Plane Trees

Man in shop : Are you local?
Me : Yes

Today I walk through London Fields with Molly. Overcome with the beauty of an avenue I try and draw the plane trees again, as I did this time last year.

To think I could draw them, understand them in a matter of hours when they have been here doing their stuff for three times my lifetime. Their history is rich and deep, they sit together, making patterns on the grass but I feel relaxed because I think I will have time with them.

They think the land we walk through at least twice a day is called London Fields because it was on the main footpath from Essex to the City of London. When you crossed this field you were only 2 miles from the City gate. It was one of the many ‘commonable lands’ of Hackney where the commoners of the parish could graze their livestock on the fields from Lammas Day to Lady Day*. This arrangement was known as Lammas Rights and was protected by law.

Campaigners saved the land from ‘predaceous developers’ who were nibbling at the edges of London Fields claiming the ‘Lammas rights as little used and of no value’. They won, it was made into a park and fresh grass seed was sown and the trees planted.

One hundred and fifty seven years later this same land holds huge trunks that split strong into wide yearning branches ending in twisty reaching twigs whimsically projecting last years seed which hang like tiny babbles silhouetted against a dense blue sky. Parakeets pootel about on their patterned boughs and their calls fill the air and take me to Barcelona, our last adventure.

 

43 | Dandelion Seed

‘Today is mine. I feel severed. Like most of me has been hacked off and the remainder rises under a canopy like a dandelion seed, I waft about wonderfully with no apparent direction. Yes I am still a couple of stone overweight but I feel light. Not confused, and so free it makes me want to cry.’

 

But this adventure is different. London’s veins run deep and have echoes from my past. This move is heavier, feels more permanent.

Time has been traveling super fast as I shuffle boxes in-between Bristol, Wales and London. But as the boxes begin to settle it seems London will be my heavy space. My getting stuff done space. The plinths, the shelves, the logistics, the finishing, the shows.

Maybe people’s perception of artists is they are like dandelion seeds but being a sculptor with ambition does not make you free. Excited, exhilarated and sometimes scared, yes, but free, seldom.

It’s been an unsettling and frustrating time of making no sculpture. But today is Sunday, it’s quite and things are becoming clear. I realise how lucky I am. My hypochondria is on high alert only because I am so excited about what is to come. London is my heavy space and also my learning space, my input space. Wales, the chapel with it’s white boards and lofty room, the Olchon valley, Hay’s Bluff …that’s my light space. That’s where I can be a dandelion, safe in the knowledge I have created my own breeze, where I can make, I can woft, I can be free.

Man in shop : Are you an artist?
Me : Yes
Man in shop : You look like an artist.
Man in shop : I meant that as a compliment.

 

Reference 

http://jonmartindesigns.com/Mike/Londonfieldshistory (pdf)

*from Lammas Day (Anglo Saxon for bread mass), August 1st, celebrating the first loaf after the crops had been harvested, to Lady Day, March 25th.

My Hackney Holiday

Reaching out for knowledge is a funny thing.
It would be good if by doing so the image of yourself stayed the same.
But it doesn’t.

It shifts and grows and shrinks, as if you are sitting in a train
looking out at yourself standing on a platform.
And the train comes in and out of the station.

Your form, like your ego shifts.
Often it is so small it’s
like a pin.
A stripe of figure with a head.

Even from a distance we can recognise this as human.
A little closer the stance is particular.
Closer and you see yourself again
but with knowledge you are altered.

Like gathering candy floss, images come with you.
Jewels float from Victoria and Albert’s stained glass
(which you hated at the time)
and from a tapestry with mad eyes.

 

I could hardly see myself when I arrived,
The tiredness from a years working on adrenalin,
a new space to live, new studio, 2 months of nothing mapped.
But I walked on roots.

The planes outside our window grow on common land.
Their foundations must reach to the edges of the park
so at turf level, below the branches,
we are enveloped in wood.

Days spent in low sun and the patterns of branches,
the unfamiliar becomes the regular
and you find the right route,
the super highway.

And like Barcelona it makes you break into song while riding your bike.
Its January, its raining and cold
but from the cycle path the outlook over the river is awesome.

 

One week in the national gallery
is enough to alter the currency.
The anxiety of a workaholic
switches to self investment, to enquiry.

I went medieval.
I went baroque, I even found Jesus.
And Mary.
And Venice.
I could go on.

The great masters like route planners,
they handed a baton,
they said yes.

After a couple of beers your ambition swelled
to be as great as Amadeus
and ‘so lofty you shat marble’.

Yes, you could be as good as Raphael.
Given the time, the space.

 

The equation is a third.

I am only working to a third of my ability.
(ok so add two thirds I admit Raphael and Mozart may still be a reach)

But as you stared close up at your mad and excited face
the train pulls away.

 

Back in class, learning.

I always said drawing was humbling but then add a tutor’s
knowledge, even just their power to retain names makes you small.
Eating out, drinking, growing physically larger makes you small.
A weakness is exposed, a chink,
and you go for self destruct.

The train moves out and even the pin starts to haze.
You need help to get back into the station.

You reach out by email, ‘I need a guide to help me see myself’.
I check my website to make sure I don’t look too shoddy
and realise that I am back on the platform.

 

I am suddenly back in my body.
The equation is still two thirds
but I have a strong third here.
I am actually a painter after all.

 

 

 

p.s.

Graham says ‘it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t give yourself a hard time about it’
Yes, correct Graham.

But Graham,
it does matter.
It does matter what you do.
2/3 rds Graham,
that’s how much it matters.

 

 

SaveSave

A reluctant tenant …

Want less, do more.

The wind tickles the trees now, the energy in the wind has gone and I sit quiet within ancient walls. The valley is sunday silent and I wonder why I always want to complicate things. The problem lies in ambition. The problem lies in wanting to settle, in wanting permanence.

I am just a visitor to this place of oak structures, of piles of stones pulled by gravity, of secret still ponds wrapped by white flowers in lowlands and wild winds roaring through trees in uplands. Temporary is my time in the colours of spring. Maybe I will see only one low summer’s stream trickle over red rocks.

I have difficulty living in the present without a care for the future. Maybe I am more of a homemaker than a nomad, I want to be cool and appreciate our time here and I tell myself constantly that the temporary nature of a tenancy can be a freedom not an anxiety. Yes I love it so much, and everyday I am here it gets stronger and deeper, something of the ancient seems to seep in from the structures and the land but to try and own this would mean chaos and pressure and distraction, not freedom.

And I am a sculptor.


And we have this place until the spring and maybe longer and after that we may find something else. We may even find something less ambitious to buy and make our own.  Just appreciate time, space and nature for what it is …it doesn’t have to be owned, it doesn’t have to be ‘a project’, it doesn’t have to be ‘a painting’  you can just look and love.

And then go home and make sculpture.

First weekend country cottage!

Me looking mental after muddy walk, Molly sniffing poo

front door

kitchen

kitchen window

View from office window

View from garden towards Hay Bluff


View looking left

first sunday breakfast

bedroom landing

 


colour from bedroom skylight

Trip into Hereford to sign papers and popped into the cathedral


the cathedral heaters 

graham with his mop!


  

First wet sunday walk out the back of the cottage


looking back towards the farm


Graham enjoying the mud!

very wild and wet and muddy first weekend in the country cottage! it all seems to be sheep farming there so the fences are very lamb proof which means we have to lift a very muddy molly over the styles and subsequently get very muddy

kitchen is a panoramic photo so it looks bigger than it is, and actually nicer than it is but its great having a proper kitchen, the wood burning stove is epic ( good toad size ) ,  the windows are wooden and as the rain was sideways this weekend we mopped up leaks as the rain didn’t seem to notice the windows that well, its lovely as we get to live in a really old house and one that we could never afford to buy without giving up on Bristol, ( bit of a history lesson on kings and queens but I think its mostly elizabethan, next door which is the main house she says there are tudor bits, all the oak paneling was sold off by the previous previous people when they got short of money and the stone tiles of another building…. which has subsequently fallen down )

Back in the day, to build they dug the stone up from their field so next to a lot of the small farms are little disused quarries. and wow what a lot of stone, the wind was battering it and it was very stubborn! It is so unbelievably windy!…”you know what you get with a view” ha ha …back in the flat now nature is tamed by the town and it feels very quiet! ?

The hill in front of the house is the black mountains and view from the garden the big one is Hay Bluff which had snow on it yesterday. it all feels a bit surreal as normally we would go down to devon/cornwall for a weekend away so going north feels a bit random but its an experiment so we shall see, herfordshire and wales are our nearest real rural, lots of old small farms and then lots of people ‘living the dream’ with lots of sheds and chickens etc, living in both places is perfect, its an easy drive and slightly reminded me of yorkshire in places today?

we have 5 bookings on the flat which so far has psychologically paid for 2 months at the cottage. Someone may take it for a month which would be another 3 months paid for, one of those weeks we are in berlin so it might work out

decided contrast is my key word…. contrast enables me to see things, you cant draw without using some kind of contrast. Friends come frist wherever but the country, the picturesque, feeds my soul and the town feeds my head, and then I feed my stomach…a little too often!