When I began to work on a new set of panoramics this year, after some years of not making any artworks, it felt like stepping into an old pair of slippers. I thought at first that was because the subject matter, the River Severn, is so close to my heart. But there are other reasons, which connect back to earlier works I have made.
Looking back at my pre-masters portfolio, I discover panoramic drawings of landscapes of mountains in Ireland, and intaglio prints created by numerous plates, run through the press together, to create a tessellated image – including many panoramic sections.
Post-masters I find drawn renderings of imaginary landscapes in cyberspace and poetic collages of drawn marks and lines.
I have always loved drawing at human scale, having done a significant work on a UNESCO funded residency in Bandung, Java in 2002. That work involved me being filmed drawing huge copies of love letters from my father to my mother from 1949 with charcoal on the gallery wall at Selasar Sunaryo Gallery, then washing it away, leaving traces on the wall (video). The story of my father captured from letters and the place, revisited then erased. Other works involved printing the letters on gelatine sheets, visceral, fleshy and corporeal. Memories.
Most of my recent works are concerned with the River Severn, but that process of engagement did not begin this year – but six years ago – with Tidal Severn, a collaborative work created with Suze Adams. We photographed from either side of the river, Suze on the east bank, me on the west bank, as the bore passed between us. Our gaze connected the sides of the river, and connected us too.
The 2017 drawings began with a huge drawing on paper, five feet square, on which I played with foregrounds and backgrounds, charcoal and chalk, collage and washes. It was absolutely about the process, of body and landscape, the experience of landscape and of place. The panoramic drawings I’m now working on expand on that approach. I’m now mapping out several, all informed by photographs taken at several locations along the Severn. The locations are identified by stories of events at different places along the riverside, between the Severn Bridge and Newnham.
Flow Contemporary Arts is named after the river, particularly making reference to the constant exchange of masses of water, know as the Severn Bore. Almost daily, the river and the sea gain ground from each other, then yield, forming a wave of energy that sweeps up-river. This phenomenon is so present in my life it could be perceived as a battery charger that constantly injects me with shots of inspiration.
The drawings I am doing now are powered by that, I hope it shows.