Saturday, 20 October 2018

Thought trial and its trails

The thought experiment continues.

Footprints, the direction of travel dictated by the estuary and the sand dunes. Detritus from the storm following the flow of the tide. An imprint, a memory of flow. It reminded me of a line of wood ants in a forest carrying twigs to make their enormous nests

'A line made by walking ' by Richard Long in 1967 recorded a man made temporary line as a line or path that goes nowhere. He wanted to make an artwork that was outside of a gallery space and the traditional notions of sculpture. The snaking line of detritus above was made by nature and man had no hand in it and because of that its sculptural form has an even greater purity. I have written and rewritten a poem - trying to distill this piece of nature's artwork.

Storm wood pushed up
Following the shore
An imprinted memory of flow

Sea apples and sticks
Swept in curves
Stranded line of beach bone

Detritus not of human hand
The plastic is washed far out to sea
A cleansed scene in which the cormorant's dive is watched by the fishes impassive eye.

I watched a You Tube clip of ants constructing a nest on the forest floor. The journeys they make are either to find materials for construction or to find food for the colony. After thinking about their single minded activity I wondered if ants lived fulfilling and happy lives - unlike us who are slaves to status, appearance, mortgages, loans etc. We are conflicted - we know that we are destroying the planet through our consuming but we are unable to stop. Ants just ant. I thought perhaps I should start a new religion which cuts out our thinking and makes our lives simple.

Follow the queen of the six legs
Join the segmented community
See the mindless purpose through compound eye

Her active antennae twitch at the busy movement
Going nowhere but existing nonetheless in chemical messages

Adherents of the new religion would wear ant masks with restricted vision - only allowing a view of the next task.

How happy we would be.

Whilst out walking I kept thinking of these journeys we make - what is the purpose ? Connection to the landscape ? Therapy for the soul ? Walking in nature does seem to have a restorative effect. We walked to the top of Carn Ingli from there you look down as though in an aeroplane and the landscape looks map like. I did a sketch of mountain bikers making an ant like trail along one of the paths.

I often walk with fellow blogger, photographer and garden maker Charles Hawes, he sends me postcards from the walks he does abroad - I love recieving them - records of a journey into which I try and place myself imagining I was there in that landscape.

I have continued to work on the fresco adding words related to this journey of thought. I suddenly thought that the ant looks like a fossil - the circle around it like the circles painted around fossilised insect like sea creatures called trilobites collected for my A Level in Geology many years ago.
Fossilised records of the past - imprints like postcards of an ancient journey.

As I am writing this - the news shows thousands of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala crossing the border into Mexico, thwarted at the border gates they build rafts and float across the river to avoid the border controls. Another type of journey - disturbing and distressing.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Marching on

Week two of the Masters and interestingly I am seeing ants and ant like behaviour everywhere - perhaps I am going mad.

Henri Lefebvre in his book The Production of Space,  talks about space as an abstract notion which is open to government - therefore to control and containment. Who's space is it ? Who owns space ? Can you own space ?

This line of questioning took me to a conversation I have been having with a friend who is doing his Masters in Literature at Bristol. He is considering doing his dissertation on Aboriginal literature and in particular looking at the stories they passed down from generation to generation establishing and strengthening their connection with the landscape. 'Settlers' stopped their free movement across the landscape by 'claiming' the land fencing it in and 'owning' it -which is absurd as the aboriginal peoples had lived there for thousands of years and knew the landscape intimately as a place to find food and shelter.

We are to a large extent controlled in our movements within the landscape through the concept of ownership. We are also controlled in other ways by prohibition on movement by road - mainly for our safety as there are so many of us on a relatively small landmass. Has progress really brought freedom ?

More thoughts on the thought experiment - we dabbled in metaphysical poetry.

We listed 5 physical properties of the moon and 5 metaphysical properties - then a group of 10 people threw their words on the floor and we selected words that spoke to us randomly - creating a poem and an image to illustrate it - very quickly !

The 'poem' reads:

Full mysterious light
Changing love to cold
No oxygen
A lifeless mood ritual
A bumpy wisdom

Sing your dreams
The madness of soul
Howl curl and embrace bright mystery
Scream the harvest.

After putting these words together to make some sense of them - they seemed to me like a good description of snoring/apnoea and its consequences. I may use this method to create a poem about ants.

Incidentally whilst doing this exercise my mobile phone which was residing in my pocket decided to heat up to the point where I thought it might explode - I've been howling at Tesco Mobile today because they will not replace it unless they are sure they can't repair it - it is beyond repair it is dead like the Monty Python parrot. I explained that I have saved notes on my lectures to it, and use it for work but to no avail - they have to follow procedures like the rest of us ants.

My argument against this ant like behaviour is that as humans we have independence of thought. An exampleof this is cited by Mika Rottenburg in Art Monthly Oct 18 " In the space of an eight-hour workday, not everything has a purpose- things also have their own kind of logic and people do things in different ways". This divergence and diversity from ' norms - or not fitting easily into tick boxes', means that we may find collaborating in certain circumstances difficult - unless we agree with the terms and the aims of the collaboration. Then we have to decide whether the aims have a moral dimension -are they 'good' or 'bad' and who gets to decide which is which ? Perhaps there are subtle ways used by companies who make money out of us to control our movements and choices in the digital and real world - eg political choices - purchasing choices ? In regards to purchasing - we were reminded in the first lecture on the thought experiment that what we are told are sustainable purchasing choices may not on further investigation truly be sustainable.

I am thinking of making an ant mask and having my hair dyed red by a colleague - then making a short film where I get stamped on by a large doctor marten.


Monday, 1 October 2018

I've started the journey

Passenger aircraft making trails ( ants) journeying along pre determined routes

Surface tunnels created by ants pattern of movement

I have begun the MA in Fine Art and Contemporary Dialogues, and have decided to use this blog as a record of the journey.

My 'Thought Experiment' selected randomly from unmarked envelopes on the floor of the lecture theatre asks me to reflectively follow the movement of ants.

I have started to gather information - visual, thought connections and text.

My favourite book as a 10 year old. I had a childhood fascination/obsession with insects - made an ant nest in a jar. Collected the pupae, watched the queen ants and the male flying ants mate - the queen ants losing their wings and seeking out new nest sites. The winged males die. I mixed together different ant species only to watch them fight and kill one another

The ant in this biblical passage from the book of proverbs is described in the feminine - this is interesting as ants are a matriarchal society - they are driven by the need to create the next generation. We are asked here to consider the fundamental need for humans to gather and provide. This was taken up by certain forms of 'religon' to push the work ethic and to engender guilt and enslave others. This however does not seem to be its core meaning. It just seems to be saying that we need to be active in order to have enough food to eat and share.

Ant like behaviour - Collecting leaves in my garden - raking is pointless as more leaves are going to fall ! Small tasks like small stories however help to build the bigger picture - (reminds me of the mention of grand narratives giving way to small stories - in the lecture on Postmodernism - Jean -Francios Lyotard) . The garden is cleared and is visually pleasing - the activity is pleasurable - the scent of autumn leaf litter - the sunshine the sounds of the birds. The big task is broken down into smaller parts and is less arduous.

Ants don't bully - they are naturally genetically driven to cooperate for the good of the whole community.

Transferring thoughts into an image - the thin plaster broke whilst carving out the channels - but this is ok as it mimics the cracked soil surface under the paving

A fellow student stated that she feels that primary school education is delivered in such a way that we are 'turning out robots'. This obsession with predetermined pathways invades many areas of life including health care - for example the use of pre written care plans and monitoring forms and tick box systems on computer programs. These ways of working aim to reduce the risk of errors. Does working in this way mean that we lose the sense of the personal and individual ? Do we become just a number in the system.

Is control a bad thing ? It may depend on the controller and the purpose of the control. If we have no sense of purpose - no clear direction do we become depressed or anxious ?

An example of this was the first few days of getting to university for the lecture- I had to get used to the route into the city, the timings of connecting buses - and then find my way to the correct building and the correct room within the building. These initial trials of finding new routes and timings create anxiety, but once they have become routine and known, the anxiety dissipates.

Identity crisis, anxiety and depression may be the result of our postmodern world - the certainties of the past having been eclipsed. Does this create a space for a new form of control to exert itself over us ? We need to be careful ?

There - ramblings - hopefully I will pull out some threads linking with other artists, poets etc - this is the beginning of the journey.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

In the waiting corner

While I'm waiting to start the MA in September I have continued to make larger drawings on paper based on sketches made in North Wales and in my garden.

I have started using a scalpel to cut out parts of the drawings  - it feels more like sculpting and is akin to how I work in the garden.

My nerves are building now.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Still scratching

Hello - not sure if anyone is still out there as it has been a while since I posted on here.

I've been going through a period of doubt and that old chip on the shoulder thing has returned - what if my artwork really isn't any good - perhaps I have nothing valid to say - and fresco is way out dated as a technique or method of producing images. I'm just a small man making small irrelevant pieces of artwork !

See - it's hard to read isn't it ? But I think many artists go through this.

Then I had a lovely response to a commission piece I posted a picture of to the client, and thought what a fool I am.
The piece will be winging its way to its new owner in Australia early next year.

I've also started a new piece based around a poem called ' In(sect) Memorium ' This piece was a response to seeing less insects in my garden ( and in the general environment ) so far this year. It is also 'Insect Week' I discovered today.

I have always been fascinated by insects and have childhood memories of my father's small garden being full of them , from grasshoppers to crickets to dragonflies, moths, butterflies and various species of ant. I collected them and studied them - even made models of them - but now our gardens are getting quieter and our windscreens are less splattered, and I hardly ever see a ladybird or indeed that many greenfly. Along with their decline I have witnessed a decline in what were once common birds, swifts, martins, sparrows, starlings. This year though the absence of insects is much more obvious - is it a result of that late cold spell ?

Here is the painting in its progression.


Wednesday, 11 April 2018


I continue my struggle with words and images. I was not satisfied with the window image so instead worked on a poem about hands.

The main issue I have is with my scruffy handwriting - although when I posted a photograph of this poem on Twitter Ian McMillan poet and presenter seemed to think my scrawl was acceptable - I'll take his approval.

The poem was triggered in my mind whilst washing my hands in our 'tired' bathroom - tired is the word used by people who want to sell us bathrooms - it is circa 1980's but with some arty twists.

Remember that bitter east wind - well I'd been working in the garden, my hands were very cold and washing them under hot water made me realise how privileged a thing it really is to have water on tap and a roof over my head.

Here it is in more legible form which is a revised version which needs to be edited on the fresco !

Giving Thanks

As I washed my cold hands under a hot tap
I gave thanks for hot water
Thanks for the old bathroom with its 80's tiles, sink and bath.

Do I thank myself for earning enough to pay a mortgage ?
Do I congratulate my work ethic ?
I am grateful beyond the material

Perhaps I should thank the stars - but they are without conscience
Boiling gases from the beginning of time

I thank a person made in heaven once called the bright and morning star
Perhaps not as tangible as THE stars
Or a mortgage
Or work
Or even the sweat of my brow

I recognise in this moment that I do not live on bread alone
I see a man not a vaporous God
Not an ether or a cloud
His hands were pierced
Strange that he is not a woman - perhaps he's not read his twitter feed

How do I know this is genuine/real ?
Well, this morning washing my cold hands in warm water
I felt embraced
As I acknowledged how this one small comfort is monumental
Warm water on cold hands
Sheltered from the east wind

I gave thanks.

So more work to do on the words


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Experimenting with more words and images


The day passes quickly
With snow this morning melted now
And sun moving towards the DX -
It reaches in through the afternoon window of the thinking room
It moves from east to west
Or from left to right
Hides first behind the pines
Then the edge of Allt-Ty- Grug

February sun is low in the sky
So low it highlights the texture of this page
My wrinkled hand
And the threadbare hair upon it

Every day it ticks past this window to the clock's hands
Whether I live here or not
I grasp the day though
And love the way the back lit paintings on the sill come alive

I love the size of this sunny window
And the way it warms the room and my older bones
I see sparks of light
And cultivate a whole forest of ideas in my armchair
As this earth's day continues its flight
Through the eternal air

Now to translate this into a painting.