‘Somerset Reacquainted’ ‘SHIFT’
Two projects occupied me during the lockdown year, becoming linked in my creative output. In 2019 I took on the coordination of a Contains Art - Somerset Wildlife Trust partnership project, a development project for a group of Somerset artists, responding to the aims of Somerset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Somerset’s Brilliant Coast’ initiative. In spite of lockdown restrictions the group came together during 2020-21 for some field research and meetings, learning from SWT’s project leader and marine biologist Dr Mark Ward.
In spring 2020 Somerset Art Works initiated a project ‘Somerset Reacquainted’ to connect artists through the lockdown, giving a platform for artists to share the experience of working within the enforced limits of our locality, with restricted resources. I was delighted to be invited to take part. My focus during the spring lockdown, became the rockpools on Watchet’s West Beach. Inspired by the Brilliant Coast connection I became fascinated with seaweeds. I enjoyed the slow, painstaking process of unravelling the delicate algae, drying and pressing them to use in prints. A challenge was being unable to travel to Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter, so I was thrown back on my tiny, tabletop press. ‘Somerset Reacquainted’ was exhibited at the Somerset Rural Life Museum in the autumn of 2020 and toured to several Somerset venues in 2021, with new work. 'SHIFT", an exhibition presenting the coast project was shown at East Quay, Watchet, In the autumn of 2021. Plans are in train for the project to continue. I have also been able to exhibit prints developed as a progression from these projects at Exeter RAMM with Double Elephant members. This exhibition opened briefly in October 2021 but was curtailed by lockdown. It will reopened on 20 November 2021, running to 23 January 2022.
‘Sylva’: A response to the forests and woodlands of the Quantock Hills and Exmoor
.This work was created for a group exhibition that I coordinated at Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, on the edge of the Quantock Hills AONB, during Somerset Art Weeks Festival, 2019, As well as being SAW's Silver Anniversary, 2019 was the Centenary year of the Forestry Commission, which manages much of the Quantock Forest. There was a wish to highlight the importance of the cycle of decay and renewal through the forest floor and, in general, the fragility of this natural environment. I collaborated with artist Lucy Lean in an investigation of Japanese boro tradition, in which fabric is constantly recycled to repair and renew garments through a layered patchwork with distinctive stitchwork. We each created a kimono-like, lifesize garment. Mine was made entirely from recycled prints from my hoard of proofs, failures and rejects. For the printed paper to be thin enough for this purpose it had to be soaked and the top layer carefully separated. Some ‘patches’ were overprinted using leaf, fern and root structures, collected in the forest, dried, pressed and used as stencils. These natural materials were also used as textures in the collagraph plates used to print other work for the project. Besides the kimono smaller pieces were also constructed by stitching recycled print patches. This process of recycling waste prints into new work is ongoing.
A continuing inspiration for my work has been the unique geology of the West Somerset coast, which is well known to geologists for its exposure of lower Jurassic strata. During 2015-16 I was part of a development project that supported a group of artists to make work responding to this theme. We investigated the subject deeply, making field trips with local geologists, visiting museums, researching geological texts and maps and following other relevant creative projects. The 'geology project' group showed twice at Contains Art, continuing to develop new work, then took exhibitions to The Town Mill at Lyme Regis, during the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in 2018 and later to The Somerset Earth Science Centre in 2019 for their 'Mendip Rocks' festival. My own work responds to the visual impact of the layered colours and textures in the cliffs and across the foreshore but also to the stratigraphic diagrammatic presentation and description of these layers in the British Geological Survey memoirs that form the basis of their geological maps.