Rrecent work has been exploring ideas involving seeds and biodiversity, so the book I chose to take with me on this trip was Feral by George Monibot. I bought it after seeing Mike Perrys excellent exhibition Land/Sea at the Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno earlier in the Spring. It turned out to be a a good choice. Both Mike Perry and George Monbiot ask us to look more closely and question what we consider as wild natural landscapes. They refer to areas of the UK countryside as 'green desserts', and voice their concerns at the huge decline of wildlife and native plant species.
By stark contrast one of the most notable impressions arriving in Austria was the abundance of colour and variety of plants along paths and road side verges. Rather than the regimented 'parks bedding' which we are so use to in the UK, Austria seems to have a more relaxed approach by creating 'mini meadows' in their villages.
Bees, butterflies and a variety of insects provided a soft background hum during our walks. It seemed to be highlighting the points raised by Perry and Monibot. This became even more evident as we moved into the alpine meadows.
With the exception of trees, the plants seem to get smaller the higher you travel in the Alps. Carpets of small flowers cling to rock surfaces, determined to fill any crevice, and to seek shelter from wind. This really is life on the edge! When viewing the area on a summers day with blue skies and sunshine it seems a extreme action, but of course temperatures and conditions in mountain areas are constantly changing. Small and compact is how to survive in this environment.
It has been a rewarding and enriching visit to Austria. It will take time to reflect and process so many different sights and experiences. The landscape, while appearing familiar was also very different to the one I am familiar with. These photos are a "snap shot" of the experiences I wish to 'hold on" to, some of which may find their way into the art work.
But for now it is time to get back into the studio...!
Famous as the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg is dominated by the Fortress Hohensalzburg Sitting atop the 250 metre hill it is one of Europe's largest medieval castles, and offers views of the old town. Salzburg retains its medieval streets and narrow alleyways and has now become a Unesco world heritage site. Having arrived relaxed from our time in the mountains it felt it felt like an assault on the senses having to adjust to the business of a major tourist town!
Missing the beautiful alpine scenery of Pertisau, we decided to take the opportunity to escape the crowds and visit the Untersburg mountain. Just a short bus ride from Salzburg, Untersburg is the northern most massif of the Berchtesgaden Alps, marking the border between Austria and Germany. At 1,972 metres, the views were once again spectatular. Small alpine plants cling to cracks and crevices and frame the views of the wider landscapes.
With its unique setting, the cemetery of St Peters is one of the worlds most beautiful and Austrias oldest cemetery. Sheltered by the massive rocks of the Festunsburg, many of the headstones are made from wrought iron rather than stone. The whole area is full of flowers creating an unusually bright and lively atmosphere. A steep climb takes you into the catacombs where you can visit two ancient chapels - Gertrauden Chapel, and the Maximus Chapel. Hewn from the rock the caves have been in use since late antiquity.
Pertisau is a small village nestled beneath the Karwendel mountain range, close to the shore of Austrias largest lake - playfully referred to as the Tyrollean Sea. Lake Achen known for it's stunning emerald green waters is nearly 10 kilometres in length and 133 metres deep. Due to its extraordinary water quality the range of underwater vision amounts up to 10 metres. It is a beautiful location where any stresses seem to just evaporate as you take in the breathtaking views.
To immerse yourself in such a tranquil location felt a real privilege and a stark contrast to busy urban environment I am use to. Time was spent walking, sitting, and simply observing the grand vistas, along side the wild grass verges which were a riot of colour and movement. Bees, butterflies and a variety of other insects accompanied any walks along the shore or into the woods. The rich biodiversity here was apparent and brought into sharp focus how 'quiet' our walks are in the UK.
The views from Rofan (1,840 metres above sea level) looking across to the Karwendal Alpine Park are awe inspiring. At more than 920 square kilometres, it is the largest continuous nature reserve in the northern alps, stretching across to Bavaria. Twenty one pairs of Golden Eagles can be found breeding in this area.
Standing in front of this magnificent view felt like you might be following in the footsteps of the Romantic poets and artists of the 18/19th centuries. I imagine the scene virtually unchanged since they made their way across the Alps on their Grand Tours.
I recently returned from Austria, having spent time in three cities (Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna) and in the beautiful mountains of the Tirol. As an artist it is impossible to 'switch off' and not be excited by new experiences and fresh horizons. Needless to say there was much to see and explore. So now I am home I need to reflect on all of this and consider what parts stand out and how these might filter through into my work. As the momentum of work in the studio had already been 'interupted', I have decided to give myself a few extra days to 'revisit' and 'absorb' the various experiences of Austria. There was so much to to inspire and discover.
So where do I to start?
It strikes me a good a place to begin will be recalling a few of the highlights which have left a strong impression. These may either relate to present work already underway or potentially inform new ideas. I will share something from each of the four centres visited starting with Innsbruck. The Tyrolean Folk Art Museum was an absolute delight. Housed in four wings of a former Franciscan monastery it was awarded European Museum of the Year, and for good reason. It is full of charm - it's collections tell the story of traditional life in this part of Austria. Wood abounds and was used for everything - from a building material to ornate tools, decorative objects and everyday items. The skill of the craftsman is evident everywhere.
An ornate weaving loom.
Decorated wooden drills Brush made from teasels.
Some delightfully humorous carved figures.
Moving through the various displays the visitor comes to some well preserved wood panelled buildings. Families would have lived together in one large room. These were relatively simple but sturdy dwellings. The rooms vary from being very sparse to more ornate, presumably reflecting the wealth of the occupants. I loved the dark interiors and was entranced by the the way the light fell through the old glass windows creating beautiful reflections across the rooms. I have always loved the dramatic contrast of light and dark and these images reminded me of a series of drawings of the interior of a chapel completed many years ago while still a fine art student.
The ever colourful Society of Bookbinders stand.
A general overview
Image Keith Osbourne.
Another great few days spent at the Forum in Norwich. Sadly Turn the Page is over for another year. The time was spent catching up with old friends and meeting new people. I have always found Norwich to be such a friendly place with visitors taking time to engage with artists about their work. I am looking forward to starting a new project and already thinking about next year!
The studio has had a good tidy and is now ready for me to go back in a make a mess!!!!
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.