Sunday, July 12, 2015
I wasn't sure if I could have made anything today. You see, I often have a peculiar affliction and I wonder if any of you experience it too.
I've heard many different opinions and with mine I think a lot of what people tell me is based on how they experience the world rather than how I do.
Let me explain: nearly every single night I dream vividly. It feels like I have been dreaming all night and upon waking I can accurately remember 5 or 6 dreams and little details about each.
One person suggested I may have a sleep disorder and should get it checked out. Another said that I was only sleeping lightly and must be doing so all night, whilst others suggested that I should avoid caffeine and cheese before bed.
Now some of those things might be factors and explanations for why I feel a little bit wasted, like a zombie and almost strangley bereft after a full on dreaming session.
The thing is my dreams are eventful, enjoyable and quite thrilling. Even when I meet a dangerous foe I normally come out fighting and then winning. My dreams are not often frightening or frustrating, in fact they are a lot of fun.
But when I wake up I can't seem to think straight, it's not just tiredness it's something else. I feel emotionally wasted, edgy and unable to engage with the world. It feels like I've done all my living while I'm asleep and now I'm awake I need to retreat to recharge.
In the midst of all those explanations I think there is something they're missing. It's the curse/blessing sandwich of being sensitive. I think I'm just wired to dream in hyper-stereo and rainbow-technicolour.
Trouble is I can't run away and hide behind the sofa when I am overwhelmed in dream world so I awake having started my day the night before.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
A couple of years ago I had a kind of synaesthetic vision. I was listening to some music which included different female vocalists and then I started to drift off to sleep and the music began to weave itself inot my dreams.
As the melodies seeped into my brain I started to see them as colours and shapes that flowed and warped and changed. Each different singer would have their own particular shapes, colours and movements and I was filled with the sense that just like each variety of Bird of Paradise has their own song, colourful plumes and mating dance, each singer displayed their song like a beautiful array of multi coloured feathers.
I felt like I was the dull brown male bird being entranced by the female siren, beguiled by her myriad of majestic colours, her dance and her song.
I can still see those shapes and colours in my mind's eye and the strong feeling that human beings singing is so very much like complex animal kingdom displays, has stayed with me too.
Ever since I have wanted to express those synaesthetic visions through my art, backlit translucent sculptures would live up to the vividness of the colours I saw but I did not know where I would find the colours. Also the shapes would be very difficult to emulate when constructing fragile structures from only materials I find nature.
Over the last couple of years these ideas have continuously been doing lengths, backstroke, up and down in my mind-pool in the backyard. Sometimes it was widths if I was bored with thinking but the splashing continued nonetheless.
This morning I wandered into the garden and saw a carpet of petals on the grass beneath some corn flowers and then someone pulled the plug out of the pool.
For some reason I have very seldomly used flowers save for a couple of times when I used a load of dandelions. Somehow I felt that using flower colours was cheating, too easy, not difficult enough so I would have to immerse myself deeply in the environment. But here were the colours I needed, the hues that matched up with my vision. Art is full of arbritary, self-imposed rules but sometimes you need to break them to move on to something new.
As I searched for different colours I started to see the variance in structure and colour in petals. How buttercup petals are very shiny on one side and corn flowers are different shades of blue on each side. These would help me move one step closer to expressing my vision, of bringing my Song into life.
Sometimes I wonder whether some of the things I talk about here ring true to you or whether they sound embellished to fill out my artwork into something more fulfilled. I never do that, they are what they are and I jot them down as real as I can and express them to you how I experienced them at the time.
Just the same as my sculptures are real and only photographed to extract their essence, there's no trickery beyond bokeh, shutter speed and aperture and it is the same with my words too.
So, just what the hell am I going on about?
Last night on the local news they talked about the last flight of the majestic Vulcan, a cold war era long range nuclear bomber, delta winged and very, very loud. A stalwart of airshows, it really is a sight to behold, thunder held within aluminium, perspex and rivets.
The very last one is about to be decommissioned and it was to make it's last flight this very afternoon. It would set off from Carlisle at 2.30pm and land in Manchester at 3.
Very much the end of an era and I reckoned we might be near it's flight path. I looked at the clock in the corner of my screen and it said 2.45. I jumped up and crashed down the stairs and said to the missus, let's go outside and see if we can see the Vulcan.
As I opened the door, immediately I could hear it's roar and disorientated for a second I scanned the sky and there it was directly overhead, straight up, 12 o-clock on the dot. We watched her disappear over the horizon and felt a little sad to see her go.
I said to Julia "well, how about that, there it was as soon as we stepped out the door and it was flying directly over our house."
"It must be something to do with doing some land art today, things always happen when I do as though someone knows I need material for my story."
I like to pretend I believe in fate, it is generally a nice thing to do. I don't really though, although everything is intertwined and interconnected, I do not believe anything in life is predestined or determined.
But I'm happy to pretend that they are, it is satisfying to think that I opened my mind through my work today and the Vulcan flew over to say hi, just for me and, just because. It's a nice thing to believe even if you are just pretending.
Nature had a hand in this sculpture too. The stems sunk a little as I put it into the water and the surface tension grabbed some of the petals and separated them from the discs they were stuck onto with spit. Of course mother nature plays a big hand in what I make, indeed in everything you and I ever do. But the slow spread of the blue and yellow petals revealed her calm hand gently moving the passage of time along one more tick of the clock.
Song Number 2 by Richard Shilling - Leighton Moss, Silverdale, Cumbria 27th June 2015
Made with pear tree branches, discs of bark and cornflower, poppy, rose, wild rose, geranium and buttercup petals
Thanks to Marcin for his work with flowers and for the inspiration.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Friday, November 30, 2012
My calendar for 2013 has finally arrived! 18 months ago a publisher asked me if they could put one together using my images, I was chuffed to bits and to now have one in my greasy mitts, well how cool!
Amber Lotus Publishing are a lovely fluffy company based in Portland, Oregan and they were an absolute pleasure to deal with, I had great fun sorting out the images for them and lots of excitement anticipating what it may look like. And finally it arrived the other day!
Larger than I thought, think of a vinyl album cover (though sadly it doesn't play a tune when you slap it onto a record player but it might ruin your stylus) and printed on dolphin/tuna/donkey sanctuary/hedgehog friendly paper. I can only imagine how many wonderful forests have been planted just to offset the printing of this calendar. I am expecting a massive kick back from the squirrels. They now owe me big time...
I have a few knocking around should you want one (that'll be you people with Paypal accounts and not any squirrels even if you have a PaySquirrel account), about £8 each give or take shipping and where you live in the world, drop me a line if you want one, there's a contact whatchamacallit on my website. You can get them on Amazon too should that mean you can get one cheaper wherever you are. They don't ship to squirrel land so take note nut munchers. You can get them plenty of other places too apparently but you'll probably know better than me about that.
Oh and finally should you want a book for Chrimble, Blurb are knocking £7 off until 13 December, just enter SAVE7 at checkout. If you squirrels want one then you'd better ask Blurb if it is alright to pay in hazelnuts.
Monday, October 08, 2012
During the time you try and make the decision if you continue to feel turmoil then you aren't ready to choose, your unconscious mind has not finished it's job. One day it will cease to be a decision anymore where you have to choose at all. One day you'll just know what is right, you'll feel it in your core without necessarily knowing why. I've been witness to this happening in my life at several key points on my journey.
I've not been one of life's copers, 'you're too senstive!' they'd all say. Where shyness seemed to be the culprit and being forced to confront your sensitivies the solution, I would try and retract myself away from difficult situations. Sensitive people aren't necessarily shy, indeed I can be the life and soul, what we need is space to breathe, when we feel overwhelmed, which is difficult in the midst of a non-sensitive world, so often the urge is to retreat and to hide and to build a brick wall around oneself.
In my early twenties I had my heart broken and I had never felt so shattered and bereft. It brought on the mother of all retreats, outwardly everything was normal but inside the maelstrom was devouring my soul. Contact and vulnerability was dangerous and I tensed every sinew to make sure I could not endanger myself again. Hideously damaged on the front line I ran backwards as fast as I could.
A couple of months later I took on two cats who needed a home - their names were Lottie and Gizmo - and we three became a little family, we needed no-one else but ourselves. I poured into them all my vulnerability and love and as long as it would go on forever then I'd feel safe and happy and reassured. This wasn't a healthy place to be.
More than ten years passed and the wall I had built was solid, high and impregnable and yet I wanted someone to breach the defences. But it was far too high to throw the keys over. I was stuck behind ramparts of my own design.
And then events took another turn and someone managed to scale the ramparts and find their way in (wow! this sounds proper corny! But hey it's all true so I'm just gonna have to carry on). She loves me back the same way I love her and she's my rock. Just by being there she allows me to step outside of myself and grow and mature, without her I'd still be an emotional cripple, although I still have to walk with a stick!
Despite this my feline coven remained and I had not prepared at all for their inevitable passing, I just couldn't contemplate having my heart broken again.
And then Gizmo died quite suddenly and once again I felt snapped in two. I felt she'd been snatched away from me. I felt cheated and angry and desperately hurt. I wasn't prepared then for the realities and harshness of life. it knocked me sideways and I dreaded every single day after that I would lose Lottie at any moment too.
That was six years ago but Lottie's feisty character and vitality lived on and on, never quite quelling the dread I felt but filling my life with many magical moments of comedy and companionship. What a fantastic little character she was.
But I knew the day was coming and I knew I couldn't hide from it. One day soon she would be gone.
She became ill several months ago and it was the beginning of the end but despite this I was going to ensure that her final days would be fantastic and she would have quality of life to the end. I did everything I could for her, and I suppose for me too but I also wondered whether I would be brave enough to know when her time had come.
A week ago she took a turn for the worse and I knew the day was galloping towards me. I felt like things were okay whilst I could do something, make things better, make her happy and she'd let me know that she was okay too. But now I'd run out of things I could do, I'd become helpless in the midst of inevitability and I already felt grief piled upon me.
And then I had a dream:-
I was at the bottom of a sea cliff with another rock climber. I climbed up the face to the top and then it was his turn to follow. Half way up his grip loosened and he fell off breaking the fingers on one of his hands. I lowered him on a rope to the bottom of the cliff and attempted to phone for an ambulance on my mobile phone, but I couldn't raise a signal.
I shouted down to him, "don't worry, I'll go and call for help! There's a building over there, they'll surely have a phone!"
I ran over the building and it was a large office full to the brimwith people working. I frantically went from desk to desk picking up each phone but I couldn't reach the emergency services. I was thwarted at every turn. I tried and tried and tried but it just wasn't going to happen. I could do no more for my friend, my attempts to help were now futile and the gradual realisation was upon me that it was time to give up and let it go.
When I woke up from the dream I knew what it meant, in fact I knew what it meant whilst I was dreaming it too. Lottie should not suffer more than she has to, it was time to let her go.
Today was the day I'd lose her, that day I had dreaded for six years. But I just knew it was time to say goodbye, it felt right, it felt necessary, I wasn't torn. Her spirit remained until the end and it was peaceful when she did go.
I had tried to imagine this day and the very thought of it made me sick to my stomach but now it was here an inner strength bubbled up from within me and I felt able to cope and to do the right thing. I found peace with the decision I'd made and I knew deep down it was right.
Of course I am sad and bereft but my unconscious mind had been working overtime and through all this I'd reached a point of acceptance. I wasn't to be tossed around in the hell of having my heart broken as I had before, this time I had a chance to come to terms with a little more of the realities of life, when before they would eat me alive. Without my rock looking out for my welfare I don't know how I would have come this far.
Within us all, us non-copers and the rest, an inner strength can appear when we need it. It makes subconscious decisions for us and carries us high on its shoulders exactly when we need it the most.
Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to tap into this inner force at other times too, when we aren't so painted into a corner. Building walls can be a necessary short term solution but you must dismantle them before they get too high. It's not healthy to go along otherwise. But then hindsight is a wonderful teacher, I can only hope I heed my own advice in the future.
I haven't made anything for quite a while and it was about time that I did. This is for you Lottie, I miss you but all ends are a beginning too.
And to the twonk who thought it necessary to drive his Subaru Imprezza WRX at over a ton through the lanes today. Don't worry, you can get penis enlargement surgery these days, I know I get emails about it all the time. And There's Viagra if you don't have the time.
And finally: Today's land art was brought to you by the words 'pretzel' and 'butterfly'.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Here's another excerpt from my Nepal trekking journal:-
I expect if you heard the sound of your own kid's noise, the way someone else without the built up tolerance might. Or you could fully appreciate and empathise with those who's peaceful idyll had just been disturbed, then you'd probably go stark-staring, cockle-bonkers mad.
So, dear reader, (always love to begin a paragraph with a so) I am writing this beneath a blue tin roof of the Dhampus Holiday Home trekkers lodge in the foothills in the Annapurna Himalaya in Nepal.
The last of the sun's rays lick at the cold glacial ice cream tumbling down the flanks of the impossibly pointy peak called Macchapuchre or 'Fishtail'.
If the professor of mountains from the mountain's guild and the head of the mountain university had got together to design a peak that would be the mountain to end all mountains, so that hills would have to skulk off in a sulk, then surely this would be it.
I am surprised it hasn't torn a hole in the sky. Its razor sharp edges would surely cut through and rip the most tightly woven oxygen molecules. It should be able to cut a line all the way around the earth as it spins, loosening the top of its scalp like a soft-boiled egg.
In the distance I can hear a farmer goad his oxen to continue their furrow and dig deeply into the parched soil. The shrill peep of an eagle pierces the air and the terraces cascade everywhere like endless staircases.
Truly Shangri-La, what could taint or spoil such tranquillity and wonder at the savage beauty of the mighty Himalaya.
Well how about eight children under the age of ten trekking with their half deaf, two pair parents. Screeching and fighting and running rings around me and my tranquillity.
Now don't get me wrong, I like children but I couldn't eat a whole one. Being a sensitive type, the abrupt transition from peace and quiet to screeching is just ever-so, a-little-bit jarring.
I have a tendency to offload any extra stress by whining. It can feel like I am bobbing along in a little rowing boat, oars up and prostrate, staring at the sky. When a speedboat full of squawking infants draws alongside and their wake fills my boat with unwelcome water and unless I bail furiously, I'm gonna sink without trace. To save myself from a watery demise I have to mutter under my breath “bloody parents, can't they not hear the noise their own children make? And at least ask them to quieten down a little?” But alas surely you'd go a particular nutty type of nut, that would get stuck between anyone's teeth if you really could take in their noise, full-force, unfiltered by the numbed brain of parenthood. And murdering your own children, though temporarily satisfying is probably not a great thing to do.
What's life about if it's not about doing what enthuses you. It matters not what it is as long as it drives you, it's the motivation that's the key.
For a good few months now land art has not been my thing. The drive it once saturated me with, boiled dry and evaporated into the ether. I didn't know where it initially came from and once it had gone, I didn't know where it went.
I only wanted to travel to wild places and be myself within them. Nothing inside of me wanted to commune and express nature through little sculptures at the mercy of the wind. I still felt the buzz for life and Mother nature but through other things, other activities and ideas. I was not cast out or stranded or lost just not artistic or motivated to create. But still I felt like part of my identity was missing. Did I care? Not really, but I did care that I didn't care.
I was left in a little quandary. Would it ever come back and if not what then?
Today a little of it came back and I wanted to make something once again. I didn't have the right tools or the time or opportunity to gather ample materials but I did have the most wonderful landscape in the world to gawp at and a whole gamut of of new plants and trees to feed my soul.
Most importantly of all I had that little flame lit within me and I wanted to feel the warmth of its flickering light. It is that that's all important, the rest is just fluff and nonsense.
Of all the tools I need to create something, it's that that sits at the top of the pile. The result might not be all that, out of practice and away from things and places I know. But whether the image is striking or not, I felt it inside.
Then again it might be gone again just as quickly as it re-arrived. Something else will drive me ever onwards and I may never make anything again. Or I may do nothing but, who knows?
But for today I created something and it made me happy just for today. And really that's enough until tomorrow. And tomorrow is just another day.
Friday, March 30, 2012
I've just come back from another fabulous trip to Nepal, some trekking, some chilling, some peace. She surely is my spiritual home and I was so very glad to visit her warmth once again. Whilst trekking in the Annapurna Himalaya I made some things next to the trail. Here's an excerpt from my journal on the day I made this little sculpture:-
Nepal isn't like anywhere else I've ever been. It seems to change me on the inside, it's not just the outside environs that are different.
Other places in the world have left my soul untouched. It's as though I've simply taken the me from home and travelled with it to a foreign land. I'm still the home 'me', stood somewhere else.
But Nepal is different, it seeps through my pores and changes me to what I should be. I feel at peace, confident and full of joy. My sensitivity becomes a blessing and never a chore. It's as though my sensitivity was designed to live in and appreciate the multi-faceted beauty of this place.
It is much more than the mountains, the landscape, the trails, the walking. It's the people, the magical encounters, the just about bloody everything. But most of all it's the way I can open my heart and soul and let all the world pour in. Without cynicism, without fear, without shyness, without worrying about difficult emotions and how I will handle them. Without the need to manufacture situations so I can sheild myself from things I can't cope with, all and everything that holds me back, makes my sensitivity difficult and taxing and sometimes the bane of my life. Here I am free, unleashed, filled with joy and happiness.
I can let my sensitivity fly free and grab onto every wonderful flower, tree or bird and to experience the rhythmic magic of simply placing one foot in front of the other. This is where I am meant to be , unshackled and home at last.
Now don't get me wrong. I have a rich and fulfilled time at home. But the mundanaties of life push spikily against my psyche and make some everyday tasks and relationships difficult. To feel every nuance can render you often vulnerable, confused and overwhelmed. Aching to hide from the world and to launch my vessel into the river of my own inner thoughts. That's why I love to cycle, to run, to walk, to climb and to create. The sublime lives within these things and I go looking for them to release my soul on a long leash and to let it stretch its legs for a while.
But being in Nepal is not simply a holiday, a break from those taxing minutiae of everyday life. I am not free of those things through simply being away, when I've travelled to somewhere in the States, Europe or South America I've brought a lot of those things with me.
But here I've stepped through the secret door in the back of the wardrobe into another me and another realm.
It's only when I'm here that I remember. It's only here when I am totally me once again. All those times when my innards soared skywards when climbing a snow covered mountain at home, when I've cycled to a long toiled for hill summit or lived the moment when a sculpture resonates, becomes vibrant and electric, when it is more than the sum of its parts. All those times join together with all the months I've spent in Nepal, connecting together all the sublime times in my life.
Another existence running in parallel, rich and diverse and perfect. Perhaps that's what Buddhist enlightenment feels like. Where you can ride the waves and ripples of life. It does not matter what happens, it only matters how it affects you. If the rough feels as important and as interesting as the smooth then maybe you've found the secret to how you should live your life.
I cannot manage to live in this enlightened way much of the time but I am so very grateful to have as much of it as I do. I hope to extend the length of these moments and tie the ends together with little knots in the strands of experience. And maybe one day I'll have a very long length of tightly woven cord, stretching from one side of my existence to the other and nothing, and everything will matter all at the same time.
Aside from how this place makes me feel it is brimful of brilliant in such a wonderful myriad of ways. Today was an experience of a thousand different treats.
We waited for the sun to warm us before shouldering packs and trudging into dense bamboo forest. We entered a deep gorge that is the gateway into the Annapurna Sanctuary and the trail cuts a path along the steep gorge walls like a wound.
Laim, Bamboo and Rhododendron forest dapple the light onto our faces and beneath our feet is a carpet of fallen coloured leaves while massive, savage peaks cut holes in the fabric of the sky.
Julia was a little way behind so I stopped awhile and sat on a warmed, sunlit stone. I collected up some red, orange and yellow leaves and cut circles around a five rupee coin. I stripped some sedge grass and pinned them on with Berberis thorns.
Unusually I could step off the trail here and pin my sculpture up in a tree. Normally the drop offs, either side of the trail, are so steep that you can touch the top of the trees. Nepal is so very corrugated and dramatic but not so good for setting up a little sculpture amongst the foliage. But here was perfect with plenty of room to pick a good spot with bright sunshine and plenty of contrast. Within a few minutes it was positioned and set against the dark trunk of a Rhododendron tree. The breeze swung the branch it was fixed to so I snapped away hoping for something good and sharp and clear.
My land art comes in thirds. Every third attempt just seems to click. All the elements combine just as I imagine they may do if I had had a plan in the first place.
A quick stop on a rock in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful hued leaves. A quick circular route with scissors and a construction was soon created. Everything combined as I would want it. The place, the materials, the sunshine: click, it was all there.
So this was the third of the three and how I would want it to be. All the pieces fell into place without me really trying very hard.
If you live your life without expecting anything and then are happy with whatever life dishes up, then surely that's a better way to be. If you can conjure up that carefree existence, go with the flow and live from moment to moment it just seems to come together how you may have wanted it to if you'd spent any time wondering how you will want it to be. But the key seems to be not wasting any time pondering on what you would wish for and grasping gently and just letting everything be. Maybe not everything will be just how you would like it, but surely you'll settle for one in three!
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I haven't had a proper ramble for ages, well not a public one anyway. In fact there hasn't been any action, from me, out here in cyberspace, for quite a while.
I'm quite prone to introspection, you may have noticed if you hadn't been staring at your own bellybutton. And it is both a gift and a bind. But it is something wrapped up within my insides, feeling tightly wrapped around like I have been rolled over and over inside a carpet so it clasps the whole of my being.
Perhaps introspection is another name for sensitivity, perhaps even hypersensitivity. I crave peace and quiet, loud noises jolt me with impatience and I baulk at how the non-sensitives will shout into their mobile phone whilst sat next to you, or park themselves adjacently to your long-searched-for-solitude on a remote beach ovelooking the sea.
At the hinges of the seasons I feel my sensitivities even more and they career between overwhelm and near blissful wonder at the world.
As autumn begins I feel this the most strongly. My feeling for the world is so fiercely overwhelmed but amongst the raw and vulnerable feelings are glimpses of infinity and heaven. But what can be imagined and intellectually understood is not the same as the experience itself. As to live through a hyper-sensitive episode is to be within it, rather than an impassioned observer of its trials and wonders.
Here's something I wrote just as a stream of conciousness back in September, when I was staying away from home for work and felt the full force of autumnal sensitivity.
"I ache, I ache all over.
People watching: what is it to be old, what is it to be young, transporting my enquiring mind into theirs to live their lives for a brief moment. Looking into each persons eyes through my dark glasses, looking at them looking at me, looking at them. Too many interconnections, too interconnected. Need to turn the volume down.
The inxplicable ache of beauty. An impossible Tsumani of creativity and experience, overwhelming sensitivity. Want to bottle it in a jar, keep it and live with it always but also be able to put the lid on so I can breathe and take a break. Sensitivity is such a paradox. While you ache, things take on such infinite proportions, whether you ache for a break, for the world not to keep rushing you with such force, or whether beauty makes you ache, grabs you and affixes its beauty to your soul so you cannot escape, like your brain is being pulled out through your eyes. The aches oscillate between positive and negative each with pull like a powerful magnet, pulling into its clutches or repelling you strongly.
Hard to escape and hard to resist, a trap so overlwhelming you want it to stop and yet when the pain is gone, back comes mundanity. You don't feel the absence of pain, only at the moment it recedes, when the relief replaces the sensitivity. And yet when it's gone you ache once more, you miss it once it's gone, you want it back. You want to feel alive to your core, once again.
Thoughts and interconnections tumble out of your mind, such a thrill if you can catch a ride on one but so often, you just want to pres the pause button and see what it is like to watch and experience what it is you are experiencing. To sit back and watch yourself deluged in a sensitive flow of tumbling thoughts so you can make sense of them, take a step back, have them happen whilst be able to witness the flow, see them for what they are, bring them altogether, condense and channel them. But as soon often in life your instrospection does not allow you to silently witness the flow, you are ungulfed in its midst a passenger in the torrent."
"I am writing this sat in a hotel room on a sunny Sunday. What a day to be hyper sensitive.
Away from home for work, with no outlet except a pouring out of words into my laptop, like an ever open ear. Earlier I sat in a pub and ordered myself lunch and attempted to read my Sunday newspaper. My brain on overdrive, I could only muster two paragraphs before my eyes would lift and scan around me to see what was happening, jittery and unfocused, the tsunami gathering momentum all the time.
Battling self conciousness, sat on my own, the sad travelling worker. Newspaper and sunday lunch, pint with billy no mates. And yet the feeling of exposure, the looking at people and the lives, and their ways, their companions and them looking back at me. It heightened it all, the flow of words, the introspection. the self loathing, the strong feeling of the utter transience of existence, the overwhelming power of inexplicable beauty in the world, what it is to be alive, what it is to be sensitve, what it is to trying to make sense of all these things, trapped in a wave crashing onto the shore, tumbled over and over and over.
Me watching them, watching me, whathcing myself, always trying to draw back one more level to make sense of it all, put a box round it and be a witness, so desperate to make sense of it all.
And yet when you think you make sense of it, one of two things happens, it suddenly diminishes, to explain is to take out the mystery, to extinguish its flame or sometimes the opposite happens.
Sometimes it is a revelation as two parts of your mind speak to one another for the first time, like an explosion of inspiration, a never bofore made connection opens up an entire new world.
The world comes spinning back and the wave you were once engulfed in is just one roller hitting the shore, there are 100's more following it in, to engulf you once more.
But what becomes so evidently clear is these words are futile, a nothingness, a distraction in pointlessness. My imagination cannot bottle up those and replay them to me at will, I cannot take them home in a little box tied up with string. I need to be living them now, in the here and now, they are there while they're there and it is then when you feel them in your soul. The memory is bitter sweet, it isn't that thing, it has none of its intensity but it has enough of a clue to remind you to go back and feel it once again.
And this leads me to the ache I feel most of all. the transience of existence. Just as a flower is transient so is a thought, so is a life, looking back is neither here nor there, it is all present in the here and now in its infinite beauty and variety.
But each moment is gone as quickly as it arrives as will be my life, my existence. Embrace the brevity for it is all you have. One day soon you and I will be gone."
Friday, September 16, 2011
I've got a thing...
I've got a thing about my rear windscreen wiper...
You see, it only has two settings...
This really bothers me...
In my old car it used to be intermittent...
That's how I want it...
But in my new car it does too much...
Swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash...
It is very distracting. So much so I can't concentrate on the traffic in front. All I can do is look at it swish-swashing in the rear view mirror.
You see, I'm worried about wearing it out. I'm not going to get my full entitlement of swishes, let alone swashes.
Mostly we consider ourselves to be logical, rational creatures and yet we are surrounded by the evidence of our neuroses, contrariness and irrationality.
Why will I quibble about something cheap being twenty pence too expensive? When I will happily waste one hundred times that amount on something I don't need.
We all know it's better to take the long way round a traffic jam, even if it takes longer, as at least you feel like you are achieving something when you are moving forward in some way towards your destination.
I'm quite happy to switch on my front windscreen wipers whenever it looks even slightly cloudy on the horizon, sometimes putting them on super-fast just for the hell of it. But their less able and incapable rear window cousins couldn't deal with such abuse and I worry how they'll not cope with their current workload.
So just what am I banging on about?
I guess it's something to do with the direction I want to take my life in. I hope to shed off the assumed, the incorrect, the downright delusional. I want to replace the false and blinkered and harmful with something more succinct, more truthful and more accurate.
Don't we all...
The question is "how to separate one from the other?"
I suspect I need to answer that question before all others.
Perhaps that's where art comes in?
Note to self...
If you want to search for answers, through art and through living a life. Then perhaps it would be a good idea to do some and make more of your life whilst you're living it.
Note to self...
Stop making excuses that you're working too much, or uninspired or plainly can't be bothered. It won't happen unless you invest the time and stop worrying about whether there's a point.
After all there isn't a point until you make one and even then one may not materialise. But what is certainly true:-
You can guarantee there will be no answers if you give up asking questions altogether...
Swish-swash, swish-swash, swish-swash...
I made this sculpture almost exactly a year ago. A few days past I went along to the tree I gathered the leaves from and it is producing the same colours as back then. But I'm having trouble reconnecting with nature just because I haven't put in the effort to create as much this year (see excuses above). The disconnected feeling breeds discontent and the solace I seek from that connection being missing makes me feel a little adrift.
There are other trees from which I gathered leaves last autumn that have not put on the same show this year. Some crab apples nearby, were ablaze with hundreds of hues and yet this year only managed green, yellow and brown. But it's not enough to notice this whilst passing, it's time to become more wholeheartedly involved.
It seems I'm the one who hasn't been listening. Many times I've said land art is all about the process, the doing, the feeling, the seeing. And it's high time I tried to remember that as autumn will be over all too soon.
A life lesson about fleeting existence, the transience and flux of all there is. If you don't take the time to stop and listen then that moment is not grasped but gone forever.
Note to self...
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Now, if my mum was standing behind me, as I write this, she may say "Richard, stop showing off!" But really, sometimes you just can't hold it in! (see Gerard's predicament below)
It turns out that the billboards weren't the only thing. To coincide with the A-level results announcement and the mad scramble for University places, Cumbria Uni also put together an advertising campaign in National (I thought it would be nice to use a capital 'N' there) and local newspapers.
I expected to see the odd advert in the special student clearing sections in some of those newspapers but I was really quite flabbergasted to see it on the front page of the Independent, beneath Gerard Depardieu enjoying a tipple (as apparently during the take off of a flight he attempted to piddle in a bottle as the toilets were closed). I'm quite flattered to be in such auspicious company, although I didn't have to embarrass myself to get my picture on the front page. However now I've sold out and gone National (there I did it again), I will do anything for a pay cheque, so if that what's required I am happy to comply.
So my picture was in the Times, the Telegraph, the I (that's a new version of the Independent) on the front page (did I mention that), the Independent (that's the old version of the Independent) on the front page (had you noticed) and the Guardian, and yes I did buy them all! It's also in a couple of dozen local newspapers too (note the small 'l') but now I've got a massively swollen head, I'm not getting out of bed for less than £2.50 if the local newspaper calls.
"Are you still showing off?"
That's all very nice an' all but I did actually do some land art this weekend. I just haven't had the time to write some commentary yet so it's just little old me with my massive ego here at the mo'. I'm sure someone will be along soon, with a pin, to pop me, my wind and hot air.
Next stop, some new land art.
But meanwhile, whilst I shamelessly self promoting: here's something about my exhibition in Kendal.
After finishing up making sculptures at the weekend, we drove down a road we never normally go down and found another billboard.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Giant colourful flowers made from leaves have been springing up around the city of Lancaster.
Rumour has it that the local population aren't impressed and are campaigning to have them replaced with posters of scantily clad ladies as is normal practice round here.
One passerby was heard to remark "these giant leaf flowers, or whatever they are, are all very colourful and nice, and that, but they aren't going to make me fall off me bike when I'm cycling home."
"I want pictures of young ladies not wearing much, that's what billboards are for, do the advertising execs not know nothin' innit?"
Thanks to Spacedman for the tip. I knew Cumbria Uni were using one of my pictures but they hadn't said when they were going up so it was quite a gleeful surprise to see a couple of billboards with one of my pictures emblazoned across it in my home city.
There's supposed to be some others too, bus shelter posters and in the national press, so if anyone sees anything I'd love to hear about it. I don't know how far and wide they're going to be, or how many either but besides, seeing them in your home city is a pretty thrilling experience.
Oh and I have another exhibition starting Monday in the Warehouse Cafe at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, on for the next six weeks. The other exhibition at Gallery 23 in Lancaster is still on until October too.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Something I often wonder about is do you make your own luck? Indeed, what is luck exactly?
I seem to always have luck with spotting wildlife. Whenever I'm out somewhere, and not just when making land art, wandering, walking, cycling I always seem to see something or other. And particularly when I'm not trying to spot anything.
The other day my chain popped off on a hill and as I waited by the side of the road I saw a juvenile woodpecker attacking a rotten log on the ground. Ok, that isn't that remarkable but wherever I find myself there's always something. Stoats, brown hares, lizards, rodents, bats, birds of prey, foxes, dolphins, seals, crocodiles, great white sharks, polar bears, albatrosses and hump back whales. No really. Well half that list anyway.
Where I used to live I had a badger run through my garden, in both senses of the phrase, a badger did run through my garden and there also was a regularly used badger run, that ran through my garden. Sometimes in the summer I would hear them charging around in a loop, with the path by my house and the garden forming half the circuit, galloping and grunting. I think it was badger fruitiness in action. After work once I came down the path to be confronted by a fruity badger in full flight. You'd think that he would have turned round and scarpered. But he stood his ground and waited for me to move out of the way so he could resume his grunting gallop.
The other week I saw six kestrels in flight together, calling loudly to each other. My guess is they were four recently fledged youngsters and their parents. It was quite an astounding sight and I can remember many hundreds more interesting events I have been very fortunate to see.
Perhaps any of these encounters are unremarkable when taken on their own but they feel more remarkable when you add them all together.
So what's going on exactly?
I do believe that you make your own luck and much of it is a subconscious process. If you are open to things then you are much more likely to encounter them, if your mind is closed you wouldn't notice it if it was right in front of you in any case. But, perhaps, even more importantly luck is a frame of mind. If you feel fortunate and blessed and appreciate as much as you can in life then you are, indeed, fortunate and blessed, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bad luck is also a self fulfilling prophecy too in many cases. Often you get what your unconcsous mind thinks you deserve as you outwardly act to make those things happen, most of the time not being aware of it at all.
Of course, s**t happens too and not everything is down to good or bad luck. But lots of things are and much of our lives are within the control of our unconcsious minds.
However, that's where I consider my understanding to end. The power of the unconsious is astounding, and even if you cannot pin it down, it is acting on your behalf anyway, not always in a beneficial way but it is there behind you, steering you where it thinks you need to go.
I find, through my art, that I sometimes witness the results of my unconcsious mind without actually being aware of how it did whatever it did. I find this fascinating as there aren't any other things in my life where I've ever been aware of this.
A while back all my stories were filled with humour and that's because funny things always seem to happen whenever I was making something. Often the light would be in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time for a photograph or the materials I needed seemed to have been laid about the place ready for me to find them.
It happened again yesterday when I made this sculpture. For a couple of months I've been pondering how to capture the essence of high summer and that feeling you get when you while away a dreamy, warm afternoon, cooled by a light breeze, sitting in a meadow of gently waving grasses and wild flowers.
Last week I sat in such a place and studied the grasses and marvelled at their beauty, diversity and life force. The life force of nature in high summer is surely something to behold, and be part of and amongst.
I tried to use those grasses but did not have the skills with which to complete the task. So I went back again yesterday and tried again.
This time my unconcsious was ready and with what felt like no volition the scultpure started to make itself. I took some Horse Chestnut stalks and poked a hole in the end with a thorn. I threaded the first piece of grass into the hole and begun winding it around the stem, following the same process with each next piece and so on until I had three.
I showed Julia and she said "I like them, but I'm jealous, you always go the extra mile."
I disagreed and said "it's not like that, I just start and see what happens."
And so it was. The stalks were perfect for this application and the technique I devised was the first one I though of and it just worked. I didn't search for different materials, or try several different techniques. It just worked out this way first go, as though I'd practiced and practiced to come up with the best way to advance.
So often it feels like I'm not responsible, I try something, it works and I think "cool, how did that happen?"
I'm beginning to wonder if it happens because I've always loved nature and spent so much of my time out exploring somewhere on my own, even when I was really small. By opening my mind to the natural world I am afforded little extra glimpses of what's there and this plays out in making sculptures too.
And above all I feel tremendously lucky in so many aspects of my life and if I was to do the opposite of over analysing and sum up all the above in one sentence, I would say:-
"Take some time to sit in a summer meadow and watch the wild grasses wave to and fro, and you will feel like the luckiest person alive."
In a nutshell, I don't think there is anything else I need to know.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
At last I got out today to make some 'proper' land art. It didn't really turn out any good but the end result is not what real land art is all about for me. I'm pretty fed up with working late every evening and having little energy for anything creative so today was an all round good day.
Find somewhere quiet and sit down and absorb the ambience. Watch the swallows put on a aerobatic display and the tall grasses bend and flex in the summer breeze. Take time to wind down and pretty soon you become part of the landscape. Real land art means making something for yourself, not for an exhibition or to put on the internet. Look around and see the beauty and diversity around you. Delve deep into these things and see colours and structures you had not seen before. Immerse yourself in studying these things and learn a little more about what you find. With knowledge of new materials must come new ideas in which to use them in a construction.
The inherent properties of a little understood material, will mean you will have to devise new techniques with which to construct something from them. Are they strong and robust? Will they dry and break and become brittle? As you learn about the properties and structures you must create in new and different ways. By moving away from the familiar, the formulaic and the easy path, there are opportunities to feel immersed, meditative and connected once more to nature. Sometimes the learning curve is steep and the final sculpture unsuccessful when presented in an image. But who cares when the point is the discovery, the fascination of seeing the world afresh, anew and with a child's eyes.
I will try again with what I learnt about today and hopefully will have more success with a sculpture and image. But the tougher it is, when you are fully absorbed, is as successful as I ever want it. That's why it's been a good day. Shame it's blody work again tomorrow, late evenings weekends and more drudge! I think I need a holiday!
This is indeed made from Birch Bark and I took a sheet of Paper Birch and carefully cut out the letters. That took many, many days of toil and as well as what you see before you I also ended up with a numb and calloused finger that is only now beginning to come back to life, several weeks after I'd finished it!
I've been researching the colours of Birch for quite a while now and all the hues you see here are from thin sheets of Erman's, Chinese Red, Himalayan and Paper Birch bark, backlit by the sun. I'm quite astounded by the selection of colours available and how radiant they seem in natural light.
I made this for my exhibition and took it into them yesterday. I've been searching for ways to make natural art sculptures, still only made from natural materials but that can be brought into the gallery space or be sold as original artworks. Although bringing land art indoors is missing the point somewhat, most people don't get to see ephemeral artworks in situ and even if they did do, they wouldn't catch them at the optimum moment, as I try to in my photographs.
However, one thing I did learn about this sculpture is that, normally the photography is all part of the process. My best images are a combination of the right sculpture, the right light and the right time. The best stories I right come from that too. They all need to happen on the same day, I need to be in the groove to be inspired in the right way, to make something cool, to get a cool picture and to feel enthused in the story I write. All those things seem to flow together, when I've go my head in the right place. Each thing leads to the next and are all important components of the whole.
What I found with this bark sculpture, that it was bloody hard to get a photo I liked. I've tried for weeks to get what I wanted but none (including these) turned out the way I wanted them too, I'm not happy with any of them at all. It seems, that without the inspiration and meditation that comes from being in a natural place, feeling it and making something based on what you find and feel there and then, leads you to perform better when it comes to the photography. Being more attuned to the elements, the movement of the sun and the best aspects of a place are only gained through that immersion. Making something over several weeks and then taking it out to photograph it just didn't seem to work for me.
But, in a way, I think that's a good think. That this sculpture looks better in real life. After all that's what it is for, whereas the outdoor ephemeral stuff is the other way around. It just seems funny that I can't get a good picture of it, however hard I've tried. But this failure in getting a good image, has given me new insight into the inner workings of my creative process.
So this was my first attempt to capture the magic of land art, the intensity of colour,the surprising variety of materials and the beauty of Mother Nature, encapsulated into a single art object, still without having to use anything artificial that I do not allow myself when working outside.
I might frame it between two pieces of glass, to protect it and enable it to be displayed, perhaps backlit to show off it's colours. Whether I've been successful in creating an original land art object that someone may want to acquire I'm not so sure but if not, at the very least, it's put me onto the path where I might be able to do that in the future.
I have more ideas for ephemeral land art that can be brought into the gallery, in a way that I've never seen before. I just need the opportunity for more gallery space to give me the kick up the bum to give them a try.
I think I'm rambling so I'll sign off for now, I'm weary if you couldn't already tell. It's hard work sitting in the sun watching the swallows and listening to the rustling grass, I obviously need to be back at work for a rest!