The film shows a video rendering of a birds eye view of the Arlingham peninsula, which is on the other bank of the Severn River to where I live. The Google logo is compulsory – and it also makes a comment on how we relate to landscape – we view it virtually, quite often via satellites, before we experience it. It keeps us at a distance from the reality of the lived experience of place.
By 2041, if predictions are correct, most of the Peninsula will be under water. Hills will be islands. I want to engage in conversations about the future, if we can imagine it we can maybe work together to prevent it, or reduce impact. I am writing and making work about this, prospecting for a future landscape, visualising what the view might look like then.
This is a sensitive issue to discuss and many feel it is scaremongering and unlikely. It is not possible to provide scientifically accurate facts, but there are many projections available online that have been programmed from statistics of rising sea levels, increased rainfall, raised temperatures that dry the land, followed by flash flooding that the can cannot absorb. We don’t need to be convinced about those things – we are seeing it regularly on the world news – huge fires devastating forests; floods bringing countries to a halt due to strain on the infrastructure of road and rail; temperatures rising steadily causing droughts and effecting food production. I could go on but surely I don’t need to, it is obvious.
I have just read an article by Ben Okri in the Guardian. He speaks eloquently of what is needed from creatives: “The ability to imagine what we dread most is an evolutionary tool that nature has given us to transcend what we fear. I do not believe that imagining the worst makes it happen. Imagining the worst might be one of the factors that makes us prevent it from happening. “
Today is the anniversary of my brother’s death, 5 years ago.
Two things he said to me the last time I visited him were:
You need to get a bungalow, that house has too many stairs for you as you get old
Why aren’t you making art any more? It is fucking ridiculous
The year he died was the year of Brexit; his imminent death; me being scared I had cancer and turning 60. I had been planning to go to Australia for a month at Christmas, but cancelled it, leaving January 2017 a blank space in my calendar. I was deeply depressed during December. In the gap between Christmas and New Year I went on a 3 day meditation retreat. I came back from that ready to draw again.
I made up for the years of not making art by working madly on a series of drawings of both sides of the Severn. I began to write a book too. Gradually I felt grounded again. The Severn held me here. I tried to sell in 2019 because I felt I could no longer live in a house not suitable for an ageing woman. I was getting a bit of arthritis, it was time to go, just as Steve had told me. I tried to imagine living outside Newnham, my only criteria being either a view of the Severn or of the sunset. I took it off the market in Winter 2019 with a view to put it back on in Spring 2020.
Spring brought a pandemic to the world.
It also freed me up to spend all my time on my artwork. It was a good year for me. Money was certainly tight, but creativity was off the scale. I haven’t looked back. Until today.
I woke, as I so often do in the autumn months, to the jackdaws gathering and swarming from tree to sky to roof. I pulled up the blind, opened the window, and checked on the river. Still there.
Today’s sky is a pale pink. There is a chill in the air.
From my studio window upstairs the sun rose above the Cotswolds and below me in my tiny garden young starlings scrabbled over fat balls. Spring 2020 I took on an allotment, which eased my discontent of only having a small space at home. I grew vegetables and enjoyed the sunsets there most days. My home garden became less of a jungle, with most food plants banished I could enjoy the flowers more.
Back to today. The view from the studio window. I opened the big window wide and breathed in the cool air. In the sky four parallel lines of white clouds announced the arrival of transatlantic planes bringing commuters to work. The river sparkled in the early light and there was a sense of quiet imminence. Behind me, the computer chimed and began to gather its data for another day.
I stared at the view and thought about today. Is this day one of countdown to moving from this beautiful place? It has always felt like a holiday home, so special, how could I be living here and enjoying the views every day? So lucky!
Will there be birds where I move to? There won’t be views like this. I have had fifteen years of them. I shall miss them terribly. (View the sale details here.)
As I write this, I realise that I didn’t take a photo of today’s views, though I often do. This home has inspired a huge body of work and given me strength over the years. If it sells it will be another goodbye. Acceptance.
A friend said the other day that one day we will die, the others we live. I add to that ‘and have lived’. Loss and farewells are part of living too. Things change, it’s fine. Life would be so boring if they didn’t. And if I can live somewhere with space for a studio AND space for visitors and friends, as well as birds, all will be well.
Thanks Steve, you kicked off this phase of life. It looks like I am still vying for approval from my big brother, which was never easy to achieve.
This drawing was made in response to the structure of tors in the Dartmoor landscape. Worked on acid-free, handmade white deckle edge Indian paper, using graphite powder. It is no.1 of a series of 3.
The rorschach technique was used as a starting point, using just one fold in this work. It echoes the similarity between the tors, the stacks, the granite. But once mirrored, the rocks were expanded into a landscape, captured by drawing the wider vista.
Size: 21.5 cm x 28 cm 200gsm paper (hand made so variable)
Signed by artist in pencil
IM me on Instagram @Severnsideartist to buy £120 + PP (£5 in UK, £15 International). Supplied unframed, mailed out in a card envelope. Or complete contact form here.
#floodsnearhome call to action – prospecting future flooding
Disclaimer: I’m an artist, not a scientist or activist. I rely on readily available online data and do my best to ensure the maps and information I share are from reliable sources. But no-one knows the facts because it is impossible to have them. Everything is in turmoil. People used to prospect for gold, now we prospect for facts.
I’ve just made a page about this, because it is important I contextualise the call to action. You may have come here because you saw my Instagram posts on @Severnsideartist.
I shared two photos today on Instagram – one of the flooding forecast for my local area near the Severn:
Walking Publics/Walking Arts is a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council exploring the potential of the arts to sustain, encourage and more equitably support walking during and recovering from a pandemic.
A broad selection of artworks about walking and art during the pandemic. Plenty to delve into on a rainy day – see how artists responded to the questions below.
1. How and with what impact have artists used, adapted and evolved walking as a creative tool in response to COVID-19 restrictions?
2. How can learning from their expertise and innovations be applied more widely to support more people to walk well, in and out of a pandemic?
I submitted my film As Above So Below, which was selected for Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2020 and was made during the pandemic.
As Above So Below is a brief foray into multiple-angled shots, using a range of processes simultaneously. The set-up was carefully planned and orchestrated, the weather clement and my focus good. And I don’t mean on my cameras, I mean in my mind.
During lockdown my capacity to give genuine attention was limited. My brain was like a butterfly, flitting about, landing, settling for a while, then off again. I walked to the location time and time again. I sat on the swing, listened, watched and assimilated what I saw, smelt, felt and heard. I gathered various cameras – a 360-degree camera, iPad for animation, video cam for the view.
My walking body became another lens, of sorts. A sensor.
The split-frame film reflects my wandering thoughts, the narration edits as it goes.
Those of you who know my work well will be very aware of my interest in the River Severn.
This autumn I am crossing over to the other side, to carry on conversations already begun with like-minded river lovers. First to open is at The Old Passage in Arlingham. Recently taken on by new people, it is continuing a tradition begun by the previous owner – to show and sell work by artists, curated by artist/curator/walker Kel Portman. Kel has been overseeing these shows for many years and always ensures there is support not only for the artists, but for local charities too. 10% of every sale is shared between St Rose’s Special School in Stroud and the Severn Area Rescue Association, so any sale can make a positive difference to the lives of others.
SORRY SEVERN WORLDING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. THANKS COVID
Next up is a film screening in Bridport Art Centre on Wednesday November 3rd at 7pm. I shall be there to engage in the conversations about the films in relation to the themes below. Be sure to book a place as it is likely to be very popular.
Curated by Patricia Brien, expect work there to have something to say about COP26. My work will include a premier showing in a gallery of Bev ‘D’ – a poetic study or routine dredging, last done twenty years ago. A provocation the unavoidably makes us consider how much the area may be flooded next time the dredgers are brought in. Just in case you think this may be scaremongering, checkout the projected heights for 2040 – you may be as alarmed as I am. And it may help you to understand it more when you can see what it will be like near where you live.
We’re planning a Sunday Brunch conversation about environmental challenges – date to be confirmed soon. As will names of all the artists participating.
and I must mention here that at Cosmo Sheldrake is playing at the Goods Shed in Stroud on 29th October. Now I have safely secured MY tickets, you may want to get your own!
Whilst sorting out my films yesterday I played “A Star on the Horizon” (below, you may like to watch it first before reading the rest), and considered what it was saying September 2020, and what it means now. It is beyond comprehension that almost a year ago today I had hoped that Covid would stop spreading. One year later, whilst no longer in lockdown, there are still so many unknowns.
Most of the films I made during lockdown were melancholic, and it could be said they continue to be so. This particular one raises my awareness of my inclination to be an optimist. I still am, despite what we have gone through. It is what gets me through these slippery times.
When I made the film I had hope about the pandemic ending soon. Yesterday, when I wiped my storage drive with most of my films on, I was conscious that, though I did actually stop breathing for a split second, I also felt pragmatic. Maybe Covid has taught me that – or maybe it is simply age and maturity? Many years ago, in 2000, a lot of my studio equipment was stolen, including my computer, back up drive and video camera. At the time I was doing my MA in Fine Art and I used philosophical thinking to drag me out from the pit of despair at the loss. You can read Virtual Lobotomy here. Digital media does not exist, in physical terms, it is merely data, so nothing was lost.
That was in 2000, 6 years before my marriage broke up irretrievably . A bit like my hard drive. The words in the essay now have a different resonance, they could apply to the moment I left our family home;
I will get a new extension, but will have to learn all over again how to use it, to make it comfortable to be with. But I will never regain those feelings I experienced with the last one, the nerve endings have been cauterised. New nerves will grow, maybe even stronger than the first. I hope so.
Now things are different. I certainly did develop new extensions, grew new nerves, became stronger, and survived to tell the tale. And maybe this film of hope is part of the process of coming to terms with one’s responsibility in the world?
However, there’s a twist in the tale, because since Covid first hit, we have become a world obsessed with data. Statistics of infections, deaths and vaccinations have taken over our lives. We are increasingly aware of our mortality, of the fact we, in our minds, believe people are more than a statistic. So, whilst data is important, in actual fact, our existence has taken centre stage. And onto that stage climate change and environmental fragility feels more painful, more urgent, even more urgent than us. Well to some people it does. Sadly not to all politicians. More statistics flood in – rising sea levels, temperatures, extinctions.
Like the pandemic, this is a major issue that requires collaboration, working together, socialism. Yet capitalism still holds the reins, pulls the strings of all the important decisions. Neither the planet, nor us, have little value when it comes to economics.
So now I am focusing on a new body of work – one that reflects on where the human race is now and our prospects of a future. It may be even more important that I switch on the hope button, because accepting that the damage we have done to the planet is not reversible is challenging. But we must persevere.
This weekend the wonderful b-side a festival is on all weekend. Loads of brilliant work to see in one of my favourite landscapes. Sadly I can’t go – but if you do – can you send me some pics of my film being screened please?
It is 12 Circular Walks, part of the Harvest selection showing in the cinema opposite b-side office on Portland.