The end colour is…grey!

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I now sit in my spacious living room in Bristol instead of my little caravan underneath an oak tree on a nature reserve. My residency has finished and it is time to focus on making the artwork in response to my period at the Observatory. Before I left I saw a peculiar but rather beautiful tree which I had never seen, and realised I had passed it almost every day but had not noticed it before. P1060112This shocked me, but I realised its fascinating that a landscape takes time to know it well, not only quality of time but a long length of time, and it surprised me after eight weeks I’d still not noticed something so beautiful. I felt humbled that the landscape still had so much to give even after eight weeks of looking. Time is a weird ol thing, and eight weeks does not seem enough really; part of me would have been happy to just carry on observing but I was also ready to come home.

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It has certainly been an incredible and unique experience and one that I will not easily forget. Each residency teaches you something different and I have certainly learnt more about myself as a person and more about myself as an artist. I now have itchy fingers to make, which is a wonderful thing. I really am looking forward to producing the final artworks to be exhibited in St. Barbes Museum in Lymington. The exhibition opens on 5th March and finishes on the 16th April. I am excited about my ideas and I think a lot more artworks than anticipated will come from my time on this salty landscape.

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Throughout my residency I have been using Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas). Oblique strategies are a set of cards which were created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. Each card offers an aphorism intended to help artists (particularly musicians) think laterally and to encourage thinking creatively and differently to their usual patterns of contemplation. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to use the oblique strategies in a new environment, to encourage me to look and observe in a different way. I drew a new card each Monday.

P1060183Jilly’s Oblique Strategies

1. ‘Display Your Talent’

2. ‘Be Less Critical’

3. ‘Once the search has begun, something will be found’

4. ‘Is the style right’

5. ‘Magnify the most difficult details’

6. ‘A line has two sides’

7. ‘Find a safe part and use it as an anchor’

8. ‘Change nothing and continue consistently’

I found the cards really interesting and in an almost spooky kinda way I also found them to be in sync with what was happening to me either emotionally or creatively. I found a resonance with most cards, I enjoyed the way they made me think and look in a different way. I want to use them more and may think of a project in conjunction with them in the future.

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I think as my days grew less and less I understood there were so many ideas that could have been explored and some I hope to look at in the future, but I am pleased with the ideas I left with. I have thoroughly enjoyed colour matching the sky and water with my 27yr old Dulux colour chart, it has been an interesting collection of data. I have also really enjoyed being out of the Christmas mayhem, no TV ads, no shops, no decorations, in fact nothing reminded me of Christmas as I gazed out at the geese and water before me. However about five days before Christmas, whilst I took my daily data of the colours of the sky and water, I did get the colour ‘Snowman 0005-R80B’ for the sky and ‘ Sleigh Ride 3502-G’ for the water, a very enjoyable moment indeed. It was fascinating that I asked a visitor to match the colours for me one day; they were colour blind so it became a unique glimpse on what colours a colour blind person sees. I am as of yet undecided whether their data will make the final artwork, but it’s certainly interesting.

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My ‘Salty Shuls’ (maybe title, but definite working title) will be interesting to make. I collected nearly 700 finger prints in the end; my last actual count was 666, which was funny in itself, especially when a gentleman knew he was number 666 whilst printing. I am going to have to work very hard over January and February to get all the artworks I want, and again I’m really looking forward to working hard, often at the end of a project it can be a strange time so this need of focus seems a really positive start to 2016.

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My black treasure I collected will be made into two artworks, namely “Once upon a time….there was a forest” and “Remnants of a pirate ship”. There will be enough for future artworks too and I am particularly excited (as well as nervous) about producing these. My Lymington ink has made me consider the uniqueness of making ones own drawing medium and I have taken much pleasure in using my Lymington inks. The treasure and the ink are particularly poignant for me as they are uniquely of the place, of the landscape, and for me this is a vital link to myself, the residency and the artwork.

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Before I left Lymington I took the ferry from Lymington Pier to the Isle of White to get a different perspective. I had been watching the ferries daily, I liked the hugeness of them, they seemed so sturdy and regular especially when it was so windy and transient around me, and I actually found them quite comforting watching them in the distance. It was excellent to see the Observatory structures from the viewpoint that I’d been looking out to, and albeit the fact the wind was incredibly strong and it was raining, I still stood on the front of the ferries deck outside with my friend Lizzie and we grinned like Cheshire cats as the ferry made its way across. It was I have to say, exhilarating!

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A different perspective really is the key here for all of my eight weeks. I have had the wonderful opportunity to view and be part of a life different to my usual. I have experienced some things that have been extremely hard like the death of my mother and extreme wind and weather conditions, but I have experienced many joyous and indescribable beautiful moments and encounters especially watching the birds around me. And to know it’s the closest I have ever felt to nature is just wonderful. The day before I left, Andy and I watched a Kestrel about 10meters away from us hover for what seemed ages, so close, so magnificent, so agile, so clever. Sometimes….just a “wow”….will only suffice.

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Thank you all who have followed this blog, to all my visitors, for all my food and booze packages. One thing I did discover as I was given sparklers (thanks Emma), its fun when your peeing outside at night to take a sparkler with you, place it in the earth, light it, and watch it whilst one pees! Sparkler wees are the best!

In two months time I hope I can share some images of the final artworks. Wishing everyone a happy, prosperous and creative 2016.

With love and thanks Jilly x

 

 

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Red wellies…rule!

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I confess this week to finding it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings; I’m struggling to leave my nest. The advent of a new electric blanket I think may have something to do with it. Admittedly the blanket is complete luxury but it does have a tendency to throw my sleep patterns into disarray. I could see it was going to be a beautiful dawn one morning, I kept looking out the window and those tell tell signs kept saying get up, get up, its going to be a fabulous dawn. My little devil was saying, stay, stay, stay in bed, its warm and snugly. I had a dilemma, should I risk missing the rising sun for a moment of exaggerated comfort. Leaving it till almost the last minute I chose to witness the staggering colours, but had to make a compromise; throwing all caution into the wind I went onto the reserve in my pyjamas, a cup of tea and a large dollop of hope. I did not want to be spotted by anyone. It was indeed a fabulous dawn.

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I can never remember when throwing spilt salt over your shoulder which way it has to be. Custom says the devil sits on one shoulder and an angel on the other, and apparently you really don’t want to blind your angel! It has been really interesting to share my research on salt with people. Just as an indication of my conversations, here is some of what has been discussed…. we used to call salt the ‘fifth element’, Roman soldiers were paid in salt (hence the word salary). In mediaeval times people believed that painting a salted cross on bread made the devil rise out of it and encourage the bread to rise, newborn babies were rubbed in salt to keep evil at bay. You could buy salt charms from the church; the salt was blessed on Palm Sunday and enclosed in wax. P1060097

‘Sin eaters’ were employed to eat bread and salt over a corpse to literally eat the sins away. To cure Goitre one was supposed to touch salt that a dead mans hand had rested in for more than twenty-four hours. It could be argued that salt was the oldest form of trade and therefore began the first trade routes. China was the first country to tax salt using its revenue to build the Great Wall of China. In France by the late eighteenth century, more than 3,000 men, women and even children were sentenced to death for crimes against the gabelle (salt tax). In Medieval England, eating meat on a Friday was a hangable offense, they were known as ‘lean days’ and only salted fish or salted Whale could be eaten. Abraham Lincoln denied importation of salt into the South to help prevail over the civil war. Salt once had the same value as gold and now you can buy salt for 45pence in a super market. It is indeed fascinating stuff hey!

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It is surprising how something small and from a complete stranger can turn events around. I had been rather sulky over a few days; I was really missing Bristol and my home. Whilst cycling on the sea wall, my legs burning from the energy expended trying to cycle against the wind, I saw a little old wizened man wearing a brightly coloured knitted hat. I realised he had been one of my visitors in the Observatory; we had previously exchanged gifts, the salt for a fingerprint. I remembered him really well; he had surprised me by his enthusiasm and interest, and shared some delightful stories. P1050772As we stood chatting with the wind howling around us, I asked him if he still had his ‘Salty Days’ gift, which he replied, “do you still have the ones I left you”. I was momentarily confused, we had already chatted about the fingerprints, then it dawned on me, he was my cuttlefish donator. I was overjoyed to stumble upon my mystery gift giver and had to give him an enormous hug. He made my day….and I told him so. I still don’t know his name, but thank you Mr. Cuttlefish.

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Each artist who does the Observatory residency has a small film made about their time there. All the films are on the website www.lookinlookout.org each run about ten minutes long. They are all very interesting and well done; I was a little concerned I was going to be the last in line and was conscious of the quality before me. As my residency is coming to a close it was my turn to be filmed. I’m only used to be filmed by one amazing film maker so it was weird to be shot by someone whom I had not met before. P1050897

We spent Friday together shooting footage of me gathering my treasure, picking oak galls to make ink, colour matching the sky and water, and of course my fingerprints. At the end of the day we had to do the piece to camera (the part I been dreading), I was asked a series of questions whilst I sat on a stool on a boating slipway. The slipway is of course very… slippy, so it was comical just getting onto the stool. Sometimes I’m just really rubbish at talking about my artwork and talking about me as an artist (no pressure then), and at other times I can just about squeeze a coherent sentence out of my mouth; I think there may have been the odd sentence that was not to bad, but I did feel my verbal skills were as slippy as the run way I was precariously balanced on. Matt Dunkinson being the professional he was remained very patient regardless of the constant starts and stops. I just hope his editing sound skills are, well let’s just say, incredible.

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One aspect about the natures reserve is its astonishing ‘sonic-ness’. The sound quality is quite surreal and quite superb. It has made think that I must do a future sound project, I am a confessed sound junkie and it’s about time I combined my passions. On the reserve the acoustics travel, you can hear conversations on the sea wall from walkers that are a considerable distance away, swans wings sound like small old aeroplanes taking off and anyone on a mobile phone sounds like someone shouting right next to you. So recording sound on a windy day, with actual aeroplanes (modern) flying overhead, builders constructing a multimillion pound house with huge trucks bleeping constantly, all sound like they are right next to you, especially when you’re trying to record a piece to camera. So with all that going on and my inane babbling, I did feel for my filmmaker.

P1060141There was a guest appearance of ‘the kingfisher’ flying behind me whilst I was being recorded, how fabulous if it does come out on my film. Matt was dying to tell me, but for once I was being lucid and he didn’t want to break the flow. As I did take rather a long time to record my dialogue…or diatribe, depending on your view point, it was quite hilarious to discover that I had exactly one centimetre before the incoming tide went into my wellies. I’m not sure if we called it a wrap with the on come of being swept away to sea, or the prevailing darkness….close call I say.

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So the final week to go….I finish on Christmas day, although that is my choice I thought it would be a unique experience to be in the Observatory on the 25th December. Not sure what day exactly my final blog instalment will go out, I’m still hoping for the usual Sunday slot, we will see.

So wishing everyone merriness (especially for the solstice)….and for the rest of the festive season…till next time then x

 

Technicolor for….two days

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Even after all this time on the nature reserve I am still amazed by how many birds I get to see, it feels like a real privilege; it’s the closeness to nature that is captivating and breathtaking on the marshes, and everyday it continues to astonish me. I have witnessed the Kingfisher four times now, and although I couldn’t say if it’s the same one or not, it sits in the same spot on a metal wheel that controls a sluice gate. P1050853Through my binoculars I caught sight of a heron battling with a rather large wriggling eel, the heron won on this particular occasion, although I was shocked by the eel to heron ratio, and I would have laid money on the eel if I was asked. There are lots of Oyster catchers at the moment with there extraordinary bright red beaks. The Oyster catchers have black and white plumage that’s reminiscent of a dinner jacket and shirt, I always think they look quite formal apart from the bright beakness.

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There are lots of birds even by my caravan, especially some extremely fat robins that appear to be quite brazen as they step really close to you. There seems to be an inordinate amount of ducks which I have not even begun to fathom what’s what and whose who, but when the tide goes out and they swim in the weathered water channels of the mud flats, they look iconically duck like and they make me smile.

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I think of the artist Florentijn Hofman whom made a gigantic bright yellow duck the size of a building and floated it in Sydney harbour. indexI wish it had been me that came up with that idea; I can picture it here though on the nature reserve, a huge bright yellow bath duck, although I think it would shock a few bird watchers!

Funnily I saw three ducks in flight and for a moment they had the exact shape and spacing of the iconic ceramic ducks that people put above their fireplace, I confess to laughing out loud. There are lots of Curlew with there evocative trill, I have never seen them in groups before and thought they were quite solitary birds, but often I see a herd of Curlew fly by and they are quite remarkable.

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The last couple of days the sun has actually shone and the colours of the landscape seem to be in full technicolor. I love the tall reed grasses no matter the weather, but with the sunlight against them they are sublime. P1060024I still want to do something with the grasses but time is definitely running out, so I’m unsure if it will transpire or not. I took the opportunity with the sun (and little wind) to go on very long bike ride around the marshes. I cycled further than I’d been before and it was wonderful to appreciate the extensiveness of the marsh land, to actually see the sunlight make the water look blue, the grass look orange or bright green.

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Throughout this residency I have been surprised by the tranquillity of the landscape, I can not help but consider the history of the salt production. I always think how busy it would have been with Lymington being the second largest producer of salt up until 1865, when mining salt in Cheshire became a cheaper prospect therefore forcing the closure of the Salterns here. From Medieval times the landscape would have been crammed with windmills, smoke and people industriously producing salt. I think of the people then and then I think of the people whom participate in the landscape today.P1060061

I think of the traces of the past and the traces of today. Although there is a big percentage of locals using the landscape, walking the dogs (I don’t think I’ve witnessed so many different dogs before), jogging, running, cycling, or just out for a stroll, or whether they are visitors to the area just out for a walk, or bird watchers trying to glimpse certain species of birds, I still get a sense the nature reserve feels a very transient community, continually on the move, passing through even. Perhaps it’s almost a reflection of the migratory aspect of the wildlife flying in and out.

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‘A Tibetan Buddhist text from around 600 years ago uses the word shul to mean ‘a mark that remains after that which has made it has passed by’: footprints are shul, a path is shul, and such impressions draw one backwards into awareness of past events.’ – Robert Macfarlane

P1050993My fingerprints collection still grows and soon I will hit the 500 hundred mark.I like to think that I am collecting ‘shuls’, my moments of engagement with passers by. There have been very few occasions of refusal to exchange a gift for a fingerprint, only three people in all have declined my offer. I’m not sure how much dactyloscopy they thought I might perform on their fingerprints, or what illicit happenings I may get up to, but I suppose it is a very trusting aspect to leave part of one self to another, a stranger really, so I have to take the no’s with the yeses’. Mostly people love it, and so much so they regularly bring their visitors or different members of their family to get printed.

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Fingerprints are not only the present but they are poignantly the past.The ancient Babylonians pressed the tips of their fingertips into clay to record business transactions. The Chinese used ink-on-paper finger impressions also for business and weirdly in addition to help identify their children. The English first began using fingerprints in 1858, when Sir William James Herschel, Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, used fingerprints when employing native Indians. Uncannily today, ‘Unique Identification Authority of India’ is the world’s largest fingerprint (and largest multi-modal biometric) system, with over 820 million fingerprints, face and iris biometric records.  P1050958India’s Unique Identification project is also known as ‘Aadhaar’, a word meaning “the foundation”.

Sir Francis Galton (apparently Darwin’s cousin) was a eugenicist who collected measurements on people to determine how traits were inherited from one generation to the next. He began collecting fingerprints and with over 8,000 different samples, he published the first fingerprint classification in 1892. Although my figures will not reach such dizzying heights it is still my record of my shul moments, and I love it!

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I have been delighted by the amount of visitors I have had from my part of the world, all bearing a variety of gifts, picnics, smiles, hugs and curiosity. I have felt very honoured that people make this journey to visit. I’m not going to list people (you all know whom you are, and I thank you), nevertheless I want to especially say thank you to my lovely angel Andy who travelled with a poorly back, and to Patrick whom only knows me really through my blogs.

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On a final note I have a mystery gift giver to report, they leave me cuttlefish on a regular basis and I find them at my Observatory door when I arrive. All very intriguing indeed, I have left a note and it reads…”Thank you cuttlefish donator x”

 

Till next week then x

The new black is… brown

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“Artwork is a residue of process” David Shrigley

My favourite time is still treasure hunting at dawn; I’m averaging three times a week for my dawn raids. If it’s grey and rainy it’s particularly satisfying that I’ve made it from the snugness of my duvet, and I feel rewarded if a gift of colour rises from the horizon as I scan the shore. I really enjoy the sensuous connection via materials, the tactility as I gather. I get a sense of the energy of the landscape with the flowing tides, the liquid movement of the water coming in and out to either reveal hidden gems or not, I like the fluidity of the process, I can only gather when the tide lets me, its in control not me. P1050663There is a particular spot I visit especially for the black wood I’m collecting, on what’s known as the ‘secret beach’. I thought the storms this week may bring in some special finds, however the gales have made it harder to find my particular treasure and I’m wondering if the universe is telling me I have enough, time then to take an inventory, before more treasures return to the shore.

 

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“Pasts and futures, even if they are no longer; even if they are not yet, still haunt the present, and are, in a supplemental relationship to it, always coming back.” John Wylie

I have been frequently asked about my relationship to colour and whether I ever use it in my work, if you look closely enough you can detect my uncomfortableness at the question, the simple answer is no, not as of yet; the long drawn out answer is much more complicated, and one we can save for another time. It’s simple really, I love black. This week I decided to check on my Observatory made oak gall ink, prepared from galls on the local oak trees dotted around the sea wall. For a few weeks now I have been delighting in the fact that my ink actually might be the first Lymington ink ever made, in Lymington, but of course that’s my gleeful imagination working on over drive as there is no way to no the answer!

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I had a couple of problems making the ink, firstly there was a bit of guessing on the weighing side as I didn’t include scales on my list of things to bring, and secondly the tannin and iron need a warm place to work their alchemic magic. It has not been warm, or in truth it has not been a constant warm enough temperature and these two, let’s just say, major contributory facts, have I think affected my inky results. The high content of tannin in the oak galls reacts with the iron to cause it to blacken; warmth obviously helps this process along. Now remember how much I like black, so it’s no surprise at my disappointment to find on pouring my ink that it was in fact brown. P1050832Two things instantly struck me; actually the brown is very beautiful and has a pleasing pigment separation effect and I also remembered a friend once saying to me…”Jilly, don’t you know brown is the new black!” So perhaps colour, well brown at any rate, may now be part of my work. But just in case this radicalism is a step to far, I am starting another batch on Monday, with scales at hand, and hope in my heart for the blackness that I so adore.

“When the romantic veneer is scraped away, landscape is a mesh, a web(-site), embodying the past, and leveraging the future; in-tension between the immediate reality and the endless radiating associations.” Iain Biggs

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There has been some rather odd moments this week, ones I never envisaged. Whilst cycling against the wind I had a Hitchcockian moment as hundreds of birds flocked above me, literally hundreds, I have never seen so many birds at once, it was a beautiful, incredible and haunting moment. I did think about Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’, it was the first film not to use music in the background, making the whole soundscape more eerie. I wish I was a sound artist sometimes and one day I hope to merge my two passions, but at least I had the opportunity to stand in the glory of the moment with all my senses on high alert.

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I have to cycle to a near sailing club for my amenities and I found myself having to engage in a game of peek-a-boo with a rather large swan. Every time I stepped towards the toilet door, it would step out the water and stand by the very door I needed, quite desperately needed in fact! For about five minutes I had to keep peeking around the corner to see if it would move, several times it would waddle away, but as soon as I tried to get at least closer to the door, it would turn around and stand guard again. There was no way I was going to have an altercation with a rather large swan; all I could do was cross my legs and wait.

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The most upsetting thing to have happened this week was last Saturday night someone tried to break into the Observatory. They had tried to smash the glass on the front door of the studio, and although they failed they did leave impact marks on the glass, it actually looks like the door has been shot. It felt really horrid that someone would even consider doing this; it left me feeling rattled and unnerved. The building is so beautiful and I felt sorry for the whole project, and I know if they had broken in, they would have just trashed the place, there is nothing really of value for people in there, but its all my treasured art materials and tools which are very valuable to me. There are now CCTV cameras installed, but I confess I will worry about whether someone tries again. Kindly the park ranger waded into the mud bank to retrieve the stools that the perpetrators had used as a battering ram.

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I can not quite believe that from tomorrow there will only be three weeks left of my residency, when I’m in the observatory my clock is only the light and dark and the constant flow and flux of the tides, what’s a Wednesday or Thursday when you have thousands of ripples to stare at and watch the wind dance across the waters surface!

Till next week then. x

The colour of stillness is……

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On Thursday 19th November, there was no wind for an anemometer to read, not one bit of anemos; it was the first time I had experienced this windless state since starting my residency. What was startling was the contrast of its absence; meteorologically it obviously felt very different, but also sonically, physically, and even emotionally. It was a day for the surrounding landscape and water to surrender itself to pure stillness, and serenity, whilst they blended into one another quite literally; only a strip of salt marsh separated the water and sky as their colours merged, both being the same colour….and according to the 27year old Dulux chart, that colour was ‘088 Mystery’. A light drizzle (the kind that makes you really wet) dampened the quietness even more, and as I watched the Egret glide over the water, its reflection beautifully mirrored in the smooth waters a mysterious calmness spread over me. I stood in silent wonder knowing now the colour of stillness.

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P1050663I have now given out over 300 ‘Salty Days’ gifts of salt and in return my visitors leave me a trace of themselves and my finger print collection grows. I have thoroughly enjoyed this engagement with passers by. The weekends tend to be very busy especially if it is not raining. I never know who will visit me on a daily basis and I continue to have a wonderful array of people. Two new favourites are firstly a lovely man that has recently had heart surgery and now visits me regularly and then there was a lovely artisan baker from Coventry on one particularly wild and windy day. breadThe baker enjoyed his interaction in the observatory so much he baked me a wonderful sourdough loaf from the salt I gave him and sent it to me inthe post. A wonderful (and extremely delicious) gift indeed. Many moons ago bread, wine and salt were given for a housewarming gift, and the saying was – “Bread that this house may never know hunger, salt, that life may always have flavour, and wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

 

P1050777I am now beginning to ponder how my collected finger prints will work together as an artwork. My ambition is to get 1000 prints before my residency ends. I am using small labels for the finger prints and I initially chose these for their ‘tying’ credentials, but now I’m not sure tying will be the answer. P1050766There are two ‘boiling houses’ which are the only two surviving structures of the salt industry here. They have such beautiful roofs, they are absolutely stunning. I am considering echoing the layout of the labels like roof tiles. I like the idea of connecting the present and the past together in some kind of textural and rhythmic way. It is of course only an idea at this moment in time and it will depend on how many finger prints I actually collect. P1050729

I am slightly concerned by the colour of the label; it’s cream, or is it magnolia (hang on I’ll just check the Dulux chart…its 0010 – Y20R Sandboy!). The colour is not really my style and therefore I have started experimenting with a few solutions, so far my favourite is the graphite powder, the halo effect around the fingerprint gives it a more ghostly effect. Comments would be gratefully received on this.

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“Staying in the unknown for much longer than is comfortable is important for me, for my work” Ann Hamilton

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What is challenging but also exciting about this residency is how I have to step back from my work and just observe and note. I have to think differently about my work; the weather is extreme, the temperatures range throughout day and night, and so my paper based work and salt experiments I wanted to explore are not possible. Salt is a lover of moisture, so techniques that I know work, will not do so in these conditions; I have had to throw away experiments that refuse to dry. This is good; it is the Observatory and the landscape itself that are forcing me to change tactics. I like this, even though it feels uncomfortable. It’s unusual for me not to make finished artworks but I am accepting this, and day by day I am abandoning my usual structures, this is also good…and again, albeit its uncomfortableness that it holds, I like it. I now know I will have to make the finished pieces back in my studio in Bristol.

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“The endless repetitive tasks created a kind of embedded choreography…” Cornelia Parker

I am still treasure hunting for my hauntingly shaped pieces of old black wood. The national park ranger says that it is technically not fossilised and suspects it’s from offshore woodlands which were drowned in the last 10 thousand years. The locals call it ‘sea peat’ and use it for storing Ragworm (fishing bait, I think?). There is a calmness and peacefulness in my gathering, I’m becoming more knowledgeable where it can be found and I feel like I am gathering an inventory of past times. I find myself in a repetitive task of gathering, drying, selecting and waxing, and I like it. The description of inventory in a dictionary states – ‘Inventory’ – A detailed list of articles, such as goods and chattels, or parcels of land, found to have been in the possession of a person. I am particularly enamoured by the description, especially ‘parcels of land’!

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I apologise for no blog last week but I had to break my residency for one week to attend a family funeral, but I now hope to get back on track.

So I leave this week with two new joys – a pair of binoculars borrowed from my brother (why didn’t anyone tell me that binoculars are amazing) and the wondrous Dunlin that fly in formation. The Dunlin streak across my vision, one minute they appear silver, then they turn in flight all at the same time and then they become all black, they are an utter delight!

Till Next week then x

A touch of pink, a flash of blue and some treasure!

P1050399To get the most out of the winter hours I am waking early to witness the dawns on the salt marshes. I jump on my bicycle (my new best friend) whilst the cover of darkness begins to depart. I watch the glory of a new day unfold, a new start, a new beginning, a new experience. I am rewarded with a vast landscape before me dipped momentarily in pink, and briefly it’s only me standing there, then the other solitary figures begin to emerge. There is a quiet nod of acquiescence, no need to speak; the beauty of the dawn is talking for us.

P1050379In the early hours the birds are very active and I have been trying (trying, being the operative word here) to photograph the Brent Geese flying over the Observatory. Out of approximately forty attempts I managed one photograph that actually looked liked Geese flying. I hear their distinctive sonicness first, I look, see their formation pattern, smile, and then fumble with my camera, it’s not a great combination for photography!

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“I have had such pleasure meeting them, these words: migrant birds, arriving from distant places with story and metaphor caught in their feathers;…” Robert Macfarlane

P1050554What a line, ‘with story and metaphor caught in their feathers’, it makes me want to melt with pleasure every time I read it. There are a lot of Brent Geese (Branta Bernicla) here…lots. They breed on the Arctic coasts of central and western Siberia, and fly to Western Europe particularly Germany, France and England, with over half the population wintering in Southern England. I always think that their silhouetted long necks look like they are straining, that they seem uncomfortable whilst in flight, and considering the air miles they have covered, perhaps they are.

Birds and one rabbit (rabbit to be featured later) have been a prominent part of my week. The path on top of the sea wall around the salt marshes is quite high, and when you’re on a bicycle your even higher, which means as your cycling around you often find there is a bird flying next to you, especially when they’re playing with the swells in the air. It feels as though one could almost reach out and touch them, it’s a magical moment, albeit its briefness, but for just an instance, I get the sense that I’m flying too. I don’t know yet what all the birds are, although I have learnt the funniness of the Turnstone and one particular elusive Egret has taken me almost two weeks to capture on film.

P1050470I have never heard so many different sounds of wings flapping before, fascinating sounds that are all unique to their individual species. Whilst witnessing a swan take flight (what a sound), I caught sight of a vivid flash of blue. I stopped in my tracks and tried to register what that blue was, and to my delight, I found myself looking at a beautiful kingfisher sitting calmly, before it also took flight. It was an exhilarating moment, what a proudly royal creature it seemed. There is a possibility that I may have scarred a few walkers that day as everyone I passed, I proudly announced – “I’ve seen my first Kingfisher….I’ve seen my first kingfisher!”

P1050587“Stop thinking about artworks as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences” Brian Eno

P1050562Although there were ideas that I wanted to explore before I arrived, sometimes the reality is very different in situe. I listen to Brian Eno’s words in my head as I explore the landscape surrounding me. More and more I find myself letting the experiential of landscape guide and direct me. ‘Place’ can be claimed temporarily by the gathering of found elements and something is compelling me to look and find. I have found what I consider to be treasure, real treasure… and I have been obsessively collecting.

P1050598I have found black wood that is very old, it could be thousands of years old, it is mat black, and it is beautiful. I think its fossilised wood, and its blackness could be from ancient fires as once this area was covered by forests. My acquisitions are incredibly evocative and visceral, I think of them as talismans, ancient statues and tomb-like. I find them incredibly powerful, and they are calling to me. They are a memory of a place; each piece embedded with its own narrative and perhaps socio-economic subtexts. One could be a bit of wood from windmills that once covered this landscape in its production of salt, another could be part of an ancient homestead (perhaps even from Bouldnor Cliff a submerged prehistoric settlement site in the Solent), and one could even be a fragment of an ancient pirate ship that once roamed these seas. The possibilities of course are endless; it’s very very very very exciting indeed.I have to see how my black treasure dries out, I have lightly waxed some in hope that they may dry more slowly. I am also now being more selective, I know the shape and size that interests me.

P1050510I have made my first batch of Lymington ink using oak galls I collected on a previous visit; it’s now a waiting game. It takes a week for the iron and gall mixture to work its chemistry together.

P1050608

Last week whilst observing the grey skies, I started to dip strips of paper in some ink from a workshop that was left over. I have been repeatedly dipping them; it is a slow process and its ideal whilst you just look and stare out at the scenery, it fits perfectly with the Observatory, looking and doing. The strips are reminiscent of the grey skies with their many layers or misty mountains in the distance. I can see some potential; I like the simplicity and the slow ‘watchful’ process, but I am unsure as of yet.

P1050468

I had the misfortune to witness the dying breaths of a rabbit that sat huddled on the pathway gasping for breath. Although it was calm, I knew it was dying. I did photograph it, although I still feel uneasy by my action. I suppose I wanted to capture the unique moment of life passing, and I had never been that close to a wild rabbit before. The witnessing of this episode struck a deep cord, it made me weep deeply, not really for the rabbit, but this week there was a death in our family. It has been an emotionally hard and reflective week, and only the wind and the landscape has guided me as my head and heart have been else where.

P1050565So I finish this weeks blog with a few lines from ‘Listening Wind’ a track by Talking Heads, I have been singing, shouting and crying it into the wind all week.

Mojique smells the wind that comes from far away
Mojique waits for news in a quiet place
He feels the presence of the wind around him
He feels the power of the past behind him
He has the knowledge of the wind to guide him…on.

The wind in my heart, The wind in my heart
The dust in my head, The dust in my head
The wind in my heart, The wind in my heart
(Come to) Drive them away, Drive them away.

Never underestimate the colour grey.

Grey oneThe colour grey is apparently a neutral or achromatic colour, meaning literally that it is a colour “without colour”. It is an intermediate colour between black and white. Wikipedia suggests that in Europe and the United States, surveys show that grey is the colour most commonly associated with conformity, boredom, uncertainty, old age, indifference, and modesty.

Over the last few days, in lets just be frank here, in appalling weather, the variety and colour of grey of the skies and water has been intriguing. I cannot quite believe how many hidden colours reside in ‘grey’. I have taken to matching the colour of the skies and water to a 27 year old Dulex paint chart, donated to me by a dear friend and fabulous artist Dail Behennah. So far my matches include, ‘dry ice’, ‘snowman’, ‘parisian grey’, and my favourite so far, ‘milkchurn’. I hope to colour match throughout my residency.

grey two

‘Paths are the habits of a landscape. They are acts of consensual making’ Robert Macfarlane

sea wall

The beautiful Observatory structure (my studio for eight weeks) sits on a sea wall, a path that beautifully winds around the salt marshes, and is regularly used. It’s interesting, and somewhat surprising that even in such inclement weathers how many people still avidly traverse this landscape. I have had a varied array of visitors, albeit them being very wet and dripping in my doorway. A particular favourite was a couple from Reading, who regularly look out the window and when they see its ‘grey’, they excitedly consider where they can explore next. I chatted to them for ages and as they rapturously pointed out stunning varieties of greys in the sky, we stood in solidarity and arrghed and cooed, at errrrmmm…. basically the colour grey.

salty days envelope

I have been giving all my visitors a gift. I have made little ‘Salty Days’ envelopes that contain salt. I ask in return that they leave me their fingerprint, a personal trace of their visit. I have one thousand little envelopes to give out and intend to make an artwork with all the fingerprints that I gather. Collecting the fingerprints has been fascinating alone; a Belgium family of five each produced immaculate prints, they were textbook worthy. A Scots man jogging a long distance, constantly swore and jogged on the spot whilst he gave me his finger print and a rambling group from Hertfordshire were such a delight, I almost left with them.

tide up

On Thursday I experienced my first full on storm in the Observatory, and for once there was no one walking around, I was on my own. As the winds grew and grew, so did my adrenalin, I nervously stayed put although my instinct was to flee. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time as the land and sea battered around me. Being in an isolated structure on the tip of the land I felt like a virgin lighthouse keeper in their first storm, knuckles white with a grin perhaps on the face. Or in my case more like a grimace at first but by the end of the storm I felt jubilant.

I am conscious that I’m in an ‘observatory’ as such, and the sub title to the project is ‘look in look out’; I find myself constantly pulling myself back, trying not just to launch into something but to stop, look and observe. The other day rushing to my destination, I had to remind myself to stop, look and watch and actually see the beautiful bird take off in flight. It reminded me of a Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who said:

‘We will be more successful in all our endeavours if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-centre ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.’

birds

texture

After the initial exhausting work of moving into my studio and caravan (bless you Andy), it now feels like I am finding my feet and getting a sense of place and space. Although it has felt like a rollercoaster of a journey; I wrote in my sketch book – “yesterday I could have cried, today I wanted to dance”, and apart from being something like a bad title of an album, it really does some up my first week. And the truth is, yes I’m battling with the weather, (it has rained constantly, with a wind speed of 22 to 50mph), yes I look like a bag lady covered in mud whilst fetching my supplies in town (I know as every one gawped), yes I’m showering in a shed, yes I’m peeing in a bucket at night, yes I’m still jumping when the giant acorns hit the caravan roof, yes I’m learning to cook in a kitchen the size of 130cms x 50cms exactly…not approximately, exactly… (I bought my tape measure)…that measurement of course includes washing up space, and yes it takes ages to dry your clothes in a tiny caravan, yes I’m still somewhat nervous of the pitch darkness, and yes its really annoying that there is hardly any mobile reception….but still, I have to say, its bloomin marvellous and I would not miss this adventure for the world!

Till next week then x

A new beginning…..a new adventure

lymington boat

The dictionary description of ‘adventure’ reads, “an unusual and exciting or daring experience’. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins explains that adventures are “…Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” He also declares that he “….can’t think what anybody sees in them”.

Richard Kearney writes – ‘In antiquity, Irish scholars were known …for their practice of ‘navigato’…a journey undertaken by boat…a circular itinerary of exodus and return…The aim was to undergo an apprentice-ship to signs of strangeness with a view to becoming more attentive to the meanings of one’s own time and place – geographical, spiritual, intellectual’.

In a few days I am off on my own adventure, my own ‘navigato’, spending eight weeks in a beautiful building that I can turn……in a beautiful location that is unknown to me. I may get uncomfortable, I may miss a few dinners and I may witness strangeness…………..sounds excellent! A new beginning as artist in residence in Lymington salt marshes. The last in the line….the winter girl.

I will endeavour to write a weekly summary of my adventures please feel free to read what happens.