chapel wood 19914[i]
a local woodland, newly discovered, a sense of the sacred and a poignant reminder that our work can reach beyond our own immediate realm of influence. yet how and why must we (humankind) consider and demarcate some areas of land over others? does this then allow us to abuse those not considered quite so ‘sacred’ or special?
in some ways such an argument reminds me of the concept of ‘ecopornography’[ii] that identifies how the selective/discriminatory practice of the visual arts and popular media, especially with regards environment, often mask and hence proliferate ecocidal abuses through denial of its continued existence. maybe it is one task to find beauty in all, to celebrate, embrace and value the mundane and commonplace – the often ‘dirty’, messy side rather than the idealized, pristine, ‘perfect’ and virtually impossible version of reality that inspires our continued dislocation from this dynamic emerging world!?
this said, it is hard to deny the restorative powers of an ancient woodland filled with birdsong at dusk, traces of other mingling with the moist resonant scent of regenerative earth…
“DON’T GO TO NATURE, LET NATURE COME TO YOU.”[iii]
© p ward 2014 [i] http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/c/chapelwood/about.aspx [ii] http://ecoartfilm.com/2012/07/09/ecopornography-slow-violence-and-the-deep-slow-art-of-place/ [iii] from bench in chapel woods, author unknown.
Despite my familiarity and frequency of visit to this tranquil rural area of West Somerset over the last 18 years I had never done this walk before, so close to my brother’s cottage. From the back garden gate, across a country lane and a simple stile into a field of rich terracotta earth, we follow the crystal clear meandering stream, flanked by mature oak, maple, beech and holly, amongst others, holding stories from long before the motor car. As we immerse ourselves in the birdsong of buzzards, green woodpeckers, long-tailed tits and blackbirds, time’s influence loses its grasp. Returning along high-hedged lanes to a simple lunch and an afternoon spent pottering in the garden – raking leaves, weeding and chopping wood for the evening fire – until it was too dark to see what we were doing properly. A whole day busy outside, without driving, was enough to leave me somewhat lightheaded but deeply refreshed through nature…
My own tendency, for whatever reason, is to seek comfort and depth in relationship to my environment through familiarity, through retracing my steps again and again to seek more and more subtle variation and diversity over time. But every so often it is necessary to change those sensible and safe patterns, to experience the world anew, to refresh our senses to other perspectives and possibilities. Blessed be boredom. Blessed be routine and blessed be temptation, inquisitiveness and bravery…
And many thanks again to Francesca for leading me astray!?!
© P Ward 2013
yarner wood, east dartmoor 121113
how exciting to feel the hair on my neck stand on end
to shiver at an invisible presence stalking me
to engage with a realm beyond my everyday world
neither necessarily malicious or benevolent, human or otherwise
is it time playing marvelous tricks
invigorating me to feel so alive
in relation to all that has been and will be
right here now?
the trees and beasts and birds
the place where many more have trod
stretching resonant filaments through earth and air and fire and water
holding memories to share
as matter decays and reforms
leaving a remnant
a trace of what has been
and a gesture towards what may be
it is not a matter of belief, of evidence or proof
but an acknowledgement of possibility
an opening to potential
a sense of place
(The rich orange pigment shown above and below was collected from a drainage adit running from an historic copper mine at Yarner Wood Nature Reserve, near Bovey Tracey in South Devon[i]. I had originally been shown the source during an art event in November 2012 (Assemblage – Narrative for a Managed Landscape, organised by Karen Pearson and Natural England) and had returned specifically to gather more. The colour is created as iron salts and rust from the underlying geology and is both in the soil and as an unctuous ‘slime’. Despite wearing waterproof clothing and plastic gloves I still managed to get the colour half way up my arms and in my hair – the staining power of the pigment is magnificent![ii])
© P Ward 2013
birdhill, west somerset, 81113
at this time of day,
at this time of year,
as sun sinks – loosing strength and warmth;
nighttime fills shadow with shifting mutable presence
the rich autumnal rainbow of wet slippery leaves glow upwards,
permeating the visual with resonant fungal scents,
silver light pervading, filling all with luminescence;
even the dead and decaying give their own light,
dark forms shifting as we walk
catching eye and ear and all between,
bark from black to mossy green to grey
it is often said that we may commune more readily with other realms at this time,
with spirits of the dead and intelligences seldom seen;
it is easy to see why.
But how to capture, beyond personal memory, such total experience within which we do immerse?
My camera, despite its advanced technology, struggles.
Yet, whatever impression it does record, accidental or not,
whether ‘correct’ or ‘accurate’ or ‘technically proficient’,
may still find a way to communicate and convey a sense of elemental moment.
Not just through abstract digital process, as clever as this may be,
but through consensual associative creative and imaginal interaction with life itself –
we fill in the gaps with whatever meaning we need…
© P Ward 2013
Red is the colour of my home –
It is the rocks and soil that support me,
It is blood coursing through my veins,
Sap rising in the tree from the rich moist earth,
The colour of iron and oxygen mixed.
Red is the colour of my life –
My hands as they dig,
My feet as I walk,
My lips as I smile,
My tongue as I taste the sunset.
Red is the colour of warmth –
It is joy and love around me,
It is generosity and anger at injustice,
It is the feeling inside my eyes as I dream,
The pulsing heartbeat within your flesh…
Red is the colour of my life.
Many thanks again to Mark for the use of his beautiful cottage in West Somerset and to Francesca for some delicious hot chocolate…
P Ward 2013
“All things start on the land – not least the townsman and most surely the mechanic.”
John Stewart Collis, The Worm Forgives the Plough
having volunteered to help with some bramble clearance at courage copse – a local woodland restoration project in north devon returning a larch and fir plantation to a sustainable oak and hazel coppice enterprise – expecting a quiet day usefully connecting with nature, i was called to reflect on the ever present necessity and reliance on modern technology even within the most well-meaning projects, being accompanied all day by the sound of chainsaws felling and trimming trees nearby. this selection of stills and sounds from the day were captured with a kodak HD camera and edited using i-movie…
P Ward 2013
still working (together) to unearth a sense of ecologic expression
Despite prolonged respite from the imbalance of intellectual restraint and academic conceptualisation it is with some regret we must announce that this most personable aesthetic conversation is struggling to reveal the treasures that such shared passions have promised. It is certainly not a matter of lack of talent, or lack of desire for that matter – we have bucket loads of both. Nor is it through misunderstanding or dishonest perception of our circumstantial condition – we can see our world with all four eyes, looking outside and in. But practically speaking the economic, or at least financial climate within which we currently reside, and our own malingering downtrodden sense of poverty has temporarily overwhelmed any sense of optimism that henceforth breathed and pulsed within our eloquent evocations of spirit and love…
So then what shall we do, if not buckle beneath the oppressive dominance of capital and self-imposed slavery and familial media negativity? We shall dig in the dirt and walk in the rain and relish decay and be awestruck by beauty and age and kick shit in the faces of those who would wish us ill through greed, ignorance, pity and petty law making.
We touch the earth and sense the power that is held within.
We hold the earth and listen to the wisdom of its age.
We shape the earth and share its stories with the wind…
Or more simply we shall give ourselves the time and space to spend doing those things that give us joy, that make our hearts and minds sing and that make life so special and full of love.
P Ward 2013
a short film documenting the eventual (and ritual) burning of 9 bundles of sticks that have been used in various projects over the last 6 months – from ecological art workshops, community dance performances and contemporary art exhibitions the bundles have been enjoyed by and inspired many people taking on a powerful presence of their own. But the bundles were made to be burnt and so they have come to their fitting end. Many thanks to COURAGE COPSE CREATIVES and HOME GROWN KIDS in North Devon where they were made and to where they were ultimately returned…
“ The ability of each thing or entity to influence the space around it may be viewed as the expressive power of that being. All things, in this sense, are potentially expressive; all things have the power of speech. Most, of course, do not speak in words. But this is also true of ourselves: our own verbal eloquence is but one form of human expression among many others.” from David Abram, Becoming Animal – An Earthly Cosmology.
P Ward 2013
MA ART & ENVIRONMENT SHOW 2012
4-8 September, Woodlane Campus, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 4RH
For my final MA ART & ENVIRONMENT exhibition at University College Falmouth, as well as a selection of BUNDLES OF STICKS and indigenously gathered materials within a workshop/studio installation and a show reel of videos completed during the course (https://intim8ecology.wordpress.com/anim8/), I continued my work with COURAGE COPSE CREATIVES by appropriating a single larch tree. The following statement accompanied the exhibition…
As part of our daily lives we are faced with the constant dilemma of taking life and utilizing resources for the purpose of our own survival. In this age of environmental and economic crisis it is not just a matter of whether we should or whether we have the right to continue to interact within the universal ecology, but rather how and how much we choose to do so and also the respect with which we treat the resources that are provided.
The 20 year old, 15-metre Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi) presented here was felled as part of a woodland restoration project in North Devon – Courage Copse Creatives is based on a PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site). The dense crop of Larch and Douglas Fir was originally planted in the 1930’s as part of the Forestry Commission’s drive to supply timber for building and agricultural purposes. In this particular instance such fast growing hardy species were imposed onto oak and hazel coppices dating back at least 400 years. The intensive nature of planting of inappropriate species of the region has led to soil degradation and a decrease in the rich biodiversity associated with manually sustained woodlands of this kind.
Courage Copse Creatives intends to restore (to a certain extent) the previous coppice through the implementation of small scale, low impact initiatives and enterprises as part of the woodland including charcoal and biochar production, firewood, building timber, forest hens and ecological art projects. Within previous planning and land use laws to pursue what would seem a perfectly reasonable and sensible endeavour has revealed an incredibly complex bureaucracy to negotiate. While often protecting the environment and people’s livelihoods such laws may also act as a barrier to creative and appropriate resolution of our present ecological difficulties, simply maintaining the power dynamic that undermines an individual’s ability to act freely for the good of all – yet another dilemma of our current crisis.
As an ecological artist, involvement with such projects has provided opportunities to experience and share such dilemmas and dichotomies first hand.