frottage at the headland

On Tuesday morning after handing in my essay, I zipped up my raincoat and braved the bitterly cold, wet and windy weather for my second work-related trip to the headland.  

My backpack contained only essentials; my camera, a stick of graphite, two rolls of blank linen, an apple and a pot of peanut butter for sustenance and my sketchbook. With no battery left on my phone, which was accidental but a blessing in disguise, I allowed myself to become fully immersed in my walking, my making and my interaction with the landscape, with room for no distractions other than the circling birds of prey overhead. 

Once I reached the headland, the light drizzle had moved on and it had started to rain quite substantially. Not to be deterred at this point, I put up my hood, took materials out of my bag, found stones to pin down the linen in the windy conditions I was faced with, then got to work.

Using the automatic, process-generated drawing technique of frottage to capture the tactile feeling of the rocks below, I went about creating rich and textured impressions on the surface of the linen with my graphite stick. The Earth itself was determining the composition of the marks made on the linen; my role as an artist simply acting as a facilitator for the 're-mapping' of place.

As the rain got heavier, I started to feel the graphite stick dissolving in my hand. I'd forgotten that graphite was hydrophilic. Having no cloths other than my already destroyed jeans to wipe my hands with, I started to use my graphite-coated hands to rub marks into the linen, eliminating the use of the graphite stick as a 'middle-man in the process', connecting the tactile feel of the rocks, the art and myself as the artist in an even more intimate way.

The frottage forming upon the surface of the linen as I rubbed, folded and manipulated the canvas over the rocks was gradually mapping out the topography of the headland. As the linen lay over the rocks that determined it's surface, I noticed that it automatically merged with the landscape, sometimes even appearing as if it could be a part of the landscape itself, rediscovering it's natural habitat. Particularly when photographed close up, the natural qualities of the linen blurred the distinction between the physical rocks and the art as a mapped response.

After using the graphite stick and my hands to re-create the faceted surface, I turned to using the natural materials around me to further chart the place onto the linen. I dipped the linen in the little pools of rainwater that had collected in the baisin-like craters of the cliff face. I found muddy areas and kneaded the fabric into it - transferring the earthy, muddy hues.

After I was satisfied with an hour or so of making in the landscape, I took some time to just 'be', to look at the result of my actions and critically think about how they could be photographed in their natural setting. The wind had really picked up at this point, so the linen threatened on numerous occasions to fly off the edge of the cliff. In order to photograph the work effectively, I had to pin the sheets under various twigs, branches and rock crevices. Perhaps I was underprepared for this element of wind, but in retrospect, I like the fact that I had to use what was around me in order to push past any challenges or obstacles. 

After folding up the linen and putting it to one side as I was packing materials away into my backpack, I found the folded fabric against the rocks visually appealing. I documented it, sitting in the places of the site that I had used to make the work, then I started on my walk back to the studio.

Back in the studio, I pinned up the linen and headed home for the evening, leaving the fabric hanging to dry.

The next step for these pieces is unclear at present. I am thinking of deconstructing them, perhaps cutting each piece in half so that I can make use of both sides of the linen. The underside of the linen was, in places, even more topographically interesting in comparison to the upper-side, where graphite had been directly applied. 

I will also be stitching into the linen with naturally dyed threads, embellishing areas of interest, making them more prominent. I am in the process of making natural dyes from the various plant samples I collected from the site and from these I will make fabric colour samples that may or may not be stitched onto the bottom of the pieces. This continues with my preferred diptych format, acting as a 'key' of the natural materials found during my experience of mapping the headland.