015

The Chasms I-III, Port St Mary © p ward 2015The Chasms I-III, Port St Mary © p ward 2015

The Sugarloaf; Spanish Head, Port St Mary © p ward 2015The Sugarloaf; Spanish Head, Port St Mary © p ward 2015

Ramsey I-III © p ward 2015Ramsey I-III © p ward 2015

standing stones, Ramsey © p ward 2015standing stones, Ramsey © p ward 2015
discarded herrings, Peel; discarded scallop shells; bracken, Fleshwick © p ward 2015discarded herrings, Peel; discarded scallop shells; bracken, Fleshwick © p ward 2015

full moon, Port Erin © p ward 2015full moon, Port Erin © p ward 2015

from South Barrule © f owen 2015from South Barrule © f owen 2015

heather bundle, South Barrule © p ward 2015heather bundle, South Barrule © p ward 2015

from Bradda Head I-II © p ward 2015from Bradda Head I-II © p ward 2015

from Bradda Head III © p ward 2015from Bradda Head III © p ward 2015

Thank you to my family for treating us to this short holiday and this time to restore my connection to those things that inspire my living.

special people, IOM © p ward 2015special people, IOM © p ward 2015

© P Ward 2015


Escape to the Country

just another day in the life of an earth pigment artist…

I was recently invited by the popular television property show ‘Escape to the Country’ (Freemantle Media) to help with a local interest article about Bideford Black. Despite very inclement weather for August we spent an enjoyable morning on the beach and cliff top near the outcrop of pigment, accompanied of course by a chorus of local ravens, oystercatchers, gulls and a single peregrine falcon. The presenter, Alistair Appleton, was completely surprised by the ‘blackness’ and quality of the pigment and became quickly absorbed in his brief painting experience. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes, work alongside the team for a while and also get an opportunity to share my work with a new audience – the show reaches about 16 million people! It will be broadcast on BBC2 sometime during the next few months.

on location at greencliff and paintings by the team © p ward and courtesy n wilkinson (www.nickwilkinsontv.co.uk) 2015on location at greencliff and paintings by the team © p ward and courtesy n wilkinson (www.nickwilkinsontv.co.uk) 2015

© P Ward 2015