About carolyn black

I'm an artist and also commission contemporary art in unusual locations. As a producer, I fundraise, curate, project manage and deliver projects. I'm also a writer and film-maker.

A Weird Year In The Life Of An Artist Producer

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I have sent out a newsletter to subscribers, having merged my audiences from Flow Contemporary Arts with CarolynBlackArt.

It really has been a weird, and exciting, year for me. Not despite Covid19, but possibly because of it. Below is my ‘annual report’ on activity, and some links to where you can see my work. If you enjoy reading this, do subscribe to receive future newsletters (very occasional – rarely more than 4 a year, unless i have great opportunities to share with you – or brilliant exhibitions to see!).

This is a year in review and will go some way to explain why I plan to merge Flow Contemporary Arts with my personal art practice. Times are a-changing.

In February last year I ordered 100 more copies of my book, Severnside: An Artist’s View of the Severn. I did so because the first 100 had gone and I wanted to put some in bookshops. Which pretty promptly closed.
 
An art project in the public realm I was involved with was eagerly awaiting decisions on grant applications, so we could deliver a brilliant event across the Forest in empty phone booths. You can see information about the research stage here. Now ground to a halt and put on the shelf until brighter days.
 
Other Producer work in the public realm has been slowed down, time has been stretched like a rubber band. But not snapped, which is fantastic.
 
In my studio, my practice has developed
more than I could have imagined. After finishing the large panoramic drawings for the book, I began to consider returning to earlier media – such as printmaking and film. Lockdown provided an opportunity to embrace that.  I made my video “When You Call I Shall Come” (855 views on Youtube) during the spring tides 2020. Having had a longing to deliver a public art event at the river involving a Swedish kulning song, making the film sparked off the possibility of using such a song as the soundtrack. After all, with no surfers, few bankside viewers, this was my first, and likely only ever, opportunity to film the high Severn Bore without human presence – no surfers, no watchers, no hang-gliders. This was not only a time for the tide to turn, it was also a turning point for me. Swedish singer Eva Rune and others  gave me permission to use their beautiful voices, providing a haunting soundtrack to a very special moment in time.
 
Eva and I have been collaborating ever since – expect some new films in the near future.
 
I submitted it for the EarthPhoto2020 exhibition, and it was selected from over 2.6k applications worldwide. My film can only be seen in their online exhibition. I then went on to make other films and submit them to other opportunities. “Bev D “ is the most recent, which is causing quite a stir (forgive the pun – she is a dredger). Andrew Heath worked on this one too.
 
“As Above So Below”, with a soundtrack by composer Andrew Heath, was selected for Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2020. They managed to open in Marlborough and Dundee, and now at AUB in Bournemouth, but sadly the London show, and awards event, could not be held.
 
When You Call I Shall Come is also in the RWA Open 2020 – finally opening its doors this weekend – the 17th of April 2021. They also have two photogravure prints of mine for sale on their website – and on my own too. Thanks to an Arts Council England Grant for professional development I am relearning printmaking (I have a post-graduate diploma in printmaking but not done any for years.) You must book a slot – but it is worth it – to see a wide range of fantastic work.
 
It feels to me that the arts have had a really rough time of the Covid19 rules. As lockdown lifts priorities are for shopping and sport – I cannot comprehend why it is ok for people to hang out sweating and exhaling vigorously in a gym, or drinking and eating, but cannot sit quietly at 2metres plus away from others and enjoy drawing in a small group, with windows open.
 
Personally, I have found drawing a wonderful way to immerse myself in place and am actively involved with various online groups. Not all virtual some involve walking as well as talking! I am currently putting together a programme to share this passion by running Looking Classes (drawing workshops). Find out more here.
 
In a nutshell – where to see the work made during the past year:


RWA Bristol
17th April until 9th May 2021


AUB Bournemouth Trinity Buoy Wharf Prize
17th May – 2nd June 2021


EarthPhoto2020 online
it may be opened in venues, please check their website
 
Fingers crossed we can move forward embracing the learning we have done during the pandemic. Social and economic inequalities have been brought to the forefront, as has environmental awareness. Many have spent more time in nature and, for some, being unable to see loved one’s has been horrendous, but it has expanded my world via online interactions. Many have found solace in creative activities and their importance must be reflected in wider society.

I celebrate the gain of my return to practice, I hope others have been as lucky as me.
Be well, stay safe.




1st Friday walk April 2021 – Fertile Grounds, Food for Thought

Andy and I had pre-arranged to meet and walk on the outskirts of the city, on the east side of the Severn, to explore the hinterland there. We’d been discussing sensing on the phone and then issues relating to the bleed-edge, the liminal. I had been along the first part before, but not beyond. For Andy it was the opposite. We knew only where the beginning of the walk was, but nothing more. It was very busy around the Over end of the pathways, groups of people, dogs and herds of longhaired, long horned cows. It was a lovely sunny day, with a slight chill in the air. The Severn is notoriously windy and meandering, our walk followed a similar trajectory. The first part was mostly on a flood plain.

We both used phone maps, Andy more than me, because I actually quite enjoy getting lost, as often happens. And it is a treat to let go of the control sometimes, especially when someone else is taking that on for me. When I did make directional decision’s, they were invariably wrong. Which resulted in our being in the docks rather than the edge of the city. Oh well, we saw a wonderful dry dock with strange structural forms in the base, and a wonderful anchor fixed on a wall. The crackled mud was tempting for me – I had hoped to do some mud/rock rubbings – but it wasn’t to be.

We had a really nice chat with the people who own the lightship down in the Harbour, well Andy did most the talking, while I sneaked in some little films of the light playing on the underside of the boat.

We eventually began to move away from the city by walking past Sainsbury’s, around the new building sites, down to the new housing estate, where we stopped to have a drink and some chocolate. We turned and headed back to Sainsburys, where we planned to cross the Bristol Road and find pour way back to the river. We passed a swan on her nest and an odd, dead looking pig shaped thing lying in the undergrowth. Must be an old fern tree or something similar but I had to press it with my foot, just in case. Just in case of what I do not know. But it was necessary.

We were like lost kids, trying to cross at traffic lights along Bristol Rd, ones that I have driven through a million times. From the footpath, one felt acutely aware that this place is not designed for pedestrians. We headed off down one of the little side streets. I’d always been curious about this area, with little terrace houses a bit like mine, but right in the city centre. I’d wondered where they went to. The houses were homely, a little out of place. Very quickly the city sounds became quieter, until we could hear very little traffic noise. We left the city behind – when I looked over my shoulder I could just see the top of the cathedral.

The street shifted gear into an industrial area, a dirt track led to manufacturing units, rubbish everywhere, a scrapyard, stuff fly tipped and big steel gates with keep out signs. But no footpath signs going the way we needed them to go.

Andy disappeared around a building, came back and said maybe we can get through these huge concrete blocks with kind of V shaped spaces between them.  Mostly very narrow, I managed to find one that I could squeeze through, if I took my backpack off, so we crossed through from one world to another.

I wish I had taken a photo at this point, because there was a little portable TV sitting on top of a block, facing out into the field.  I wonder if homeless people go there and pretend that the walls are a virtual home, and watch films on the TV, ones they conjure up in their minds. Everything seemed so carefully placed. And sadly desolate.

Time began to slow down after climbing into the field. An open view with rabbits bobbing about, coming out of the hedge. And oh – so – quite – sssssh.

To prevent this writing from becoming a long ramble I am typing faster now. Partly because my fingers are cold – the weather is like winter as I write. So, more haste, less rambling. To cut a long story short, we wandered forwards – divining the river through our increasingly tired dry bones. My knees were beginning to hurt.

We walked a mile or so around the council tip, looking for signs of footpaths, indeed signs of anything. We didn’t see a soul. Once we were back on the bank of the Severn we could navigate more easily, we knew we were on our way back to civilisation, as we walked towards the cathedral again.

Indeed we walked back onto the Bristol Road up a different street, with different houses, and ended up just one turning down from where we entered the unknown, unmapped territory. We’d done a loop de loop. A few metres along the Bristol Road and we could get back down to the original route and returned to our cars by wandering under a series of bridges, me feeling every inch of the eight miles in my body.

I took this photo on our way home, and I think it sums up the walk rather well – a route with no boundaries imposed on it by us – an amble more than a ramble, a ramble more than a chat. Our verbal rambling flowed quite deep at some points, as we navigated our open route. It was the art of conversation, not of the studio. Words were released and dispersed like seeds, planting new thoughts and ideas. Some will take root, some won’t.

It was about making friends with the edge of Gloucester, the known and the unknown, and with each other. Familiarisation. Different views, different vistas. Bridging the banks of the Severn, the canal and the city. Fertile grounds, food for thought.

Bev ‘D’ – dredger at Lydney Harbour – a poetic machine in action

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My latest film, Bev ‘D’ at Lydney Harbour, has been a slow burner, having done part of the filming before Christmas 2020 and the other in the new year of 2021. It catches a very particular moment in time, dictated by hight tides.

Like most of my films, it features the River Severn, but looks at one of the industrial activities that happen on her banks. I was drawn in by the elegance of this huge heavy dredging machine, the slow nature of her movement, accompanied by the clicks and clacks of her actions.  Her name is Bev ‘D’ – I can’t help wondering who she was named after, and whether she is still alive. If Anyone can enlighten me on who Bev is, I’d love to speak to them.

The harbour hadn’t been dredged for over twenty years and the accumulation of silt had badly affected the lock gates, sometimes preventing them from opening at all.

Before work could begin, environmental surveys were conducted by the Environment Agency, to check for living creatures. Only the casts of a few lugworm were found.    

Their working hours, and mine for filming, were dictated by tide times. Only a two-hour window is available twice a day, at dawn and dusk. During the winter of 2020/2021, the tides peaked late evening and early morning. The deep mud is agitated then released into the harbour area so that the tidal rush will wash it into the Severn when the tide turns.    

The first sequence was shot at dusk and was unanticipated or planned. I had gone to the harbour to film the sunset over the old Severn bridge. While I patiently filmed this scenic view,  I kept looking over my shoulder at what has happening behind me in the dock. The dredger boat was sinking lower and lower as the water level dropped, before it slowly began to move out, towards the mouth of the harbour.

Having filmed the tide coming in as well as the sunset, I rushed straight down to the boat to film there as soon as the sun disappeared on the horizon. It was one of those moments that you meant to do one thing, but found a distraction even more amazing to witness. I was caught, hook line and sinker.

I went back a few days later and chatted to the guys doing the work and asked questions about the process. Other people topped up my knowledge and the Environment Agency kindly kept me informed of the date the dredger would return in 2021.

Weather was constantly against me, my sound recordings of conversations were wind-blown, the heavy rain stopped the guys from working, even the weight of the water coming off the land jammed the gates shut. The second sequence was shot before ,and during, dawn in January. Despite being wrapped up in many layers of clothes and waterproofs, the sleet, rain and wind chilled or soaked more or less every part of my body.

I used my iPhone to film, as it was more agile than camera and tripod, and standing still for half an hour wasn’t an option in such vile weather.

I edited the base footage into a rough version. The next step was to speak to composer Andrew Heath about the soundtrack. Andrew makes beautiful ambient music, what many may describe as ‘slow music’. He had provided the soundtrack for the “As Above So Below” film I made, which was selected for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. We had several discussions on the phone, and I sent him my rough, windy-weather, source tracks as a starting point. What Andrew has done in response to the film is nothing short of magic. The heartbeat pulse that mirrors the boats slowness, the sweeps and waves of the music responding to every movement. Surprisingly soft and romantic, it doesn’t let us forget that there is an industrial clanking and power to the dredger. Bev ’D’ is a force to be reckoned with!

We both felt the dreamlike quality was perfect for a film shot at liminal times of day, where light shifted softly, without us noticing. The final footage reveals nuances that the eye didn’t see.

My biggest challenge was how to tell the story without damaging the flow of the film and music. I tried narration, then information texts at the end. But I think I made the right decision in the end – I removed it all and let the film and music tell the story, without weighing it down with textual clutter.

The more I edited the more aware I became of the next twenty years. The threat of climate change, or irresponsible building of a barrage, could have a devastating impact on the character of the River Severn. Hopefully people who view the film will think of those things, raise questions such as “what might it be like at Lydney Harbour in twenty-year’s time?”. This amazing environment is at risk of being damaged irreparably if it isn’t looked after and respected.  The landscape could be flooded by rising tides caused by climate change, waterflow disrupted by a barrage.  

Watch the full film on Vimeo here. I really appreciate feedback and questions, or additional knowledge. Very happy to discuss the issues arising.

Thank you.

A Tidal Life documented using graphite putty

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Friday 26th March 2021

I picked up my order for graphite putty from Jackson’s warehouse in Gloucester on Friday and waited until low tide, late afternoon, before trying it out. It was cold and windy at Garden Cliff at Westbury on Severn, where I did battle with sheets of A1 cartridge paper. The paper was pinned down, one sheet at a time, using heavy rocks and branches found on the ‘beach’. I say beach because it is a cliff comprising of Triassic rock formations, but isn’t a beach that one would paddle or swim from – the River Severn is far too dangerous for that.

The first rubbing drawings were very energetic. I bent down towards the paper on the ground, donned my surgical gloves and grabbed the ball of black putty. I sensed with my right hand, feeling the surface under the paper, then followed with the graphite in my left hand. I worked fast and furiously, partly because the wind was making me feel quite tense, but also because I was crouching in an uncomfortable position and it wasn’t great for my back. I felt my way into the forms with one hand, then pressed and stroked the pigment onto the paper with the other. When the graphite ball hit ridges it deposited copious amounts of shiny metallic pigment onto the ridges, and dropped small clumps of precious graphite loose onto the paper. It was a bit like learning Taiko drumming, making the hands perform opposing actions and behaviours, but somehow (sometimes), falling into a rhythm that works. The material itself feels like handling very buttery pastry.

The rhythm in these ancient rocks was provided by the patterns formed nearly 3 million years ago. Clusters of round balls of deep red clay, like bubbles, fractured by deep straight lines where geological strata slipped and slid around. Soft and crumbly, as opposed to being hard and flinty, the stone formations are variously a pale to mid grey and a ferrous red, like an ochre. They are prone to fall apart in one’s hand, not unlike the ball of graphite putty. As I rubbed it was like seeing the Alps or the Rockies emerging from the clouds when gazing out of a plane window. The marks also remind me of the patterns seen in the mud of the Severn, from the river bed, when the tide has gone out and the sun has temporarily solidified the silt in the heat.

Anyway, I made three rubbings then retreated to my warm un-windy house and spread them out in my studio. I loved them. They were all different and the best, in my mind, was the one that was most crumpled and battered by the elements on the surface and the sharp stones trapped below the paper, jutting up into the fibrous surface, but not tearing it. That is where the peaks shone the brightest.

I had taken time selecting the areas to rub, seeking out level areas and stony part, as well as straight line fractures. I took photos of the sites and more of the different stages of rubbing. This stage of using new mediums has to be like a lab, everything noted, recorded, and considered. The weather, the dampness of the air, the wind levels, the moisture on the ground and the selected paper used. I had gone for A1 because I love drawing large and also doubted this squidgy mark-making substance wouldn’t perform at its best in a small sketchbook. I was right.

Back in the studio I left them to relax overnight and returned in the morning to study them in daylight. Then I began to rely on my memory of examining these rocks in recent weeks – looking carefully at meeting places and junctions, where smooth flat areas met crumbly steps, or bubbly round forms were fractured by gashes in the stone, like crevasses. I drew into and onto the framework that the rubbing provided and soon I was immersed in pulling this drawing out of the paper, into something that spoke of that place.

This is where I got to, and I think I’m going to be doing more in the future. (I already have but that’s another blogpost). My life is now doubly reliant on tides – the high tides that bring the Severn Bore and enable the dredger in my film ‘Bed “D’’ to operate, and the bore surfers to surf. And the low tides that reveal the most wonderful patterns formed so long ago, only for them to return to their role as riverbed when the ocean washes in.

I live a tidal life.

copyright Carolyn Black 2021

New film – Bev ‘D’ Lydney Harbour – a dredger in motion

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NEW FILM 2021 – BEV ‘D’ LYDNEY HARBOUR

A visual poem, the film has a dreamlike quality, shot at dusk and dawn, when the light shifted softly. A commissioned soundtrack by composer Andrew Heath captures the tone of the activity perfectly.

Lydney Harbour hasn’t been dredged for over twenty years. Bev D was filmed there before and after Christmas 2020, just before hide tides. My eye was drawn in by the elegance of this huge, heavy, dredging machine – the slow nature of her movement – accompanied by the clicks and clacks of her actions.

WATCH FILM HERE

When You Call I Shall Come film – one year on

It is nearly a year since I filmed the footage of the Spring Bore at the start of the covid19 pandemic. There were no surfers, few other viewers. Just me and the Severn. It was very poignant, a privilege. Next week I shall film again, haunted by the memory of that unique moment in time. And look forward to seeing people surfing the wave again.

Since then the film has been selected for EarthPhoto2020 (Royal Geographic Society & Forestry Commission) from over 3k submissions. It was also selected for RWA Open 2020. Sadly, the pandemic has prevented it from being seen in gallery contexts.

I watch it again now and it is mournful and thoughtful. Ahead lay a year that would witness the NHS’s unerring ability to answer our calls when we needed them. Despite government cuts and chaotic advisories/rules. At the time of filming it was unimaginable that the pandemic would still be rife. We have come along way and time has disappeared.

The hope is that those beautiful dawn choruses we heard, unimpeded by traffic sounds, will be remembered when we discuss climate change and environments. And that our nurses and hospital staff receive a fair wage for their invaluable part of helping us through which, for many, will possibly have been the worst year of their life.

Meanwhile, have a watch and enjoy the voice of singer Eva Rune as she calls in the bore.

“Crying, but with nowhere for their tears to go” organoids and art

Thursday 18th March

I’m on the mailing list for The Conversation, an online journal that has “academic rigour, journalistic flair”. One headline on today’s update is We grew human tear glands in the lab, and now we’re making them cry by Marie Bannier-Hélaouët, Utrecht University.

It wasn’t the headline alone that caught my eye, it was the image on the newsletter and website. Together, they sparked off a line of thinking. I can’t reproduce the image here, as it has copyright limits, so you will need to go and see it yourself. But I can describe it very easily, because it is uncannily like this image of mine, done recently. It looks like a bubble burst on paper, like this:

(C) Carolyn Black Bubble Drawing 2021

My image was not created by tears, but it made me want to cry when I read “The organoids were secreting their tears on the inside: crying, but with nowhere for their tears to go.”

I headed for Wiki, not wishing to over-quote from the The Conversation, in case I breach copyright laws. And I want you to read it too, because it is fascinating.

“An organoid is a miniaturized and simplified version of an organ produced in vitro in three dimensions that shows realistic micro-anatomy. They are derived from one or a few cells from a tissue, embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells, which can self-organize in three-dimensional culture owing to their self-renewal and differentiation capacities.”

In the article, Bannier-Hélaouët describes this more poetically “the stem cells form tiny replicants of the organs from which they were extracted, which we call “organoids”.

To me, without the scientific knowledge of what organoids are, the word sounds like something from Star Trek. Maybe the term replicant feeds that thinking. The fact the organoids are grown in vitro, like humans can be too, also tugs on the emotions of human association.

Back to my drawing, shown above, that evolved from participating in a Drawing Meditation workshop recently. We talked a lot about breath and of course breath has risen high into everyone’s consciousness since Covid19. Partly because it attacks the respiratory system, and partly because there’s a high level of anxiety about, resulting in meditative practices becoming almost as essential as breathing itself.

I think it is fair to say that all of the artists on the weekend course found the bubble drawing process exciting, exhilarating and sometimes disappointing. The disappointment was usually down to the scientific issues, the type of detergent used, the dilution level with water.

But now, having read this article, I can’t help but wonder whether we were collectively moved and touched by the process because they were created from our precious breath and, like the tears, trapped in the bubble. The breath had nowhere to go. And I know I held my breath while I waited for the pop to happen, in anticipation of what it would leave behind.

And the joy of seeing a perfect trace, a record of my existence, on the paper, made me want to cry.

When I reframe the poignant sentence above – “The organoids artists were secreting their tears on the inside: crying, but with nowhere for their tears to go”  I feel deeply sad.  I immediately allow more serious thoughts into my head, about the impact of the pandemic on artists. I am not going to launch into politics here, now, because I want to leave you with a floating feeling, like a bubble in the air, floating off into a future.

Because imagination can take us there.

(C) Carolyn Black bubble process video 2021

*STOP PRESS*

GALLERIES HAVE REALLY HAD THEIR BUBBLES BURST – PLEASE HELP GET THEM CAMPAIGN TO RE-OPEN. If, like me, you think that art galleries are as safe and as important as horse racing, shops, gyms and nail bars, PLEASE sign this petition to support galleries to reopen after 12 April: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/577489 #CheltenhamFestival

Walking The Land First Friday March 2021

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The inspirational prompt from WTL team:

Our walk will again have as a focus ideas around ‘Place’ – this time, how we know, recognise and respond to it.  It’s highly likely our concept of ‘place’ can be seen to be both fluid and deeply rooted. Below are quotes that go some way individuals try to explain that awareness:

“We lack – we need – a term for those places where one experiences a ‘transition’ from a known landscape … into ‘another world’: somewhere we feel and think significantly differently. They exist even in familiar landscapes: there when you cross a certain watershed, recline or snowline, or enter rain, storm or mist. Such moments are rites of passage that reconfigure local geographics, leaving known places outlandish or quickened, revealing continents within counties.”

Robert Macfarlane

“Place is always the first thing I connect with – rather than the music or the imagery – when I travel; I am always trying to understand what a place is, and what does it mean to the people that live here? What are its layers of history? How has it changed? How might it change?”

Julian Hoffman

We invite you to search your own thoughts on what goes to make a place special for you. Try to explain exactly what it may be about the place that influenced your response. This could be through any visual media, through sound or words…wherever it takes you.


Destination – Garden Cliff, Westbury on Severn Gloucestershire. Duration 2 hours

Circle Walking

changing my approach to Garden Cliff

led me to arrive from a different direction

to surprise myself

I passed a circle of trees I’d never noticed before

because when walking the other way I didn’t look left

I habitually turned right to see the huge oak tree

in the grounds of Westbury Gardens

further along I passed tree I knew well, in it’s hey day

I did my first circular walk around it

but it has fallen, rotting on the ground

pre-pandemic I rarely saw anyone at Garden Cliff

sometimes at sunset young couples in pairs may be spotted,

wrapped closely in each others arms, gazing

or elderly pairs in cars, staring,

parted by a gear stick and forty years

jackdaws mate for life

every morning I watch two pigeons

bobbing along the fence-top together 

on my way I saw several families

I hoped to find quiet solitude at the beach under the cliff

to gaze, stare, draw, film and walk in circles

Pleased to find myself alone

I unpacked materials and equipment

taking care not to let things fall into the mud

I set up my camera but, just as I was about to shoot

two children clambered over the rocks shouting 

they too had arrived to have an adventure

I carried on, hoping that my strange behaviour might scare them away

send them running home to their parents

and tell them there was a mad woman walking in circles

their parents would think they were making it up

So I carried on, recording the sounds of loud splashes

when they hurled rocks into the river

I took photos and prepared to take mud prints

when a familiar creature came bounding onto the beach

Django, a friend’s dog, followed by her, her Dad and two kids

operations were abandoned 

The place transformed from one of solitude 

to a social space, it was good to see them

two more people came into view

waving – to me, to Sarah? Her Dad?

I waved back to Eleanor and Russell, some friends from Dorset!

change allows for the unexpected to happen

the beach had transitioned

from uninhabited to occupied

had it had been a car park, the sign would flash FULL

My Walking the Land mission

was complete

the place I know so well, had become unrecognisable

an enjoyable interlude

from solitude

with people that share my love 

of the Severn


Post walk notes……

The morning of the Walking the Land event, I had given a talk for art.earth about my practice In which I had referred to transitioning from 180 degree drawings to 360 degree filming.

I remember my degree thesis was about circles

My final work for my MA included a mirror tunnel that transformed film footage into a big globe

I walk in circles quite often

When I drive places I like to go in one direction and return in another

The weekend after the walk, I participated in a Drawing Breath workshop

We blew bubbles with ink onto paper

I’ve recently been making circular monoprints

Meditation breathing is circular, as are the tides

We also drew from memory, then erased, and re-drew, repeatedly, without having the object in view

I’ve been blowing bubbles on printing blocks

And drawing a large circular work

Round and round we go

Body and mind, drawing and meditation equal balance

Reflections, reviewing, revising, reconsidering.

Following the weekend of the Drawing Breath workshops I felt physically exhausted, emotionally exhilarated, intellectually accelerated and calmly curious. I haven’t spent much time with drawing this year as I’ve been making films. So it felt like going home for the weekend. With a group of like-minded friends.

Now, two days later, I’m beginning to connect the work made over the weekend with some other recent research relating to river mud. I took some of my favourite work from the weekend and pinned it up on the studio wall. Yesterday I felt a little flat, so allowed myself time to develop a few things that were still lingering in my mind.

I really enjoyed the part where we were told to choose an object to draw and put it in a bag, so you couldn’t see it, and hold it in your non dominant hand. Then draw it with the dominant hand, from the sensation of holding it. I had taken a quantity of dry river mud from Garden Cliff – a beautiful rusty red colour, full of haematite. It took weeks to dry it out, in preparation to make pigment with it for printmaking. This bag of material felt quite sharp, brittle, grainy in my hand. I loved the weight of it, the way that it pressed into my palm. It reminded me a little of kinesiology. It literally gave me a sense of gravitas, held in one hand and drawn by the other. Balance. I drew with charcoal, my comfort zone material, and found myself working quite confidently, drawing almost to scale.  It is one of those I placed on the wall.

Two odd things with this red earth. One, the Mars landings and two, the possibility I may be anaemic. My body needs iron.

Yesterday morning, the day after the course ended, I was thinking a lot about how the bag of dry, crumbly earth felt in my hand and created a mono print with that memory. I laid white ink down on the block, drew into it loosely and took a print on black paper. It is fairly similar to the original charcoal drawing, but there was more of a curve underneath, showing the weight in my hand more than the original drawing did. Maybe memories really do hang heavy in our minds?

This print reminded me of another I did a week or two ago, when I pressed my  sketch pad pages onto the wet mud of the riverbank, revealed at low tide. That’s been on my wall since. It’s shaped like a brain and now, when I look at the first drawing of the soil in my hand, it think it looks like a cross between a brain and a heart.

So, going back to the soil for the drawing exercise. During the lunch break, I piled it into square glass vase then half filled it with water. It was mesmerising watching the material dissolve into the water, slowly sinking, settling. A small amount remained dry, like mountains, or icebergs, paler than the wet earth below, creating air pockets.  I made a tiny video.

It was only when I was looking intensely at it for twenty minutes that I noticed little bubbles were forming in the red liquid. Some organic matter was releasing gas from the soil into the water, compacted by the weight of the dry material above. Those little bubbles reminded me of the first exercise we did, of blowing bubbles onto paper. And of the time that a geologist explained to me that the smooth circular bumps and hollows in quarries were caused by air trapped during the rocks’ formation. When it came to drawing the vase and its earthy contents from memory, without looking, I wondered if I could include the bubbles, but using a chunky graphite pencil at a smallish scale defeated me.

Another thing I did for the first time during the drawing breath weekend was to draw my breath with my eyes closed, using dry watercolour crayons onto paper  fixed on the wall, then sprayed it with water. Like the water in the vase, the pigment was released, creating streams and drips which represented my breath flow.

We drew our lungs, our hands and, without intention, I drew a brain and a heart. Using earth loaded with iron.

body and mind

drawing and meditation

=

balance