Painting with Earth – Cornwall: new home, new works

November 2018

despite the wind

despite the weather

despite the winter

despite the sense of vulnerability

this raw and new found exposure

despite the twisting and turmoil of our times

despite love

and loss

despite it all

this earth still shines

Before I embark on a new phase of experimentation, combining different binders with the Cornish pigments, I would like to share a few paintings that I have made in my new home – a caravan on a dairy farm in the coastal hills of west Penwith, Cornwall.

West Penwith, Cornwall – Morvah, Sennen Cove, Cot Valley and Chun Quoit © p ward 2018

Here, I am surrounded by the historic land markings of the ancient peoples who populated this extremity of the British Isles. Stone walls, reportedly demarcating some of the oldest working field networks in the world, built 5000 years ago. Iron age hill forts, burial mounds, settlements and wells set in the denuded coastal wasteland of heath and moor. It is at times bleak. After the rain and wind that lashes fresh from the vast Atlantic ocean, the colours of autumn shine. The constantly changing hues of the blue and grey and turquoise sea. Rainbows sitting in our laps. The sky heavy and clear and dark and brooding. Salt water permeating. The animals are exposed by their hunt for food, by the lack of cover afforded by the stripped land. It is a place of spirit and history and life, right now.

Penwith dream forms (Botallack black on paper); fogou (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

mineral, vegetable; mist (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

dance on the shore (Cornish earth pigments on canvas) © p ward 2018

virtually vertical; community (Cornish earth pigments on wood); earth bound (Cornish earth pigments on canvas) © p ward 2018

pigment drift (Cornish earth pigments on slate) © p ward 2018

I am slowly learning to listen to the language of the colours here. The earth pigments, their qualities, their sources are unfamiliar. New to me. They are similar in colour to those of North Devon, that I have been using for a long time but very different in other ways. Their formation. Their nature. They have not been part of my own story, until now. The marks and stories they suggest are gradually revealing themselves. Their relationships unfolding. Their dynamic. And despite my attempts at integrity to their provenance and the spirit of this place in which I find myself, it is the freedom of my children’s paintings and drawings that are inspiring me…

noah, agnes, noah, agnes (pastel and paint on paper) 2018

two heads (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

eventual remediation (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

looking for love (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

Cornish Folk Tale I (Cornish earth pigments on wood) © p ward 2018

Professionally, I am working on an Arts Council National Lottery Project Fund proposal in association with Geevor Tin Mine to research the creative and educational potential of the pigments. Through recent projects and contact with the staff at the Mine I have started to appreciate and become really excited by the rich historical, geological, chemical and social provenance that the colours carry. After the far-reaching and ongoing success that Painting with Earth – North Devon has brought, let’s hope I will get some real financial support to enable the continuation of this rich seam of work ;-).

© P Ward 2018

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burnt CARN

Pendeen, Cornwall 190818

a howling man dressed in black set fire to the hill (carn) behind Pendeen…

burnt CARN, Pendeen, Cornwall 190818 I-III © p ward 2018

burnt CARN, Pendeen, Cornwall 190818 IV-IX © p ward 2018

burnt CARN, Pendeen, Cornwall 190818 X © p ward 2018

burnt CARN, Pendeen, Cornwall 190818 XI © p ward 2018

it has been a while since I have felt watched,

since I have felt the company of an-other.

 

the scent of burnt earth

forms distorted by fire

a thick sea mist blowing through the hilltop

silence…

 

© P Ward 2018


with sadness (and in love)

.

at times of loss and grief

we may turn to Nature for solace,

to water, wind, fire and earth

to rocks, soil, fungi and trees

to insects, animals and birds

.

for guidance

for resilience

and strength

.

we may immerse ourselves

in the mundane, in the everyday

in routine and simplicity

.

not to avoid the pain

but to live with it

to feel it without distraction

.

we may assimilate our feelings and thoughts

through our work

through creative activity

through cathartic acts

through play

.

I sit in the flowing river

the cool water moves around my stationary working form

touching my legs, ankles and hips, hands and forearms,

I feel connected to life

once more

.

or through physical activity

where the rhythm of movement,

of muscles and breath and heart working in time,

lift us to an alternate state

.

to see our situation anew

in a different light

not with mind

but with body

.

and in fantasy and dreams

the world becomes larger

not illusionary but more real

past present future revealed

.

through our actions we may sense

the wonder of each passing moment

of being alive with our pain

of feeling at all

.

and with thanks

we can move forward

and in love

.

la grille d’entrée, Les Perrières, France © p ward 2017

les crânes et les plumes, Les maison troglo de Forges, France © p ward 2017

pic vert, les Perrières, France © p ward 2017

graffiti, Ackermann champagne vaults, France © p ward 2017

morning lake, Offwell Woods, Devon © p ward 2017

pollen path, Coombe Woods, London © p ward 2017

blocks, The Lizard, Cornwall © p ward 2017

blue butterfly, Hele, Devon © p ward 2017

mine shafts, Penwith, Cornwall © f owen/p ward 2017

Portland Place, Ilfracombe, Devon © p ward 2017

Croyde Bay, Devon © p ward 2017

.

© P Ward 2017


terms of engagement

a conversation of sorts 121117

Q:

“What’s the difference between a social or educational project and an artwork?”

uncomfortable orchids, London © p ward 2017

A:

each may indeed have much in common and much to share.

it is the means and manner through which they communicate,

in which they engage, inform and sometimes transform that renders them effective or benign.*

.

an understanding of an audience, a demographic, an ecology

may encourage participation and transformation

reaching out and beyond those and that originally targeted.

.

the artist, teacher, social worker and ecologist intuit a means

to estimate, interpret, facilitate and hence empower (oneself and others)

literally, pictorially, intellectually, imaginatively, actively, physically, emotionally and most skillfully

.

the aesthetic that directs whatever intent motivated the craft,

that manipulates, interferes with and informs the intrinsic (or created) dynamic

towards a specific end or beginning or…

.

it is not necessary to determine how or when or what

those (or that) which experiences may take away

or if anything further does become

.

but it is in relationship that one may experience and affect movement

from one moment to the next

.

from one breath to another

.

so different too

that a tension reveals

swinging back and forth and around

.

we are all children in this world

vulnerable

unknowing

.

dancing under the stars

of this earth

that we share

.

pavement, London; pavement, Nantes © p ward 2017

© P Ward 2017

(* yet how we may quantify such effectiveness is another matter.)

 


in Transit…

new works of a more temporary nature…

.

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” Bertolt Brecht

.

what does one do when one is in transit, on the move, between stations, so to speak?

just how does one occupy oneself in a meaningful and creative manner when one’s foundations are all asunder, albeit temporarily?

it is a most unsettling situation indeed (quite literally), this moving about, this uprooting and replanting, this altering of, well, almost everything…

.

perceptions

perspectives

.

I am making ready for change

but unwilling to predict or control just how such changes may manifest.

they will more than likely simply emerge quite naturally,

not without a struggle perhaps,

but in an organic way.

.

in the meantime

there is the matter of packing away stuff,

clearing space for the new

both physically and emotionally,

and simply getting rid of that which no longer serves a purpose.

then there is of course the more mundane,

taking advantage of a lull or space to administer and catch up with paperwork and websites etc

and, of course, the constant reflection upon where one has been, where one is now and where one might like to go…

.

the studio, my place of creative refuge for two years is already dismantled

neatly stowed in a safe space, a strange sensation, a sense of detachment from my life vocation.

and yet all this has been done before.

and we adapt,

we make the most of what we have,

we continue to create, to cast our influence in the world

and the new situation inspires newness in all

.

it is rather exciting

this nomadic nuance

.

so here’s to new life

to new possibilities

to uncertain futures

.

isn’t it always this way after all…

.

walking up Holdstone Down, Exmoor, North Devon © f owen 2017

après les Perrières (boots, sheep dung necklace, ibis feathers, clay model (courtesy Majid Ziaee*), tickets, red valerian sprig, stick and string) © p ward 2017

flowers and earth, red valerian posy, earth pigments, pestle and mortar © p ward 2017

XO, boots with ball clay and cordyline parcels © p ward 2017

red valerian posy © p ward 2017

walk in Brownsham Woods, Hartland, Devon © p ward 2017

tides, offcuts on canvas; we are a break in the waves (my beach) © p ward 2017

walk at Shirley Heights, London © p ward 2017

woodland graffiti, Shirley Heights, London © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Prince Albert Bridge, River Thames, from Battersea Park, London** © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Peace Pagoda, Battersea Park, London** © p ward 2017

Shirley’s boots © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, Southbank, London** © p ward 2017

OXO – the City from the Southbank, London © p ward 2017

pavement arrangement, Shirley, London © p ward 2017

les trois galets de Marc Averly; Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire** © p ward 2017

daisy earth ball; procession; Stonehenge, Wiltshire © p ward 2017

new year sunrise, Hele, North Devon © p ward 2017

no Wales today, from Hillsborough, North Devon © p ward 2017

samhain, Hele (heal), North Devon © p ward 2017

offcut composition, wood © p ward 2017

3 is better than 2 (apparently), Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

brick, Lynmouth North Devon © p ward 2017

Contisbury Head, from Lynmouth © p ward 2017

driftwood arrangement, Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

finding a temporary equilibrium, Lynmouth, North Devon © p ward 2017

with many thanks to family and friends, new and old…

© P Ward 2017


* http://www.majidziaee.com/index.php/en/

** Les Trois Galets de Marc Averly is a project by French artist Marc Averly (https://www.facebook.com/marc.averly) . He asks friends to photograph his hand formed wooden ‘galets’ in different places around the world and is compiling a fascinating and entertaining compendium of the images. Much of Marc’s work focuses on wood and trees, and he has a massive knowledge around the subject that he shares at interdisciplinary symposiums and workshops.


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


invisible friends

musing upon the muse 91017

.

you warm me

encouraging and invigorating

my muscles, mind and breath

you are so close

yet not here

I long to share a meal, a drink, a show

a long slow walk home

valerian hapa-zome print © eARTh 2017

sometimes in life we encounter people

to whom we feel a deep attraction and connection –

a zap between the eyes

an undeniable pull towards,

unwarranted and unthought-of,

an often beautiful but emotionally inconvenient surprise.

whale shark on my doorstep © p ward 2017

yet circumstances mean our relationships are curtailed

or must take forms different from those we conventionally recognize.

contemporary communications may allow a frustratingly superficial contact,

hand written letters and gifts another, maybe more real,

sometimes even these are not possible

when we honestly crave a wholly physical means –

eye contact and the subtle nuance of body language

the time and space to freely exchange the energetic dynamic

that common interests and diverse histories reveal,

to share a meal, a drink and a long walk home

hands entwined

dragged through sand, woolacombe bay © p ward 2017

as an artist, such desire may act as muse:

a light in the darkness, a spark of imagination

exploring the unknown undiscovered spaces,

a chance to meet the familiar through another’s eyes,

or identify and examine new aspects of ourselves –

dreams undreamt , fears as yet unconfronted, renewed aspirations,

detaching oneself from the mundane,

an illusion or delusion

but inspiration all the same;

or fuel to intention

to communicate more wholly

through pathways beyond the visible

ground earth pigment rings © eARTh 2017

and for those of us who entertain such fantasies about a subtle sense –

who honour a telepathic connection,

like that between a mother and child

or soul-mates

or lovers,

then the distance between may become an ethereal whisper

a breath, a feeling, a warmth, a glow

a longing acceptance of fate

still not manifest

buoyancy aids and clamped wheel, hele © p ward 2017

so maybe this is ‘hope’

or merely wishful thinking

a means to find strength and courage in isolation

to believe in another way

in spirit

in love

.

I do

.

(with love and thanks to those who are not here)

© P Ward 2017