coming of age

more new paintings (and thoughts about my practice), summer 2017

“I am no longer sure of what I am doing. But then, quite simply, I am painting. I am putting together objects from materials that I gather locally, here in North Devon. Materials that are significant to me. That have stories to tell. That connect me to this place and to my being. The objects created are celebrations of this life. They are explorations. Simple, intuitive journeys of making in the here and now…” (Artist statement, summer 2017)

burrows (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

At the tender age of fifty I am finding it harder to define exactly what my artwork is about. In the past I might talk about the power of art as an agent of change but no longer feel this is my main inspiration. Its power is now subtler both within my life and in the world. No longer do I work obsessively, searching for meaning and understanding – indeed my life does not allow it – but see it as a means to share my sense of wonder with the world, through both the materials I use and the approach I take to making. It is a space for myself, to come to terms with life, to find balance and peace. For whatever reason art and making has become a central aspect of my being, like a good friend. Whether this has a positive value to society as a whole I am not sure but in society, art is always there, in whatever form, quietly infiltrating the rigid constructs of our existence.

sea wall (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

However comfortable I may personally feel with my artistic practice I still feel a need (and this is where an issue/dilemma arises) to verbally justify and explain it to others, both for the sake of art historical context and as an aesthetic anchor within the art market – people seem to like to know what they’re buying into. To say that I enjoy mystery or the process seems simply not enough. Intuition is very important to me – to make, to work with the materials, until a piece ‘feels’ ‘right’ is essential to the process.

particular I-IV (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

To approach work not necessarily from any literal or narrative starting point, beyond the constraints of my chosen materials, but simply as an act of trust or sense of belief in the creative process and in my simple intent – to share my sense of wonder and beauty in existence. I have been slowly building my own language of marks and forms in response to the process of gathering and making paint with earth pigments. As such I feel the work is a celebration of our connection to place, and the physical matter of place, and our evolving relationship with them.

offcuts in an offcut frame XI – factual (earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2017

The titles I enjoy as a poetic response to the work, often with reference to personal experience, and as a means for others to access the work.

drawing on obscurity XII – surprise party (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

Politically and spiritually the work I do is significant through its lack of ‘control’, through its trust in simple processes and its respectful empathy with natural materials – it is made in mindful contradiction of the current worldview of human superiority, of ‘power over’, in denial of our supposed ability to know what is the right thing to do – we have already endangered existence through our arrogance, maybe it is time to step back a little before we create more problems. To live simply, in peace with ourselves, with others and all of existence is maybe all we can do…

standing by the river, beneath the trees, watching rain fall (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

drawing on obscurity XII – if I move slowly enough will I become a tortoise? (earth pigments on driftwood) © p ward 2017

drawing on obscurity XIII – infiltration (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

tree (earth pigments on board) © p ward 2017

Infiltration is the process by which water on the ground surface enters the soil. Infiltration rate in soil science is a measure of the rate at which soil is able to absorb rainfall or irrigation. It is measured in inches per hour or millimetres per hour.[i]

© P Ward 2017

________________________________________

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infiltration_(hydrology)


simple tasks

.

as an artist experiencing cessations in the creative flow

or an utter lack of enthusiasm for making from time to time

it is heartening to experience how the most simple actions

no matter how difficult they may sometimes be

like folding and tearing paper

grinding some local earth pigments

and painting basic patterns

(with the intention of creating a set of cards for sale)

can enliven my spirits

get the mind ticking again

and lead to a bounteous plethora of new ideas and directions

earth dots (north devon pigments on paper) © p ward 2016earth dots (north devon pigments on paper) © p ward 2016

whether it is something particularly inspiring about the whole process

of collecting pigments in the landscape and making paint

or whether it is evident in all forms of simple creative actions

i’m not sure

but it feels good

and reminds me of how art has enriched and inspired my life for so many years

earth lines (north devon pigments on paper) © p ward 2016earth lines (north devon pigments on paper) © p ward 2016

i like my work

i like what I make

and i am eternally grateful to the universe for offering me these gifts:

the ability to perceive beauty

the aptitude to make beautiful things

and the opportunity to inspire others to do the same…

painting with eARTh day, Hele Corn Mill 15216, images courtesy Sophie Twisspainting with eARTh day, Hele Corn Mill 15216, images courtesy Sophie Twiss

© p ward 2016


of black and white 15815

3 peregrines, hillsborough © p ward 20153 peregrines, hillsborough © p ward 2015

of black and white i have become acquainted

shifting material tonality contextually alighting itself in emotion

the falcons’ tumbling play from the high hill cliff top nearby

between myself and the evening sun, i became blind

your overarching display tantamount to simple exquisite perfection

as well timed as it was

.

there is black

and there is black

.

there is white

and white

.

a way to describe

imperfectly

a fleeting perception of this place and that

of an occurrence personally experienced

a mere scribble by comparison

a fumbling juxtaposition

in the face of complexity

.

it will just have to do

it is all i have

beyond itself here

.

i do not wish to be spoon-fed

the spoon is soiled with black

.

a black arches awaits nightfall on white bathroom tiles

.

i have had another 5 minutes of fame

when will it end?

fossil tree fern stem and silver spoon used for digging bideford black, greencliff © p ward 2015fossil tree fern stem and silver spoon used for digging bideford black, greencliff © p ward 2015

black arches, ilfracombe © p ward 2015black arches, ilfracombe © p ward 2015

© P Ward 2015


This morning I awoke to the sound of birdsong…

This morning I awoke to the sound of birdsong drifting through dawn-lit windows

The small, humble things in life offering sustenance in this big, big world

Spring hath sprung…

birdsong, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015birdsong, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015

“Curiously in amongst this plethora of Buddhism there was one token of Christianity – the autobiography of St Teresa of Lisieux. In spite of Tenzin Palmo’s antipathy to the Christian religion in general, she was drawn to the French saint who had entered a Carmelite nunnery when she was just fifteen and who had died at the age of twenty-four. She read her story several times and could quote from it at will.

‘The ironic thing is that the “little way” that she wrote about had nothing to do with the Way that I practiced. What I liked about her, however, was that she was very sensible. She sometimes slept through the church services and it did not worry her that she slept. God would have to accept her as she was! She never worried about her faults so long as her aspiration was right! She had this thing that she was like a small bird scratching around looking for seeds, glancing at the sun but not flying near it. She reasoned that she didn’t have to because the sun was shining even on a small being like a bird. Her whole attitude was very nice. She described herself as “a little flower” by the wayside which nobody sees but in its own self is very perfect as it is. And to me that is her primary message – that even in small, little ways we can be fulfilling our purpose and that in little things we can accomplish much.’[i]

bird, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015bird, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015

hare, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015hare, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015

bird, grass, egg, moon, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015bird, grass, egg, moon, compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015

(Drawings from recent experiments with compressed charcoal.)

© p ward 2015


[i] From Cave in the Snow by Vicki Mackenzie, the inspiring true story of how an English woman from the East in of London became a fully ordained Tibetan nun, spending 12 years in isolated meditation in a cave in the Himalayan foothills during the latter half of the 20th Century.


Winter Butterfly 171214

Today I let a Peacock butterfly out of the window of my house. It is mid December but the weather is mild.

We have a number of butterflies – mainly Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and Peacock (Aglais io) – who appear to hibernate in our house. When the weather is mild they wake up. I am never sure whether to let them out or not. Would staying in the house mean further hibernation or slow starvation as they flap helplessly against the windowpane? Letting them out into the changing weather can only mean certain death as their life force is drained by the cold and lack of nutrients from their natural food sources.

From childhood I was taught that a butterfly’s life lasts but one day, as it emerges from its chrysalis with shimmering wings, drinking briefly from its chosen flowery nectar, choosing a mate and exhausting itself in procreative fervour. This seems not so or at least not entirely accurate. I have read that the Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) reaches British shores after a migratory flight from northern Africa and Spain, while obviously the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell often spend a winter, at least, in dry dark sheltered roof spaces and cupboards before embarking on life once more.

As this butterfly flew out into the dim blustery day I wonder on how much more misinformation I have been fed during my formative years, and if this brief liberation, caused by my own puzzled intervention, was truly for the best…

threshold, digital images from drawings and paintings © p ward 2014threshold, digital images from drawings and paintings © p ward 2014

© P Ward 2014


i walk this earth 2214 (f owen, p ward)

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. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAi walk this earth – cold feet (video still; f owen/p ward 2014)

© Francesca Owen & Peter Ward 2014


so lately

.

get more closer here

to feeling pulses pulsing

touched each other gentle

tasty ground about

.

lively-landscape-earth-pigments-pva-on-laos-handmade-paper-80x60cm-p-ward-2009_0lively landscape (earth pigments; 80x60cm; p ward 2009)

 .

breathe more deeper deeply

swim beneath the tall trees

eating rainbow clouds up

in you ‘n’ this ‘n’ that

.

a slippery wetness

a dirty earth-ness

a cleansing thirst-ness

of air and spirit fullness

.

clifftop-drama-pencil-on-driftwood-52x36cm-p-ward-2009cliff top drama (pencil on driftwood; 52x36cm; p ward 2009)

 .

we are fools and idiots

and lunatics and mad people

you and I

that we may do well to deny

.

as i jump at the chance

although there is none

to chatter insanely with thee

face to face to face to face

.

cat-and-mouse-earth-pigments-pva-on-laos-handmade-paper-80x60cm-p-ward--2009cat and mouse (pencil; 80x60cm; p ward 2009)

 .

your ear

your mouth

your eye

your heart to start

.

when dancing and prancing

below the sandy meadows

where loam-filled worms

cast the soil and sand

.

for the greenwood

to the fair

for our home

the sea and all these ‘ologies

.

new-drawing-earth-pigments-pva-on-laos-handmade-paper-80x60cm-p-ward-2009new drawing (earth pigments; 80x60cm; p ward 2009)

 .

so mole me over more

and time and time and time

will willfully aspire

to inspire to this end

.

we have no gas or oil

we have but sticks and stones

we have light and fire

we have the power now

.

to let us fly like birds while we can

and spin fine filament in memory (lest we forget)

for futures not yet set in stone

upon which to build our dreams

.

running-inland-oil-on-board58x66cm-p-ward-2008running inland (oil on board; 58x66cm; 2008) 

© P Ward 2013