If you have read any of my previous journal posts, you will probably know that my work is heavily concerned with mapping. My interest in mapping began when I moved to Cornwall last year to begin my studies on the Fine Art course here, during the initial exploration and documentation of my new home. After reading into Psychogeography I became hooked on the concept; the point where psychology and geography meet to analyse the emotional impact of a place on its human inhabitants. Responding to the way being in a place makes me feel was my main focus in first year, albeit without fully understanding where my ideas were contextually placed.
My reading into the historical psychogeographic ideas behind mapping and the role of an artist as a walker and cartographer sparked a new direction for my artistic practice over the summer months. Moving into second year, I am particularly interested in exploring the theoretical idea of ‘deep mapping’; the conceptual art of cartography.
I have a rough plan going into the new semester, although I am expecting that plan to morph and shape as the work and my ideas that compliment the work develop. I do, however, plan to completely immerse myself in walking and travelling as field-work for the basis of my paintings. It is very easy to end up hidden away in the studio, making work but not really being present in the landscape I am attempting to recreate. Looking back on last year, I do wonder how I expected to make engaging work without really getting a feel for my subject. I think maybe I thought that to be successful, I had to be in the studio making 'stuff' 24/7. In retrospect, I don't know how I expected to translate those places without feeling the sting of the cold water on my legs or the salty breeze in my face, without touching the rough crags and rock faces and getting to know their tactile state.
On these walks I will be recording moments in my sketchbook and travel journal, which I will review and reflect upon when back in my studio space. My ‘field-work’ will be crucial to making authentic, informed work. Using painterly topography as a creative re-mapping tool I aim to capture the often incommunicable relationship between a place and its human inhabitants.
I want my work to be a visual documentation of my wanderings; an imaginative reworking of the places I visit and the moments I want to remember. My artworks will hopefully be read and understood by the viewer as an inventory of memories. Each colour, form or line to match up to a place, a conversation or a journey I have made. My personal nostalgia will be preserved through collage, printmaking, painting, drawing and photography. The works take landscape as their primary subject but are not explicitly topographical or an accurate depiction of what a camera lens may see. They are, instead, a personal statement and reaction to the spirit of a place.
Collecting colours from my walks in my sketchbook will be an critical facet in the way that my work develops this year. I have mentioned before how enamoured I am with colour, how I see things in colour, how I often categorise my days and people I meet with colour. This collection and curation of the colours I see and feel will be a starting point for many of my pieces.
Another aspect of my work this year that I am conscious about the direction of is the inclusion of photography into my practice. Recently my interest in mapping and the conservation of significant points in time has extended to an obsession with photography of light. In recording split seconds of light I have, essentially, been mapping my daily sensory experiences through snippets of shapes and shadows that warp in a state of constant flux as the sun changes its position in the sky. These fleeting memories are captured through a lens, which I then preserve through printing, re-recording the image. The mapping element comes to play in retrospect, with an expressive response created from the original memory I have stored and spent time considering since the shutter of the camera captured the moment.
Early Sunday morning I took a solo walk to Swanpool then followed the coastal path back towards Gylly, continuing to Castle Beach then around Pendennis Point before heading back towards town; stopping off for much needed espresso at Dulce. The reason for my walk was data collection. I wanted to take my camera along and document the coast on that particularly foggy and grey Sunday morning. With no music or 3G for distraction I was alone with the landscape and my camera for company. Although university hasn’t yet started, I want to get into the habit of immersing myself in the Cornish landscape in anticipation of second year, in which I plan to re-map the terrain I travel with the colours of my own experience. It’s refreshing to know where my practice is headed, so that by the time I’m settled into my studio space I’m not sitting around waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s a matter of going out and finding that inspiration.
I will be basing my work around mapping as an significant theme, despite the surface of the pieces not appearing explicitly cartographic. For me, though, mapping does not necessarily mean the traditional topography you may observe on an old ordnance survey map. The cartography I am interested in is the documentation of geography and emotional spaces that surround us on a daily basis. A juncture that we otherwise may forget by the end of the day, unless it is kept in existence. This is what my work is for. They are memory maps, primarily a self indulgent process for me to keep certain pockets of time preserved forever.
Painter and writer Etel Adnan said that “Maps are not about shapes but about energies flowing in and out of places”. My ‘maps’ are models of concision; cramming a myriad of energies, history and detail of a place that I want to maintain through the line, colour and form that I put down on paper. My second year practice will become a powerful tool for me to preserve the places, emotions, moments, people and journeys I hold dear in a body of work that, upon viewing as a whole, becomes my own personal atlas of memories.