please accept my resignation 131016

 

some things I have seen, done and made that have made me think, feel and smile over the last few months…

“Reading true literature [Nan Shepherd] reflected, ‘it’s as though you are standing experiencing and suddenly the work is there, bursting out of its own ripeness . . . life has exploded, sticky and rich and smelling oh so good. And . . . that makes the ordinary world magical – that reverberates/illuminates.’ ” taken from Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane.

folded-paper-little-family-special-gifts-friendship-earth-pigments-on-canvas-p-ward-2016folded paper; little family; special gifts; friendship (earth pigments on canvas) © p ward 2016

wooden-tray-full-of-found-things-earth-2016wooden tray full of found things © eARTh 2016

the-exmoor-best-exmoor-zoological-gardens-p-ward-2016‘the exmoor beast’!?, exmoor zoological gardens © p ward 2016

crow-point-p-ward-2016crow point © p ward 2016

sycamore-p-ward-2016sycamore © p ward 2016

drawing-a-line-coast-to-coast-with-skedge-13916-earth-2016drawing a line, coast to coast with skedge 13916 © eARTh 2016

learning-to-draw-i-p-ward-2016learning to draw I © p ward 2016

learning-to-draw-ii-iii-iv-earth-2016learning to draw II, III, IV © eARTh 2016

towan-beach-roseland-peninsula-bottallack-mines-st-just-cornwall-p-ward-2016towan beach, roseland peninsula; bottallack mines, st just, cornwall © p ward 2016

west-somerset-railway-bicclescombe-park-shed-ilfracombe-earth-2016west somerset railway; bicclescombe park shed, ilfracombe © eARTh 2016

painted-palette-earth-pigments-on-wood-earth-2016painted palette (earth pigments on wood) © eARTh 2016

offcuts-in-an-offcut-frame-palette-mask-earth-pigments-on-wood-p-ward-2016offcuts in an offcut frame – palette; mask (earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2016

figure-offcuts-in-an-offcut-frame-viii-earth-pigments-on-wood-building-blocks-p-ward-2016figure; offcuts in an offcut frame – VIII (earth pigments on wood); building blocks © p ward 2016

resignation-definitiondefinition from google search

with special thanks to francesca, noah, agnes, family and friends for your love, support and companionship 🙂

© p ward/eARTh 2016


a celebration 13116

.

at times

i really do not get Art

its place in my life

or the wider world around me

.

seemingly superfluous pedantic intellectual bickering

over aesthetic form and function

for some fashion or other

in the face of pressing global issues

.

not quite big enough

or loud enough

specific or far reaching enough

to make a difference

(although every whisper counts, I know)

.

baggy point from woolacombe sands, north devon © p ward 2015baggy point from woolacombe sands, north devon © p ward 2015

.

without it (some will argue)

life would be just an incessant instinctive struggle and movement

towards food, shelter and a mate

for nurture within our own nature

to survive within this wildness

.

and

for everybody else

this is quite enough

.

our innate beauty

our diverse evolving nature

our ecologically defined behaviour

in such abundant splendour

and complex contradiction

.

humbly seeking our place

within the heave and flow

of ever shifting forces

.

at times

I do not get art

but thank it once again

for bringing me to these conclusions

.

new year, east clare, ireland © p ward 2016new year, east clare, ireland © p ward 2016

© p ward 2016


BREATHING ART

Geumgang Nature Art Pre-biennale 2015, South Korea

7 October – 30 November 2015

I was invited to contribute photographic documentation of 3 works to highlight aspects of my practice (below) and a project proposal (A BUNDLE OF STICKS) to this international environmental art residency programme and exhibition organised by YATOOI in South Korea. The proposal will hopefully lead to a 3-week fully paid residency in South Korea in 2016.

BREATHING ART Geumgang Nature Art Pre-biennale 2015, exhibition full view (courtesy YATOO 2015)BREATHING ART Geumgang Nature Art Pre-biennale 2015, exhibition full view (courtesy YATOO 2015)

The Geumgang Nature Art Biennale is an international Nature Art exhibition planned by Yatoo, the Korean Nature Art Association firstly established in 1981. Yatoo spreads Nature Art around Gongju in Chungnam Province. Based on Yatoo’s experience of planning and hosting international nature art events since the early 1990s, the first Biennale was held in 2004, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the South Chungcheong Province and Gongju City. Throughout three weeks the artists from around the world live together and create their works. An introductive session for the nature art project and other programs are conducted in parallel. There are two programs for foreign artists and IWO campers. The first is introducing the Korean culture, the second is a project created together with children and other citizens. The works of the artists are displayed at Ssangshin Park allowing the visitors to observe how they interact with the natural context.

3 works

expressions of an intimate ecology:

BREATHING ART 1painted log, earth pigments and driftwood, westward ho! © p ward 2010

I came upon this large driftwood log during a walk along a beach in North Devon and painted it with locally gathered earth pigments. After a few weeks the log disappeared from the beach, taken back by the sea. Six months later it reappeared on the same beach, still painted but altered by its journey, wherever it may have been.

Work is often made spontaneously, in response to and with the environment, using gathered materials and elemental forces to shape its evolution. For me, ART and making are means through which I may learn about the world both practically and imaginatively.

“Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible” Paul Klee

animalistic:

BREATHING ART 21 hour of feathers, fremington quay – bound feathers in antique case © p ward 2012; birdsong – compressed charcoal on paper © p ward 2015

Two works relating to animals: ‘1 hour of feathers’ is made from feathers collected during a short coastal walk; ‘birdsong’ aims to capture some of the varied intonations of sound expressed by our feathered friends through simple drawing. My relationship to wildlife, to the other life forms with whom we share this earth, has been a constant source of inspiration and wonder.

“I think of what wild animals are in our imaginations. And how they are disappearing – not just from the wild, but from people’s everyday lives, replaced by images of themselves in print and on screen. The rarer they get, the fewer meanings animals can have. Eventually rarity is all they are made of.” From H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

painting with earth / painting together:

BREATHING ART 36 minutes to save the world – participatory stone painting with earth pigments, isles of scilly, shortcourse UK (cape farewell) © p ward 2011 (video still courtesy bryony stokes) 

An action performed as part of an artists’ residency expedition on the Isles of Scilly to explore creative responses to climate change. Participants were invited to make marks with earth pigments on a small, round granite boulder found on a nearby beach while bringing to mind an act they may contribute to earth’s wellbeing. One pigment had been gathered from my home and brought with me. Another collected that morning from the shore. The painted stone remained as a talisman within the space throughout the meeting, then left as a gift to the space.

Painting with locally gathered earth pigments has become an important and integral part of my art practice, offering insights into geology, social history, art and our relationships with earth’s resources. Making has been enriched through a deeper understanding of the materials I use. Beyond observation and a simple response to materials, painting may offer a space for investigation of environment and even ritual. Painting with others may bring together all these as well as a sense of communication beyond self.

“Re-engaging with the raw materials from which our lives are shaped is a potent reminder of the difference between what is real and what is only illusory” Anna Konig

© p ward 2015


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


Crow Point 10415

“If you lack the materials to work with, go to the beach and draw with a stick in the sand, draw on the dry earth with a line of piss, make a drawing of the song of the birds in the emptiness of space, the noise of the water and of the wheel of a cart, and the song of the insects. All of this may be swept away by the wind and the water, but have the conviction that all these pure realizations of my spirit will influence, by magic and miracle, the spirit of other men.” Joan Miro, 1940

crow point © p ward 2015crow point © p ward 2015

Sometimes, when one’s creativity seems a little stifled or this art becomes a little too serious and responsibilities just too onerous to bare, it is enough to take oneself to the local beach, or a place of personal power, some woods or favourite walk, or even somewhere completely new, and just set to playing – exploring some different materials in a different environment, away from the studio with no pressure of outcome, finance or foe. Francesca and I are presently working together towards a number of exhibitions and open studios but often struggling with the demands of parenthood to find time to apply ourselves fully to our artistic endeavours. It was time for a change – a change in our expectations of ourselves, of our working practice both individually, and with each other, and maybe even a change in the form of our expression. Working together may often help such a process of re-evaluation and movement but it may just as easily hinder it. Whatever, it is always worth trying to get the juices flowing again, to unblock, to break the dam, to release and revive the mojo, so to speak.

Here’s what happened when we went to one of our favourite spots in North Devon – Crow Point, at the mouth of the Taw and Torridge rivers, where the rich estuarine waters flow into Barnstaple/Bideford Bay (wherever your more clandestine loyalties may lie), at the southern end of Braunton Burrows, centre of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve, a place I had spent many happy childhood holiday times and one I will be continuing to share with our son Noah now and in the future.

arbritary transect © f owen & p ward 2015arbritary transect © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Transect – collecting objects that appeal from a line down the beach, recognizing arbitrary zones, changes in surface and ecology, bringing those things together as a simple expression of that system, process and place.

noah’s ark within arm’s reach © f owen & p ward 2015noah’s ark within arm’s reach © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Noah’s Ark at arm’s length – sitting and sorting the stones and sand to find as many seashells as one can within arm’s reach; drawing a line to mark that reach; placing all the shells together on a piece of rock or driftwood within the space; observing, perhaps identifying and counting and enjoying the diversity of life therein.

boardwalk for lizards and beetles © f owen & p ward 2015boardwalk for lizards and beetles © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Driftwood boardwalk for lizards and beetles – arranging a selection of sticks from one place to another.

crow point bundle © f owen & p ward 2015crow point bundle © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Flotsam and jetsam beach bundle – collect interesting things and tie them together in a bundle; photograph arrangement from a weird/artistic angle to capture a sense of moment and place.

rubbish sculpture © f owen & p ward 2015rubbish sculpture © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Rubbish sculpture, an ode to Mr Duchamp – a carefully juxtaposed re-appropriation of discarded toilet seat and plastic, sticks, rope, sand and shadows.

4 subtle stick crosses © f owen & p ward 20154 subtle stick crosses © f owen & p ward 2015

  • 4 subtle stick crosses on driftwood with sand – most transient darling!?

buggy tracks © p ward 2015buggy tracks © p ward 2015

line in the sand © f owen & p ward 2015line in the sand © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Line in the sand – drag a stick in the sand as you walk along the beach, enjoying this simple expression of movement and mark making.

crow point sketch © f owen & p ward 2015crow point sketch © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Pick things up and take them home – gather some more objects that particularly appeal to one’s artistic sensibilities at the time, tie them all together and cart them back to the car and consequently the studio where they may be arranged in pleasing and/or meaningful ways in the name of art…

As utterly committed contemporary (environmental) artists we, of course, spent time recording and documenting our ‘play’ for who knows just when our lighthearted, seemingly trivial investigative dalliances may trigger a new burst in creative output or inspired artistic flare and productivity. We also had a great time and hope that Noah did too!? From his shoulder-top vantage point who knows what he thought or what affects we may be catalyzing in his innocent and vulnerable being but from his smiling cheeky face chirruping away throughout the windy, sun filled walk, and the way he is chewing away on the table edge as I write this blog, I’m sure he’ll be just fine.

finger painting, earth pigments and natural binders on canvas © f owen & p ward 2015finger painting, earth pigments and natural binders on canvas © f owen & p ward 2015*

Thank you to Francesca and Noah for such a lovely walk, to Crow Point and North Devon in general for providing such creative and spiritual inspiration in abundance and such a beautiful place to bring up a small child, to this blog post for mainfesting yet another excuse to use one of my favourite quotes and to Mr Miro for writing it. We are now cracking back on with work in the studio in preparation to entertain and inspire you all again throughout the coming months and years…

© P Ward 2015

* and many thanks to Clare Thomas for priming the canvas with rabbit skin glue and linseed oil, and indeed for her inspiring residency at eARTh – I, for one, will be using more natural ingredients in my paint making from now on 🙂

 


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


the value of art (life)…

for me, the making and appreciation of objects and acts within an environment describes the intrinsic quality and value of art. it is a process that may celebrate and affirm the miracle and wonder that is existence, our dexterity to observe, interact, learn and communicate (with) such awe and innate ability. as we continue to learn, to place our aptitudes and ourselves in relation to this world, its abundance, so our artwork may evolve and reflect any newly found position. art by its very nature observes and reflects how things act by bringing them together in relation to others[i].

common toad (bufo bufo), dale, pembrokeshire, p ward 2014common toad (bufo bufo), dale, pembrokeshire, p ward 2014

“Even though it is the same quarter acre, the farmer must grow his crops differently each year in accordance with variations in weather, insect population, the conditions of the soil, and many other natural factors. Nature is everywhere in perpetual motion; conditions are never exactly the same in two years. 

Modern research divides nature into tiny pieces and conducts tests that conform neither with natural law nor with practical experiences. The results are arranged for the convenience of research, not according to the needs of the farmer. To think that these conclusions can be put to use with invariable success in the farmer’s field is a big mistake.” from the One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka[ii]

new home I, north devon, p ward 2014new home I, north devon, p ward 2014

new home II, north devon, p ward and f owen 2014new home II, north devon, p ward and f owen 2014

briefcase of earth II, hele, north devon, p ward 2014briefcase of earth II, hele, north devon, p ward 2014

compost balls, hele, north devon, p ward 2014compost balls, hele, north devon, p ward 2014

“The fact of the matter is that whatever we do, the situation gets worse. The more elaborate the countermeasures, the more complicated the problems become.” from the One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka[iii]

more recently, my past obsession with making (and often attempting to tamper with the way things have become) has been replaced by a simple sense of wonder at being in and of this world, of the dynamic physicality of everyday acts of living wherever and whenever i am. an attitude fostered greatly by my experience of the creative process, both artistic and otherwise. i express myself in this world and enjoy the interactions with other, in this sense of being alive with no other purpose than just that – to be. my work has changed from a process in my mind, expressed predominantly in isolation through the traditional media of art, to the more physical, bodily and experiential process of exchange called life.

(but how i’m going to pay the bills is another matter!?)

P Ward 2014

 

[i] …whereas science may be seen to divide and dissect in its efforts to understand.

[ii] Masanobu Fukuoka,One-Straw Revolution (New York; New York Review Books; 1978)

[iii] Masanobu Fukuoka,One-Straw Revolution (New York; New York Review Books; 1978)


an interlude

Many apologies for my recent lack of posts – I have been rather busy and somewhat otherwise engaged of late. Here are a few pictures and words to fill the gap. Many thanks for your continuing audience and support…

welcome noah! (p ward and f owen 2014)welcome noah! (p ward and f owen 2014)

 .

after the storms

after the spring has sprung

we may begin our gathering

of old and new

to make way for,

in preparation for

 .

today

 .

how different is this world

from one place to the next

from one day to another

holding hands with you…

.

car park graffiti; squid ink bowl drawing ( pward 2014)car park graffiti; squid ink bowl drawing ( pward 2014)

afternoon storm, torquay, and storm watchers, westward ho! (p ward 2014)afternoon storm, torquay, and storm watchers, westward ho! (p ward 2014)

gathering firewood, westward ho!, and perusing bundles in ikea, bristol!? (p ward and f owen 2014)gathering firewood, westward ho!, and perusing bundles in ikea, bristol!? (p ward and f owen 2014)

‘the story of bideford black’ display case and ‘pots, fish and ships’ exhibition at the burton gallery, bideford (p ward 2014)‘the story of bideford black’ display case and ‘pots, fish and ships’ exhibition at the burton gallery, bideford (p ward 2014)

how different this soil, how different this place… cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)how different this soil, how different this place… cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)

woodland stairway, cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)woodland stairway, cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)

indigenous spirit – art:cycling:mapping:earth pigment:drawing process project (p ward 2014)indigenous spirit – art/cycling/mapping/earth pigment/drawing process project (p ward 2014)

bir! bir! bir! bir! – invitation to exhibit some old work in manchester, june 2014 (paintings p ward 1993)bir! bir! bir! bir! – invitation to exhibit some old work in manchester, june 2014 (paintings p ward 1993)

local earth pigments used on historic roodscreen, st peter and vincula church, combe martin, north devon (p ward 2014)local earth pigments used on historic roodscreen, st peter and vincula church, combe martin, north devon (p ward 2014)

st audries bay and porlock weir, west somerset (p ward 2014)st audries bay and porlock weir, west somerset (p ward 2014)

home life, old and new, westward ho! and ilfracombe, north devon (p ward 2014)home life, old and new, westward ho! and ilfracombe, north devon (p ward 2014)

materials for an ark (p ward 2014)materials for an ark (p ward 2014)

with love to Francesca, Noah and all my family

P Ward 2014


for love of soil

“Everywhere science is enriched by unscientific methods and unscientific results, while procedures which have often been regarded as essential parts of science are quietly suspended or circumvented.” Paul Feyerabend, AGAINST METHOD

Does not the science of soil, the chasing of numbers and factors in the name of human value, merely further commodify that which is magic, mystery and worthy of worship, (despite its heady fascinations)? This is not to diminish or undervalue technology – the application of disciplined research – nor the multi-disciplined experiential processes of our enquiry.

Are not those things that we do not know those things that make it all so wonderful, and that lead us to further investigate or invest most heartily? Like the questionable possibilities of ecosystem services, is it possible to measure the fullness that is life? Those in power, or with power, more often do not act favourably beyond their purse strings, despite the truth and compassion of our already excessive and rigourously construed perceptions.

The soil in miraculous evolving living entity – like the shifting, pounding, endless sea – in awe and full of inspiration, of factors beyond our forever faltering, non-sensical, empirical economic motive,

Like culture

Like identity,

Like society

Like life…

the earth bleeding, west somerset (p ward 2014)the earth bleeding, west somerset (p ward 2014)

I watch the fields wash away across the carbon-fuelled tarmac of haste

The ocean muddied with fluvial fertile red earth

Homes fill with the turmoil of our greed, ignorance and waste

The innocent mole drowning forever in its tunnel-tomb populace

human intervention, west somerset (p ward 2014)human intervention, west somerset (p ward 2014) 

There is a popular belief amongst the current ecological art* movement, and other environmentalist groups and individuals, that artful communication of scientific data will sway political opinion and action in favour of more sensible behaviours. However, I personally question the logic that empirical evidence, however true, can transform our hearts and minds due to the very nature of its original form. Our hearts are not numbers – they are beyond measure. The established Cartesian scientific methodology is by its nature divorced from our souls and thus will not affect them. Maybe only through reflective acts and spaces of direct personal relationship can we truly re-evaluate and heal our behaviours. Only through acts of mystery and magic may spirit be experienced and unbound. If we are not willing to get our hands dirty, we will not have dirty hands after all!

“Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.” ― John Burroughs

source, west somerset (p ward 2014)source, west somerset (p ward 2014)

*For me ecological art is an acknowledgement that by their very nature all our actions, artistic or otherwise, may be seen as affective within the totality as well as affective within themselves. It is an admittance of our responsibility to ourselves and others. It is ownership of our actions. Ecology studies the relationships between entities and actions, how the action of a part may affect the whole…)

reclaimed land, langport, somerset (p ward 2014) reclaimed land, langport, somerset (p ward 2014)

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” Werner Heisenberg

© P Ward 2014


a place for art in outdoor education

a short essay for the NAFSO Journal 2014*

Art is the means through which we may investigate, appreciate and express our relationships within the world. Contrary to popular opinion it is not just the production of art ‘objects’ for public consumption but more an intimate and personal process through which we test and apply our powers of observation and analysis. Such powers are not limited to empirical measurement but encompass and encourage multisensory and intuitive evaluation whose open-ended outcomes and expression may utilize a combination of disciplines from painting and sculpture to movement, film, writing and music. Quite simply Art, in whatever form, offers a space and structure to experience and create a deeper sense of the energies, material or otherwise, that animate this world.

painting with the earth workshop - gathering pigments at the Skern (p ward 2014)painting with the earth workshop – gathering pigments at the Skern (p ward 2014) 

In the opening keynote speech at the NAFSO annual conference at Skern Lodge in North Devon, Leszek Iwaskow (OFSTED inspector and HMI National Curriculum advisor for geography) stated how experiencing ‘a sense of place’ was possibly one of the most important motivations for contemporary education, especially in respect of the current trends towards the virtual classroom and shifts away from real and tactile engagement with the outdoor environment. This ‘sense of place’ based in personal experience and encouraged by geographical processes such as map reading and making, Leszek enthusiastically explained, is what allows us to connect to and make sense of our world, and our role within it. For me this all sounded very familiar!

While recently studying for an MA Art & Environment at Falmouth University, the phrase ‘a sense of place’ was associated with an American artist Lucy R Lippard whose book, LURE OF THE LOCAL senses of place in a multi-centered society, expounded ideas of the social, ecological and political importance of engagement with the local environment. The book combines artistic and geographic methods of research and presentation. Many contemporary artists have adopted this form of interdisciplinary practice. Indeed collaboration between artists and scientists, from whatever discipline, has increased as the inability of science to both communicate its findings and acknowledge the more than empirical nature of the world has become increasingly apparent. Until recently Art and Science have been inextricably linked, both utilizing observation as a means to learn about the world. Scientists throughout history have often employed and displayed excellent drawing skills to record and document their research.

Through personal involvement with an Australian Aboriginal Elder it also became apparent how this exploration of the local or ‘sense of place’ also resonates deeply with the indigenous processes of learning utilized by tribal people around the world, as children are encouraged to explore their own skills and aptitudes in relation to their environment and the materials it provides. Rather than dictating an outcome within a narrowly prescribed set of options, tribal education provides space for individuals to reach an understanding of their own creativity and purpose within society. Children are ideally allowed to grow into an intimate understanding of their aptitudes, limitations and possibilities. Such methods have more recently been adopted by exponents of experiential learning techniques, while the benefits of learning in the outdoors through more tactile and sensory participation has been championed by the likes of Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods) and the principles of Ecopsychology.

painting with the earth workshop - gathered materials (p ward 2014)painting with the earth workshop – gathered materials (p ward 2014)

So how does Art differ from other methods of engagement with the world and why is it important that we consider its inclusion within outdoor education? Art provides a space and structure for learners (of all ages, abilities and experience) to participate within and creatively reflect upon actions and materials on a multitude of basic and complex sensory levels. It offers opportunity to explore the ways and means we may communicate our findings and, more simply, how we may express ourselves within a specific environment. Through its very nature, concerned as it is with the practical application of materials, composition, colour, light, juxtaposition, observation and relationship, Art explores an ecological and interrelated perception of the world and therefore encourages a sense of personal and social responsibility.

painting with the earth workshop – presentation and paintings (p ward 2014)painting with the earth workshop – presentation and paintings (p ward 2014)

On another level funding for the Arts within the national curriculum has been drastically cut. This is maybe based on ignorance about the specific nature of learning and experience that it offers not only from curriculum advisors but also from practicing artists themselves. In recent history Art, like many other areas of study, has been conceptually detached from the world in which it exists, creating a seemingly vacuous and purposeless aura to its study – we are all familiar with the phrase ‘Art for art’s sake’ with its roots in the Modernist art movement. However, in a society suffering so drastically from such a lack of cohesion and respect for the world a return to the basics of study through first hand observation and manual dexterity are in my opinion essential. Art offers a space for this, leading to an understanding of the principles of technology as well as primal sensibilities.

My own work as an environmental artist, as some of you may have experienced at the NAFSO conference in North Devon in January, looks at our relationships with locally gathered materials, such as earth pigments, in a variety of ways including painting and paint-making workshops, walks, participatory art and art in the environment. For me an essential aspect of this work is creating a relaxed and open space for participants to explore and then reflect upon our actions. It is a place to play and to feel through the medium of our own sensory experience. However, while basic art activities are often utilized within outdoor education the implementation of more specific art methods by specialist artists may increase their impact. Whatever forms the art making takes, whether it is painting, drawing, sculpture, singing, dancing or writing, the process relies on intimate personal response to materials and place through the plethora of senses available to us but also the skills to facilitate a deep appreciation of those processes and the possibilities they may offer.

painting with the earth workshop – group painting (p ward 2014) painting with the earth workshop – group painting (p ward 2014)

If we are to be open to a sense of place, as Leszek Iwaskow suggests, then the process of Art allows us to do just that – sense a place, to experience it with all our senses and thus to make those experiences more memorable, more pertinent and practicable and more enjoyable on a very personal level. But then surely this is the intention of good education from whatever discipline we come from?!

*In January 2014 I was invited to run a Painting with the Earth Workshop  for the NAFSO (National Association of Field Studies Officers) Annual Conference just up the road from me in North Devon at Skern Lodge Outdoor Activity and Education Centre (www.skernlodge.co.uk). It was a refreshing and inspiring experience  to work alongside other outdoor education specialists from a variety of different organisations, backgrounds and disciplines and to share ideas and approaches to a common goal – to provide memorable, meaningful and enjoyable outdoor experience for all. As the only practising artist present it became a good opportunity to impress the relevance and importance of art within this arena. I was subsequently invited to write a short piece for the NAFSO Journal to expand upon my ideas to a broader audience. Many thanks to Skern Lodge for inviting me along.

Useful Links

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIELD STUDIES OFFICERS – http://www.nafso.org.uk/

RESEARCH IN ART-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION (www.naturearteducation.org)

RESEARCH IN ART, NATURE & ENVIRONMENT (www.rane.falmouth.ac.uk)

CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART & THE NATURAL WORLD (www.ccanw.co.uk)

© Peter Ward 2014