Archive | September, 2012


24 Sep


Dark hedgerows , can sometimes, make the eye follow them and understand the land through these divisions, but if one tries to ignore them, the form of the land pops up, free, and viewing the land becomes something different. I was thinking about this ,while continuing a drawing at Hoveringham , Gonalston in Nottinghamshire . From where I stood , pylons followed their own path , neither clinging to a natural boundary such as a river or lake or a hedge , but bounding across the land , freestyle , maybe this is why they felt invasive and yet beautifully powerful , as they stood in a line , pinning the land down in the wind.

These individual ‘lines of action’ also seem to happen if you have ever stopped to observe a bird or fox, darting  across streets and gardens in a town , in the early hours of the morning. They do not follow the lines of walls , but have their own internal , unfaltering maps it seems, as they rush passed you .

Do archaeologists , to some extent, echo this ?  having to free themselves of contemporary lines and boundaries, to try and put together ancient human activity , without being too swayed by that dark hedge, which may or may not be part of an ancient boundary. I regognise this way of clearing your head of preconceived ways of looking, a constant battle when drawing or thinking visually, so that sometimes when you manage to do this , something worthwhile ‘pops’ up.


many meanings

7 Sep


Victor Jupurrula Ross , Yarla Jukurrpa ( bush Potato Painting 1987, British Museum collection)

Strange , how traveling out of the UK, can make one look at English landscape and the place you live in with a fresh mind.
 Driving through England on a recent trip to draw in the Trent Valley , near Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, it became clearer to me how every inch of land had at some point been managed by human hands. I was comparing this land with images in my mind , from a recent trip to the Northern Territories , Alice Springs , Australia. There, after 6 days of being in the outback , we saw a fence , which felt almost shocking. This land with no pylons, no hedges, little tarmac, is none the less managed by the Aboriginal  inhabitants : Levi Strauss called the Aboriginal people ‘virtuosos of the mind’. An immensely complex culture who do seem to ‘manage’ ideas on life / the land with the mind , it is a culture at once difficult to understand and intriguing. The Aboriginal paintings as described by Howard Morphy in his book Ancestral Connections have ‘ many meanings’. He writes of a conversation (when questioning an artist friend , Narritjin ) : ‘ the focus narrowed down to one small area of the painting, which consisted of a pattern of red and black dots, ” well ” said Narritjin ” it means blood and maggots , sand and worms, itchy red spots and rotten flesh  and then turned to me with a smile and carried on : “one small dot , too many meanings”. This , I assume , in my slim amount of reading on the subject, would only be one layer of meaning , much hidden knowledge is part of the culture.

From might appear from the outside to be a visually different landscape , there appeared to me a few parallels with the English landscape , the  layering of use and meaning . As described by Gosden and Garrow in their recent book on Celtic Art : Technologies of Enchantment ? the multiple use of art objects intertwined with the land ; Celtic decorated swords being used in battles over land , as exchange , deliberate depositions in rivers, graves and hoards. The Aboriginal paintings remain a puzzle for me , but I understand the idea of hidden knowledge in art works , that do come hand in hand with the creative process. Small marks on paper , can , on a good day , mean multiple things ( marks of time  , marking a particular thought etc) . Picture making or the making of  art objects ,   and  hidden knowledge excites me as an artist , and if this is interwoven with the 3 dimensional landscape , the puzzle becomes all the more complex and the more fascinating. 

( watercolour , landscape near Palm Valley , Northern Territories , Miranda Creswell)