At the beginning of this week I was primarily working on collating all of my 'ingredients' for the Durgan paintings into finished pieces. I stitched together my rock powder pigment painted panels with panels of graphite frottage before stretching the sheets over canvas supports.
I came across some challenges along the way that slowed the process down when making these first two pieces, but I feel I can learn from these to make the compilation of the next pieces more straight-forward.
Firstly, I need to make sure the layers of fabric are pinned completely taut before being stitched. I struggled a little with one part of the first piece that had bunched up in the stitching process.
I also need to make sure the fabric is a good fit for my stretcher bars so that I don't struggle with positioning when I come around to stretching. The second piece I made was ever so slightly too small to be stretched correctly, meaning I had to add more panels of paint and frottage before I could continue stretching it.
All in all though, I'm really happy with these pieces. I finally feel like I'm making work that feels my own. The stitching, the use of panels, the negative spaces within the frame - all these elements make the paintings feel like I'm working with my own visual language again.
More importantly, I really feel that these first two pieces tell the story of my own immersive experience within landscape - something I have been wanting to portray in my paintings from the very beginning.
The grid format is creeping back into my vocabulary of making. The compositions not only evoke landscape; sweeping, vista views with the use of panels, but also bring to mind the grid system on a map - a structure that overlays a more abstract, complex and detailed story of the topography of the land.
The stitching holding the grids together also tells a story. The repetitive act of stitching the panels is almost meditative... It makes me think of the act of walking within the landscape to reach my field work destinations - the needle and thread tracing a journey to a uniform rhythm, like the rhythm of my feet falling onto the earth beneath.
Once these paintings were pieced together, it was time for me to take a step away from the large scale works and focus on making some smaller, more delicate pieces. So I started thinking about making my evaporation drawings.
I suspended my pigments in frozen ice cubes and cycled to the studio with them in my bag early (and quickly!) this morning, ready to place them on sheets of paper to let them make their own marks. The melting acts as both a mark-making exercise and an allusion to global climate change and glacial meltwaters.
I left the cubes to melt over the course of the morning, taking videos and pictures as they went.
The pigment stayed suspended in the rocks and didn't melt onto the page as I had hoped. I think because the pigments are so thick when unfrozen that they need to be mixed into the cubes of water more thoroughly in order to spread out on the space with the water as I had envisioned. I'm going to do another trial with this tomorrow morning, to try and figure that out.
However, even though the finished product wasn't as I'd imagined it to be, the process of the water melting and leaving parts of the pigment still frozen and suspended was fascinating to watch and beautiful to photograph. The structures that were formed by the freezing of the pigment formed a link with the origin of the colours - the frozen pigment looked like the surfaces of rough and broken rocks.
Next week I'm headed to Wales, so a lot of the remainder of this week will be preparing for that. I'm going to have a dedicated journal and sketchbook for the trip, as well as using my camera as an extended sketchbook to document all that I do there. I will make a series of multi-media works mapping daily field-trips around the area of Corris, exploring the fascinating topography of the landscape.
I was planning on leaving my laptop behind, but now I'm thinking about making sound and video work I may take it with me. I'm not taking any books, to save room and weight for materials, so I like the idea that I can be editing photographs and videos from the day in the evenings. I was planning on taking my film camera to do some 35mm work but, in order to prioritise my digital pieces, will be leaving that one behind...
Alongside video, photography and sound work, mapping my journeys around the area, I also wish to pursue the art of natural colour; using earth, slate, rocks, minerals and other materials to make organic, raw and historically enriched hues from the area through the process of crushing, grinding, sieving and mixing. The area is an old slate mining village and so is perfect for making a range of natural colours to use back in the studio. I can imagine the paintings now... Blue, slate paintings. They would contract against my Cornish paintings that have more orange and yellow tones.
Some of these works will take the forms of paper but there will also be bigger works - paintings on canvas, the same size as my current Durgan pieces. I'm not sure if I'll be making those there or working on them when back in my Falmouth studio, but either way I will also be collecting stones and bits of frottage to further my 'Corris' making when back in Cornwall.
There is no wifi where I am staying. I have been warned that phone signal is patchy at best. The nights and days will be dedicated to my practice, with little distractions. I will be doing nothing but focusing on my practice, walking, eating and sleeping for an entire week, in solitude from anyone or anything I know. I am both excited and completely and utterly terrified.