On cold February day, accompanied by fellow artists Jules Allen, Jo Howe, Heather Hunter and Jean Mold Hart, I visited Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Our aim was to gather inspiration and information about this beautiful historic house in preparation for a group show. The exhibition will be held in the Loft gallery during May and September.
The house was being woken from it's winter slumber in readiness for this seasons visitors. The conservation team were busy cleaning and unwrapping the contents of the house. All around ntriguingly shaped objects wrapped in tissue had an appealing air of mystery.
Curious red crosses appeared on various objects. I was informed these indicate items that are of particular importance or value. The red crosses are a visual aid, highlighting which objects should be removed first in the event of in fire.
We were taken on a 'behind the scenes' tour of the servants quarters. Climbing the stairs to the top of the building, the carefully preserved interiors of the main house give way to bare plaster walls, and plain floorboards. Today this area is mainly used for storage. I think all of us appeared struck by this bareness and the worn marks on the plaster and wooden beams. For me they seemed to have a different kind of beauty to the valuable wallpapers on the lower floors. I started wondering about the previous occupants of the house - all those people who had lived within these walls over the past four hundred years. Hints and traces of memory could be glimpsed here and there.
Windows, draped in black muslin, cast interesting shadows, creating a melancholy atmosphere. The house has had it's share of sadness and loss over the years. There has been early deaths leaving a number of widows, as well as childless couples. The house has been passed from family to family, rather than through the usual channels of inheritance.
There are so many avenues that could be explored in response to the site and the history of Blickling Hall. As we left at the end of the afternoon, I made the decision to use these first impressions as my starting point.
#200 Fish is a community project coordinated bt Biff Vernon. It aims to highlight the issues regarding declining fish populations in the Atlantic. Open to all people were invited to choose a fish from the list of two hundred found around Britains coast. Having chosen a subject, people were asked to submit a drawing or painting to be included on their web page This will then become a resource for others to use, raising awareness about diversity and the state of our oceans.
My contribution consists of an artist book about the Thornback Ray. it is an interesting fish to draw. The marbling and spots, along with thorns, appealed to my love of texture and pattern. The pen drawings were done over a sea chart which had been painted with a wash of ink.
I found a description of the fish from an account published in 1834 - Oliver Goldsmiths A History of the Animated World and Nature. It was written before we had developed a clear system of classification. Therefore creatures are described as "...of the Ray kind" or even more amusing, they are referred to as "tribes". This was written pre Darwin and seems to be of another age. It is so easy to take the vast amount of information available to us today with just the click of a button!
For more information concerning the project
Given all the work I did last year regarding whales, it was a must to visit the Natural History Museum exhibition about these fascinating mammals. The show was beautifully curated,- a visual treat as well as being informative.
The exhibition explored whales and dolphins evolution and adaptations to their underworld environment. So glad to have caught it before it closed!
Following the recent winter storm when temperatures dropped to an unusually low degree, the pond in the local park froze. It was an opportunity to observe the ice as it began to thaw and consider the similar processes that occur on a small scale here in the pond and those a larger scale in the arctic regions. Without a context the images could be seen as being either on a micro or macro scale.
Living in an urban environment, the inevitable rubbish was also present. Someone had thrown a bin into the pond scattering rubbish and plastic everywhere. It was now lying frozen in the ice. A reminder of the present concerns regarding the vast amounts of waste and plastic found along coastlines and in the ocean.
As well as the rubbish, twigs and feathers could be seen floating everywhere. It appeared as though Icarus had got too close to the sun again! All this detritus leaves an uncomfortable feeling but the resident birdlife seemed oblivious, too absorbed in their local rivalries. The Coots humorously chasing each other around in circles.
The feathers all seemed to drift to the edges of the pond - seeking a way out, clinging to anything they could find. The following day the ice continued to thaw exposing a larger reflective surface. There were some beautiful transitory marks sweeping across the pond. The world hangs upside down - tree and sky lay across the surface . While some reflections remain sharp, others were distorted by the movement of birds, or the gentle breeze. Nature was the artist here - playing at mark making.
By the end of the afternoon the ice had dissolved. These photographs managed to capture a few transitory moments. Inspiration to put in store for another day, another project.
In January 2017 a Cuvier's beaked whale was found stranded on the island of Sotra, west of Bergan. This species of whale is usually found in tropical to subtropical waters, not the cold seas of the Atlantic. In very poor health, it was clear the whale would not survive. Following an autopsy examination, scientists were shocked to discover the contents of the whales stomach. It was full of plastic sheets.
The University Museum of Bergan have created a thought provoking display with the remains. The exhibition
highlights the shocking amount of plastics in our oceans. Walking into the display, I was impressed by the simplicity of the show and how the curators have been able to graphically covey these concerns. A darkened room creates a subdued atmosphere., The life size image of the whale is projected along one wall, while in the centre, completely dominating the room, a spotlight illuminates the plastic sheets found inside the whale.
They hang centre stage above a projected image of the whales stomach. The effect is startling.
The incident captured the public attention, and as a result groups of volunteers joined together to clean areas of the coast where waste is constantly being washed ashore. it may seem a small gesture considering the vastness of the issue but all credit to them for setting an example. From small beginnings...
For more information visit www.overhaus.no/project/the-plastic-whale/
I am delighted to be among such good company in the latest edition of E-Squared Magazine. It is a beautifully produced book featuring 33 international artists whose work fuses art and science.
Thanks must go to founders Emma Lou and Edison Ilan for all their hard work and dedication in co ordinating the project.
Check out the link for more infomation
A gathering of thoughts, inspiration,and current projects. A visual sketchbook.