Welcome to my online Journal where i hope to share my thoughts, feeling, inspirations, processes, problem solving, and completed works as well as works in progress.
It occurred to me whilst i was putting away my gardening tools at the end of the day that for all my love of nature, my gardening career revolves around trying to control it, to mold it into a different form, to cut and burn and dig and disturb the natural balance of things, to make and carve an area of land that contradicts the laws of nature. How fickle we are! It was then i thought a blur of things....What if i used these tools to mark a canvas? What if i went against all of my normal eco friendly ways and used paints that were not nature friendly? what if i then left this canvas for a week or so in the woods.....what would nature do to it????? Could i uncensor my ethics and make work like this? What would it look like? what would it smell like??? what would it feel like??? What would i feel like??? I gathered all my usual tools, spade, fork, hoe, rake, broom, sythe, watering can, plant food, all of the left over paint from painting my house and went up to the woods with a huge roll of canvas. Well, there was only one way to find out.
I gave myself three rules:
1) I could only use man made dyes and paints.
2) I could only use the gardening tools to make marks.
3) I had to leave it for 1 week in the woods, no matter how hard it rained or i wanted to save it from the wind etc.
I lay the canvas out on a gentle slope in the woods under oak trees. Then i moistened the canvas with water from the stream. From past experience i knew that a damp canvas would absorb more of the dyes as well as the dirt and stains of the woodland.
I used my hands to scrape out great globs of paint and threw it across the canvas with no regard to composition or color. Once the paint was on i used the tools to scrape, jab and push the paint around, I took care to use each tool with the same motion i would use to work with in the garden, the broom for sweeping, the sythe for long flat broad strokes, the hoe for jabbing narrow furrows. I pored more water over it, flung plant food over it, scraped and jabbed some more and then walked away for a week, praying the badgers wouldn't choke to death on house paint and plant food!
Below are details of the process and how it merged with the nature, leaves, stones, soil.
I returned after a 1 week. It had been a wet and stormy few days and had been blown slightly further down the slope but had stayed the same way up. I dragged it back to the clearing it was made in and sat on a log smoking a cigarette whilst i meditated on its presence.
How did it look and feel??? Well, it looked almost schizophrenic, a manic disturbed maw of color and texture. The paints still seemed wet and unset from the rain, leaves and dirt had got stuck and mixed in its surface and gave it the look of a disheveled cast off Technicolor dream-coat. It looked a little forlorn, yet also a little optimistic, a confused blob of man on the brown floor of the forest.......lost.
Crit show: I decided to be very straight forward when displaying this piece and nailed it to the largest wall that would accommodate it in the UCA studios. There it was, in your face, take it or leave it, stop or walk by, wonder or not. It didnt invade or hide, it was just was.
The feedback was interesting. They knew it was my work by the size and look of it but i didnt indicate how this work was made. (No fucking this time though unfortunately)
Initial reactions were in one word answers, that is was: Earthy, textured, materialistic, colorful, scented, process led (no-one guessed the process) Experienced (interesting word, they wrote experience, as in the work had had or was made by one)
They said it was like a map, that it seemed somehow spiritual??? That if it were an animal it would be a Camelian.
It was an interesting crit, i like to look at peoples faces when they view my work, do they frown, smile, tilt their heads. In this case they looked a little curious and three out of four reached up and touched the surface with their hand. It is interesting to make work that makes people want to reach out and feel it, and also nice that they feel they can, it doesn't have that prissy, this is "art", self important, do not touch vibe, it is more intimate, approachable and tactile.
What next? Hmmmmmm, i like the idea of using the canvas for another project though what i am not yet sure. Maybe photography, maybe performance, maybe part of another installation. My next giant clay orbs may sit well on its surface. This work lacks the vibrancy of colour in my earlier work with natural pigment making, do i take this further, perhaps use only chalk and charcoal, or more vibrant, more alive??? The element works of last year had a woody scent, a lust to them that i feel worked well. I think i need to sit with it in the woods again, smoke a cigarette or six and listen to what it suggests.