Monday 1 January 2024

Blue Rec - production images

Thought I would share some extra images from the Blue Rec commission. Here's other blog post about the commission with all the various links. Blue Rec blog post.

This image is from the extraction of the brick guard. 

The following ones, are from putting together the fabric that is on the reverse of the Blue Rec hangings which are printed with images made from scanning the ground in the months after extraction. One of these is currently on the background of this blog.

This backing took a long time to make because I decided to dye the fabric with dye plants located near the excavation site which took a while. And was also quite complicated to do because all the shaped pockets had to be in exactly the right place, with a couple of holes wandering off to give an idea of the plastic board maybe eventually breaking up. I got deeply involved in making it, and I really enjoyed the process. Not least because the fabric took on the aroma of the plant dyes and it was just really pleasurable to handle. 

It's probably the least visible part of the installation but is my favourite bit. Partly because it remains a bit hidden and because it physically holds remnants of the woodland as I didn't rinse the dye out. By installation the fabric still carried a faint aroma of the plant dyes and I like the idea of these still being in conflict with the board, which I was adamant wouldn't be in the installation at all, but ended up casting shade from a corner.


Sunday 24 December 2023

Midwinter Potato Plate

Some time ago, on a whim, I purchased an old-style cake plate. I liked its decoration of a landscape and I think I might have used once for cakes. Since then it’s been usefully purposed to keep the potatoes in order in their dark cupboard. Some time ago I was inspired by its pattern to write something. Just as something to play with really. So here that is. 


It is a landscape drawn in the round. In the farthest distance are trees with bulbous foliage like succulent plants, drawn as if so many caterpillars were piled up and balanced, on boughs which have tough elbow-like angles to them and each of these teeter-tottering poles have a margin of punctuation marks. The trees stand under clouds that are made to have an almost wooden grained texture, but it might be that they are actually mountains topped with red volcanic clouds.

Next to the centre of the scene a faceless wig is balanced upon a pile of pancakes, themselves perched on top of a four-pillared structure the same colour red as several loaf-roofed houses pictured in the distance. Near these, a construction consisting of precariously balanced sections appears to be still standing despite having become half-smothered in volcanic dust.

Oblivious of the complete environmental breakdown oozing towards them as a flow of lava channeled underneath the arches of a bridge drawn with drastically swerving perspective, a couple walk towards us arm in arm. They are conversing, and it is quite obvious that the artist means us to read them as courting. The male figure gestures derisively towards another figure leaning back on one elbow to their left, who is perched on top of a recumbent, green, many legged creature, as if to say, 'Hey, look at this lazy lout, he has subdued this beast but now doesn't know what to do with it'. But the lout ignores them to look beyond, not to the chaos unfolding, but two more people who have paused under an arch in a building to the far right. This couple are quite different in emotional tone. They are pictured as having happened upon the scene unfolding in their full moment of horror, corralled into the devastation by the wall to their left and backlit by the late afternoon sun which causes shadows to fall across the whole scene. We can see that the figure wearing a blue full-length robe has raised its hands to its face, perhaps to call out, or maybe wipe away tears. While the other holds out a short, thin stick, perhaps to indicate their vision, or possibly to attempt some defence, which seems to unlikely to succeed. 

The only other figure in the scene is pictured in the middle distance sitting on a kind of vehicle, preparing to pass over the bridge while driving in front of them a four-legged creature. We can see that a second creature of the same type has already passed over the bridge, possibly leading but perhaps being chased.

This soon to be destroyed Eden is captured within a circular net, crested with equally-spaced white crenellations, beyond which is a desert of lava and then a hedge of twisting roses. Situated beyond this point can only be the end-of-the-world, represented by a repeating pattern of blank-faced four-petalled, pimpernel blooms.

Monday 20 November 2023

Some install images from Blue Rec.

Blue Rec is an installation about a brick guard that became embedded in local woodland after it came loose from housing development scaffolding during storms in 2017. The design of brick guards has since changed to allow stronger winds to pass through which reflects a greater frequency of stormy weather.

The excavation and subsequent installation at the Old Grammar School in Coventry of the brick guard with a video of the excavation and post-excavation scans of the ground was a commission - for which I am incredibly grateful because without it this project would not have happened - for Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art 2023 a short cut through the brambles and can be viewed Thursday - Saturday October 5 2023 - January 14 2024. 

Photographing the brick guard becoming increasingly embedded into the woodland became part of my larger and still ongoing Silverhouses project studying greenbelt land (in the UK this term refers to agricultural land between towns, villages and cities) newly developed for housing, with subsequent activities expressed through the changing materiality of the site and around its margins. This is the Silverhouses project website page.

Here's a page on the Coventry Biennial website all about this commission, featuring a video by Tegan Kimbley made from the footage she took during the excavation, and of me chatting about itExtraction

The images above show the installation at the Old Grammar School, in Coventry. There are further ones  on my website on the Blue Rec page.


Tuesday 22 August 2023

Observation Station becomes Museum of St Mary's Allotments


This is the Observation Station in it's latest performance: pride of place next to the composting loo right next to the carpark at St Mary's Allotments in Leamington Spa :-) It is there with many thanks to wonderful concealed-curator Tammy Woodrow and allotmenteer poet Nigel Briggs.

I will post a bit more about the Museum of St Mary's in a few days to coincide with the opening of the Art Trail for Warwickshire Heritage Open Days. But just to say that I am really grateful for those who have come forward with more artefacts they have found in their allotments to feature in the museum. These are fascinating and I'm really looking forward to sharing them. 

me: via this site or Instagram @anatomyofasmile
Tammy: or Instagram: @tammywoodrow

Update: Just to say that sharing the museum was great, and that the art trail was a great success for Tammy and her team. With the artefacts safely tucked away the Observation Station is now over-wintering in my garden and awaits further plans.

Thursday 4 May 2023

Ground Level

I don’t want to hug trees, they can’t move or give permission so it isn’t a two way hug. I feel I am taking and this lacks a care and respect for bodies that should be present. However, there is place where they come to me into my world. Where parts of their bodies are washed to a place where we access equally: the ground. Our bodies intermingle; their bark, my skin, their leaves, the shopping list accidentally dropped from my pocket. This ground - ground level - where we converse speechlessly at equal standing is of course colonised by the un-degraded waste of humanity - screaming so loud it is difficult to appreciate.

Sunday 5 March 2023

Mapping Sloughing

I'm studying MA Contemporary Art & Archaeology part-time and therefore my attention has been taken up with lots of writing in a journal and not so much on the blog. It has been very absorbing and helpful. Leading me to think about the found object collections I make and subsequent assemblage works as a kind of conceptual mapping. Not in any way topographical or geographical representations of space, but how feelings about being in certain spaces and how this related to how I thought the objects I found gathered together.

For this recent open studio I constructed a hanging hoizontal grid and played around with a couple of older collections I'd made quite near the studio. Mapping, now realigned, enabled things in the map to relate to each other as well as to my memory of how I found them. Different species of maple leaves were kept apart, pine needles formed a row like the row of pine trees alongside the trainline from whence they came, plastic headphone casing cradled smashed headlight plastic because I thought of how that might sound that whenever I saw them. But there were visual groupings that related only to each other - circles and colour related maps that were woven into the whole - where I was thinking about those collecting walks, archaeologists call them 'walkover surveys', where the first thing I'd picked up became set a key for all the other things I was drawn to subsequently.

Adding an Arduino powered servo which hit the grid repeatedly made all the things move and shimmer and I amused myself during the day with adding more things and changing the tempo of the servo. It didn't take much might to make everything in the grid move just a little bit - some pushed a little each time until they fell off. 

I seemed to have re-attuned myself over the day. That night I didn't sleep well, constantly visualising little bits of stuff vibrating. Kept catching sight of things possibly moving out of the corner of my eye. Fortunately it only lasted one night!

Since this, I've been thinking more about mapping and specific experience of place. I've been limiting my collections to one walkover and then seeing what I can make. This has co-incided with the seasonal dropping of tree and shrub twigs - they dropped their leaves in January - which is fine material to make grids with. I have dogwood, birch and mistletoe. And I've gone back to using scanners as a way to document and create further grids to accentuate the action of watching and recording.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Accumulation /Time /Graffiti

‘Walking is the way the body measures itself against the earth.’ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: 

In this line, under a sense of human feet striding, shuffling, across the planet, lies accummulation of time. 

I like it when the earth feels like time. When I walked today I wasn’t concerned with distance. I had to get around, and go where I was going – end up in the carpark I started in – before it rained and the Met Office put this at happening around midday. By when I arrived back, the almost warming January sunshine had definitely gone and I’d been watching the darkening sky for some time. I’d had time, and I’d taken the time I’d had. 

I’d measured myself against the weather. Is there a word that measures one’s actions against duration of the weather? Perhaps in German which seems to have already other appropriate words to signify concepts of time – Zeitgeist (defining spirit/mood of historical era), Eigenzeit (personal time.) It seems to me that with Britain’s changeable climate this should be something we should already have. But the only phrase that does spring to mind, is more prophetic / observational:

It’s a bit black o’er Bill’s Mother’s.

Wordhistories: has the earliest textual account from 1927 in Sussex / Bedford / Hampshire / West Country, over Bill, or Will’s, Mum’s house. 

There is a lot of conjecture over which direction this might mean. Is it East or West? I’ve normally heard it used simply to mean that a portion of the sky has turned dark and it will rain there, and might do so here soon - so preparations should be made. However, maybe it refers simply to a very common name; over there in that visible but still far distance, there would of course be a house of a woman with a son named William, because there were, and still are, so very many males named William. Perhaps now is the time to invent the word, as sophisticated computing now enables us to receive more accurately approximate, instant and free predicted durations of weather phenomena. 

By the way, although in trying to beat the rain I didn’t take much time to stop and see about me, I spied many horses snug under blankets eating grass together. I squelched through muddy fields, some slippery. I tried not to look for HS2 scars in the landscape. I enjoyed walking by the river. I photographed graffiti on the aluminium bridge. Long-tailed tits flitted around the trees. It was warm so I took off and replaced my hat repeatedly. 

I found my way by consulting directions on my phone and when I go again there will be changes to spot. I will notice differences in the hedges and trees, in the feel of the wind. But for now it is new to me and about as interesting as a hotel room. Places gain interest as they alter, as Laurent Olivier writing about ‘Time’ in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World says, ‘the important thing to understand is that accumulations of small differences over time produce a measurable quality that can be expressed as a trajectory.’ This is a construction of familiarity made from observations of difference. 

It also embeds the observer within those changes. It is comforting to feel part of somewhere that goes through some of the same personal changes that you do. You feel the eigenzeit of a place. It grounds you and it connects you to the world.