Saturday, 12 April 2008

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Week 6 at Wooda

Elspeth Owen came to Wooda for the final week of the residency, as did Debbi Purtill. Each morning Elspeth, Max, Debbi, Riccardo and I meditated for twenty minutes.

Meditation has become a very important part of my life ever since taking a course three years ago on Holy Isle with Alistair Appleton. I have kept in touch with Alistair since then and the emails he sent me during my time at Wooda helped me to focus the meditation sessions during this final week. In fact, one of my main aims of this residency was to further explore the relationship between meditation and creativity. I and the artists that I regularly work with use personal aspects of ourselves as a creative resource - drawing upon life experiences and deep seated emotions, and it takes great skill to employ these aspects successfully - it is very easy to fall into self-indulgence. Meditation has given me more tools to tap into myself in order to more fully encounter what lies within and creatively use the energy that this provides whilst keeping a healthy degree of objectivity. And I believe that through my meditation, with its inherent personal exploration, I am becoming a better facilitator of other people’s creative endeavours.

We followed each morning meditation with yoga. The yoga prepared Debbi and Riccardo for a day of dancing.

The main focus of the final week was for me to choreograph a live performance piece for Debbi and Riccardo. During this process they found a special compatibility as dance partners - they moved beautifully together enhancing the choreography considerably. I created a dance work in response to my time at Wooda and staged it in the fabulous interior structure of the barn studio. The movement utilised the different levels of the counterbalanced rostra, the windows and the recess in the floor. I created a film to accompany the movement and this was projected onto a screen at one end of the barn. In the evening the film and the dancers were reflected in the glass of the large windows, which gave the feeling that what was happening inside was being pushed outside, beyond the confines of the studio. We created a very organic dance piece in answer to the environmental changes I had experienced in the six weeks I had been at Wooda. I was also keen to explore within the work how we occupy the same moments in time but have independence and often find ourselves in different places to one another - emotionally as well as physically. Whilst wandering around the farm or working in the stable studio at Wooda, I would periodically hear Max practicing his piano playing and loved the juxtaposition that this had with the landscape and the sounds of the farm. I asked him if he’d be willing to play for the performance; he agreed and improvised beautifully around a Bach prelude. This gave a special added dimension to the work - it is always such a joy to have live music.

At the end of this week there was a planned sharing of all the work made during my time at Wooda. So, I had to ensure that there was time to pull together the different elements of the project. In the stable studio I reinstalled Lane - the work I’d created in collaboration with Trish O’Shea with the addition of images that Trish had had printed onto foam board and sent to me. I also decided to rework three of the ‘Weaves’ I had created earlier (see week 2) by attaching them to two old wooden chairs and a small broken stool. I wanted not only to have the acetate printed images of the ‘Weaves’ on show in Perspex boxes but felt the need for some of them to be present in their original form. The walks I took to gather the objects for the Weaves were taken at specific high and low water times. I had been curious to know where the artists who’d be joining me at Wooda were at those particular times and so had requested this information by text message. It felt right that the chairs and the stool not only became a resting place for the objects but should also give reference to where Trish, Debbi and Riccardo were at the corresponding times. Elspeth suggested I stencilled this information on the chairs and the stool, which worked beautifully. I felt that by using the furniture I’d made resting places for these different elements all linked by specific moments in time. It was as though I had woven together time, discarded objects and different locations and events. I had anchored them to the chairs and stool and by doing so the chairs and stool took on a role like that of a meditation cushion - seats where we witness our take on the past and the future as we try to allow ourselves to experience being in the present.

Guests were invited to view the artwork on the afternoon of the 9th March - Lane in the stable studio, the Weaves (chairs, stool and images in boxes) and two films in the barn studio. As darkness started to fall it was wonderful to be able to observe from the stable the projected films in the barn framed by the doorway - a lovely way to link the different elements of the work and the two studios. At 7pm we prepared the barn studio for the live performance and despite it being such a wet evening about twenty people witnessed, in what felt an intimate setting, Riccardo and Debbi’s beautiful dancing to film images and sounds collected from around Wooda and Max’s piano improvisation.

Thursday, 13 March 2008


It’s strange how time can become compressed
An aspect of oneself that has been there, constant but unconscious
I drive along the tree lined track and enter a new place, a new phase
Silence is pierced by needle-sharp birdsong
And the sound of wood being chopped punctuates time

A lunar day is 24 hours, 50 minutes and 28 seconds long

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Week 5 at Wooda

During week 5 I was joined by dancer Riccardo Meneghini. Not having worked with Riccardo before, I was curious to see not only how he moved but also how he engaged with my creative ideas, so I asked him to generate movement material in response to maps, diagrams of the night sky, a compass and words I had compiled in the previous weeks. Riccardo came up with material that I instantly felt I could work with and which we then developed together. We went on to investigate the idea of resistance within the body and how energy can be built, contained and then released. During the first couple of weeks at Wooda I had spent time filming myself inside an old metal seed feeder that I had found in one of the fields on the farm, experimenting with movement ideas. I now suggested that Riccardo improvise inside the feeder as we explored the potential of containing the entire body. We also created movement to be performed in the leaf shaped recess in the barn studio floor. These physically restricting places made Riccardo appear almost foetus-like and for me expressed what I sensed when I first arrived at Wooda, both at a creative level in myself and in the countryside as it waited for the onset of spring. By the end of week 5 Riccardo and I had compiled a vocabulary of movement that we used as a resource when we worked with dancer Debbi Purtill in the final week.

Week 3 & 4 at Wooda


Visual artist Trish O’Shea joined me at Wooda last week, bringing with her fresh ideas and giving new impetus to the project. We both wanted to develop the idea of journeying through landscape so we decided to walk from the studio to the sea at Crackington Haven. We chose to walk the same route twice, each on a different day and starting at a different time of day. For each walk we kept to a predetermined agenda – on the first occasion walking for ten minutes and stopping for two minutes to make notes and on the second we walked for five minutes and stopped for two. By keeping to these time frames we felt more strongly linked to time and place, enabling us to be in the present moment more fully. Each time we stopped at a particular place we recorded in notebooks our observations, thoughts and feelings. We wrote descriptions of sounds, colour, texture, light and objects in an attempt to record what in everyday life can often be overlooked. We took a fresh look at what could be found along a Cornish lane in February. We chose this particular route because it is normally driven along; by walking it we felt a sense of reclaiming what has become the domain of the motor vehicle. We paid attention to the manmade structures in this rural environment – the traffic signs, drainage covers, roadside hydrants, markers and telegraph poles and wires. On our return journeys we noted down all the text – notices, signs, names of houses, etc. - we found along the route and took photographs of the structures we passed.

We chose to use what we had gathered to create a new work in the stable studio at Wooda. The glass walls of the studio allow the ever-changing light from outside to impact on the interior, making it feel as if the space breathes with its surroundings. It is almost like the glass is semi–permeable, allowing the interior to feel part of the land and sky and giving a sensation of being inside and outside simultaneously. Inspired by all of this we chose to print the notes we had made onto transparent window film, which we then placed on the glass. We typed up, cut and pasted the text turning it into two parallel strips of poetry that lead the reader around the circumference of the studio. The text became part of the exterior landscape, linking our words, the structure of the studio and the landscape beyond.

We felt drawn to two containers that we found around the farm, the first being an old trunk and the second a metal container that once stood on wheels. We placed the trunk in the centre of the studio, as its dimensions corresponded to the dimensions of the studio. It is weathered and partially eaten by the horse! (It was once used to hold hay, now it contains dead leaves). The initials printed on its side indicate it once belonged to somebody; it resonates with mystery – to whom did it belong and where did it come from? The trunk seems to hold the past and by reclaiming it we have given it a new place and focus in the present.

We placed the metal container outside the studio on the adjoining decked area. To us it reflects the manmade utilitarian aspects of the land we observed on our walks. The container’s interior alludes to nature, its colours being the same as the local slate, and its patterns reminiscent of seabirds and ripples on water. Placed where it is on its end with its inside surfaces facing the studio, the container reflects energy back inside. It is connected to the interior of the studio by a thin line of pieces of grey slate, starting inside on the studio floor and heading out along the decking to the container. This line is the same shape of the route of our walks as it appears on the map.

To further highlight the connection between the structure, ratio and form of the studio, the trunk and the metal container, we created a series of small boxes covered in the images of the manmade objects we came across on our walks. These boxes give reference to the geometric structures placed along this country lane and draw attention to the relationship between these structures and the wild plants that grow round them.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Week 2 at Wooda

The second week of the residency has flown by, mainly because I have begun to identify the direction of my work here at Wooda. In order to get to this point I have spent time considering just what it means for me to physically commune with this rural environment. In a second-hand bookshop in Bude I bought a book – Matisse on Art – to find out more about the artist and his thoughts on Art but found I had got more than I had bargained for when I discovered that a previous owner had obviously used the book for some sort of study and had underlined sentences and written notes in the margins. One quote that he/she wrote sums up well an important aspect of my work:

‘I believe neither in what I see, nor in what I touch – I believe only in what I feel. My brain and my reason appear to be ephemeral and of doubtful reality. Subjective emotion alone seems to me to be eternal and unquestionably certain.’

The impulse that underlies how I use my body and movement as a means for creative expression and how, in choreographic terms, the figure relates to the environment is important to me. So in my response to the different places I purposefully visit or just pass through in and around Wooda, I’m trying to avoid being descriptive and instead looking for an underlying feeling to then engender movement.

So, what have I felt? Over the first two weeks here I sensed in my surroundings an energy lying just below the surface. It was as though the land and its occupants were waiting for Spring – the buds about to burst, frogs watching from under the water, the earth waiting for warmer days. There was a feeling of anticipation and inevitability. On a personal level, my trying to unearth my creative direction seemed to run parallel to what I sensed was happening around me, and it was here that I felt a synchronicity between myself and the environment. My waiting for inspiration and the coming of Spring became my creative resource. As a result of this I created a short film in which I tried to capture the notion of waiting, being dormant as the environment changes and time shifts. In the film I appear submerged in water with floating leaves partly obscuring my face. This is set against a soundtrack made from birdsong mixed with the sound of wind and water recorded in and around the farm.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Week 1 at Wooda

Wooda is a wonderful place - fabulous accommodation and studios, you are made to feel very welcome, the animals are very friendly too, especially the cat. I am very grateful to Max, Gary and Elspeth for this opportunity. I recommend a visit to Elspeth Owen’s new website, it is a delight and an inspiration.

I have spent the past week gently settling into a different way of life and it will probably take me another week to really engage with my work. As part of my acclimatisation I have been walking, observing, reflecting and cogitating, as well as practising my daily yoga and meditation.

I have taken strolls around the farm – down into the woods and up into the top fields. On Wednesday I walked along the road to Crackington Haven. On all of my excursions I take photographs, collect objects and document my thoughts, so to some extent they are meditation walks, in so much as I am open to whatever arises. In response to what I have gathered I have created some visual pieces, which I have entitled ‘Weaves’. I wanted to find a way of combining collected objects with the thoughts and feelings I experienced on my walks. Some years ago whilst on the Isles of Scilly I created a piece from the objects I found on the beach which I wove into a piece of discarded fishing net. So this week, using the same idea I wove the items I had collected, along with some text I had written, through strings held taut around a box like the strings of a guitar. For me the strings symbolise time and the resonance of time, the tension of the strings holding disparate things together in one place. The intervals of the strings represent for me the pulse of time, rather like the beautiful wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh sound made by the wind turbine here at Wooda Farm. (By coincidence I happened to catch some of Tuesday’s Horizon television programme and was fascinated by what was said about time and String Theory.) I then scanned what I had woven and manipulated the images in order to achieve the ephemeral quality I was after. Each Weave is in response to one walk.

Today in the studio I started creating movement for camera. I find creating movement requires so much clarity of intent and emotional fuel; it is like trying to tap into a vein of wisdom and honesty, which takes a great deal of searching for. However, being outside has inspired me - feeling the damp and the rain, the cool wind and, yes even at the end of January, the warmth of the sun. At the bottom of the wood is a brook and being there in the pouring rain I witnessed an eerie beauty, a feeling of otherness and of being watched by wildlife and in response I started to improvise with movement, albeit in wellies!