As a month has past since I started the MA. I am beginning to put together a proposal for my practice for the year. Immediately I feel I want to draw from things seen in recent weeks without forgetting the path of my practice so long trodden. My work has connected so strongly to the the landscape and the body that I would like to begin to draw these two elements together. Not just as a comment about the destruction of the environment drawn strongly from theories and ideas about this age but to make a human connection with locations through the stories that we make and tell about the landscape. The physicality of being or dwelling within a given location.
Last weekend I was able to visit the Grayson Perry exhibition held in the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. It is titled as the Most Popular Art exhibition Ever. Debatable statement but good none the less and an astute commentary on contemporary British culture. What struck me most was the visual stories that Perry is telling and most importantly the connection to perceived British culture that people have post “Brexit”.
Perry has produced two pots, Remain and Leave, which are decorated from the ideas, connections and images of Britain sent in and gathered via social media. He also visited two locations that voted strongly to either remain or leave in the Brexit vote. The two pots are remarkably similar. It is this kind of story-telling and gathering that really fascinates me. How do we connect with a location and how is that connection effected by our world view? When we are within an environment what story's are playing out in our mind as a dialogue alongside the one we are writing at that moment? The multi layered elements of Perry’s pots and tapestries somehow demonstrated the layers of human thought, understanding, questioning and confusion. The age old questions of “who are we?” and “where are we going?” ringing as loudly as if the side of one of the pots has just been “pinged”.
It is perhaps not possible to connect with the landscape without drawing some conclusions about humanity’s use of it, it seems impossible not to connect with it's destruction and abuse but I also wonder what happens if we collect the stories of our connection to specific locations? Is there perhaps a more hopeful protective connection that we make to something we love and value like the little bits of Britain that we voted either to liberate or protect as part of our connection to Europe.
In the past I “collected” sound as part of the Upper Room installation piece and wonder if this might be the way to “collect” the stories about a location. My practice as a painter has often been to connect with the most amazing landscapes, from the sublime gardens of Stowe to the dramatic coastline of North Devon. One of the pieces that I really enjoyed about the Grayson Perry exhibition was the large tapestry “Battle of Britain”. This subject matter which links so closely to works by artist like David Mach making a view of Britain less the “green and pleasant land” and more a modern British reality with its contrasting view and rich diversity. How does all this connect to the art of the landscape and the connection we make to it in this Anthropocene age when the impact of humanity has had such a significant impact on the Earth. How can art about the landscape ignore this but in the same light how can it not celebrate all that we as humanity find so breathtaking and awe inspiring or just plain humbling about locations we find ourselves in. The artist Kirt Jackson asked friends, celebrities and fellow artists to give him locations that they felt a strong connection to and he went out and painted these places rather than connecting to locations he has set himself.
So as I start to think about locations and our connection to them I want to ask a question, what is your favourite British location and why?