curating a biodiversity of colours from land

I have been back in Falmouth for a week. Yesterday, as I had a free day, I got outside and made headway with my new series. We can't access our studios until next Wednesday so I took the opportunity to begin my field-based research and spend some time reflecting on last year.

Something that was really useful last term was my consistent journalling practice, so I plan to push the writing element of my work even further. In retrospect, as a first year, I didn’t journal anywhere near as much as I should have done. My daily, extensive journalling in second year has allowed me to reflect on my practice but also my learning; whether that be writing about artists, exhibitions, books I’ve read or lectures I’ve been to. Having a physical documentation of this means that I have been able to look back and revisit my thinking at more appropriate times.

Something I didn't get the chance to explore last term was alternative methods of photography.  In anticipation of this new term I’d like to create a group of smaller works that could be presented framed; which incorporate natural dye, frottage and camera-less photography processes such as chemigrams, dye destruction prints, luminograms and photograms. I am interested in playing around with this process outdoors, letting the landscape and the outdoor light play a big part in dictating the outcomes. I will not only be working in diptych form this year, but combining multiple panels of different mediums to further extend the ways I can use creative vocabulary as a form of topography.

I am also constantly looking to further eradicate man made materials from my practice, such as my use of graphite. This could mean that I burn wood chips and try to make my own charcoal for the frottage elements of my work. I want to strive towards a practice where most, if not all of my process, is informed and facilitated by materials from nature. 

Thinking particularly about the natural dye process, my work is becoming increasingly sensory. Colours now have certain scents attached to them, as the organic materials simmer away in the dye pots.

I want to curate a biodiversity of plant based colours, taken from the land I am working with. In elevating the organic materials I have foraged for and found, I will create extensive colour palettes of places I immerse myself in. Through the dye process, I am reconnecting with the outdoors personally as well as in a creative sense. I have always enjoyed walking, but this new element of feeling and touching and smelling things I would have previously seen and walked straight past has deepened my appreciation of the natural world.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.
— W.B. Yeats

Natural colour is special. It feels immediately connective for me. There is a history to the linen that is imbued without any extra fabrication. I have been reading into the topic a great deal since I was gifted an incredibly special book on the old-age art of vegetable dyeing for Christmas. The authentic storytelling of place is made possible through the extraction of pigment from plant to textile.

I have also learnt about bundle dyes from the many natural dye aficionados I follow the practices of on Instagram. The work is an unlikely landscape, a cataloguing of seasonal Cornish colours, curated into a collection of organic matter that presents itself as a mapping of place.

The first place I am going to be 'mapping' this term, the second in my series after the Swanpool Headland works, is a particular spot at Pendennis Point that has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. 

The first materials I collect to extract dye from lie right beneath my feet. The bench I sit on, which looks over the coast of Falmouth, is positioned underneath a large pine tree. Some of the needles have fallen to the ground and thus have turned a wonderful burnt sienna colour. I collect a bag of these then make my way further up the site to collect the green needles, ones that must have only recently fallen from the tree. I also collect some earth, to attempt to make a deeper and more intense dye with - something like a brick red paint pigment.

After I had spent time collecting materials for future dyes, I take out my sheets of linen and graphite and do some frottage drawings of the trees and textures around the site. There is an uprooted tree on the steep terrain of the site that has left the bark peeling - revealing areas of soft, smooth bark with a gentle grain. The old bark that still clings to the tree creates a rougher frottage trace on the linen surface. The combination of the two textures upon the same sheet of linen elicits a mapping of the history of the trees that inhabit the site. 

I am making and thinking about art that is more abstract than any of my work has been before. I have always felt difficultly engaging with abstraction but now that my practice has legitimate reasoning behind it, I feel able to push the abstraction a great deal further.

I have discovered that it is important for me to keep pushing myself by doing different things. I have found, this year, that I am a concept driven artist - I struggle to be defined by a medium. I don't think I could ever call myself a ‘painter’ now, even though I started second year thinking of myself under that title. At first I found this difficult to process as a lot of my peers are able to define themselves under a genre and dedicate themselves to it. Once I accepted at the latter end of last term that my practice is unable to be defined in such a way, that art is a way for me to explore the ideologies of mapping that interests me so greatly, I began to make work that I was happy with.

Perhaps the biggest change made to my usual way of doing things was moving away from traditional materials and embracing a more natural practice. My main aim this term is to keep on exploring alternative, natural methods of ‘mapping’ landscapes. Whether this be using rockpool water to create my natural dyes or leaving my work out in the landscape to discover how the world will weather the work. I will be constantly thinking about how to further push the boundaries with this new way of working.