Tag Archives: postaday

Communal Walking as Art: a Human Bar Code

IMG_1003

Certain weather conditions create different atmospheric ‘hues’.   Sunday’s stormy weather was no exception.   For me, the drama began the previous night when I was woken, not by the thunder and lightning, but by the sound of a very frightened whippet frantically digging up the rug in search of a hiding place.  I consequently spent much of the night trying to sooth her frazzled nerves.  As the new day dawned I just wanted to pull the covers up and ease myself into it by reading the papers in bed with a bowl of porridge and a double espresso.

IMG_1016

However, this was no ordinary Sunday morning.  After all, how often do you get the opportunity to be part of a ‘Hamish Fulton communal walk’?   Sunday’s walk was to be the second walk organized by the ‘walking artist’, as part of The Cornwall Workshop.  There is an excellent account of the first walk on Saturday, here, posted by Ellen Mara De Wachter, one of the Cornwall Workshop participants whom I met over a welcome mug of home-made soup at the Exchange afterwards.

IMG_1038

This communal walk was to be an orchestrated walk on the beach at Mounts Bay.  Nearly 200 people answered the call-up for volunteers, some travelling from as far away as London and who knows where else?  Low level rumbles of thunder could be heard in the distance as we gathered at Penzance station.  Most of us were muffled up against the storm clouds that not only threatened but also delivered their load of showers at intervals.  We had been told that once we started the walk we must not leave the line and that a lightning strike (a very real possibility) was the only thing that would cause it to be abandoned.

IMG_1043

The ‘collective’ snaked their way from the station along the sea wall beside the railway line, down the steps spilling out onto the beach.

IMG_1057

The walk had been timed to coincide with the lowest point of the spring tide, and having forded the river that runs onto the beach we once more gathered on the flat expanse of sand to await instructions.

IMG_1067

The plan: Two lines of 100 people in each, an arm’s distance apart, walking at a VERY SLOW shuffle in opposite directions like two trains passing each other on the tracks until the first in line comes level with the last in line on the opposite side.  In complete silence.  The whole event timed to take exactly one hour, with monitors placed in the middle of the line, scheduled to pass each other at the half way point – which they did, apparently.  At noon, on the dot, Hamish Fulton, at the front of ‘my’ line began the slow shoe-shuffle action and Jesse Leroy Smith began the procession of the opposite line, inch by slow inch along the sand.

IMG_1074

As queues go, these two were extremely well behaved.  I wondered if this might be possible anywhere else in the world?  I even felt guilty turning around to take a look down the line but did manage to take a few photos.  I turned my face towards the welcome rays of sunshine to counteract the icy blast coming from the west realizing too late I was facing the wrong way and should have been in the other line-up!   But as a normally solo walker, this experience felt very inclusive, and I was aware that I was participating in something unique.

IMG_1085

It was surprisingly peaceful.  The rain had stopped and except for a few inquisitive dogs and their walkers and the professional photographers with their cameras and tripods circling around us like predatory animals, we had this whole stretch of beach to ourselves.  A truly sentient experience: feeling the direction and strength of the wind on my face; measuring the distance my foot travelled at every step; the gentle sway of my body as it slowly moved forward at an imperceptibly slow pace; noticing where I directed my gaze, recognizing a few faces in the crowd of strangers; enjoying the wide assortment of foot-ware (and marveling at a couple of pairs of bare feet); a yellow coat providing a welcome accent of colour against the dark jackets; shadow shapes on wet sand looking like glazed pottery; hearing the roar of the wind and sea when I closed my eyes; feeling my body getting colder and my legs getting heavier whilst at the same time gradually becoming more tuned into the moment.

IMG_1084

200 people moving as one, converging to become a double exposure as seen from the inside.   The light on the beach at that moment could not have been more beautiful or the setting more spectacular with the backdrop of St Michael’s Mount.   As an observer, from the shore line and viewed against the light, the dark vertical lines must have appeared like a human bar code.  The angle from that viewpoint would be the more familiar one in Hamish Fulton’s imagery.  As a participant in this artwork, this was the hue of me: an anonymous black line in a slow-moving, human bar code.

IMG_1088

On the dot of one o’clock and at the climax of the synchronized lines, the crocodile just fell apart and we all dispersed as if we were on a film set and someone had shouted ‘cut’ though not a word had been spoken.   Groups of people began to drift off to resume their normal Sunday afternoon activities.

IMG_1091

I am aware my pictures tell their own story.

IMG_1097

I wonder what Hamish Fulton will make of it all?

IMG_1095

(See more The Hue of You, this week’s photo challenge, here.)

5 Comments

Filed under my sketchbook pages, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Getting Lost in a ‘Labyrinth of Solitude’

The other evening whilst I was sitting quietly in a circle with friends (see entry for 19th September), into my head popped the image of a labyrinth.  The strange thing is, it was imprinted onto the right side of my forehead and this seemed to be important for some reason.  With it came a long line of black chevrons closely spaced together.  The chevrons were the ones you get on the road to indicate a bend ahead and point in the direction you need to go, although these ones were not pointing in any particular direction.  It seemed perfectly logical to marry the chevrons with the image of a labyrinth which after all, is all to do with going round in circles.

I'itol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O'odham people who reside in the Tohono O'odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona.  This symbol (actually a a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person's journey through life with it's many twists and turns that represent choices we face.  The journey is one from darkness to light and the man at the top depicts birth and a guide for your journey until you reach the centre where you die where you are transported to the afterlife.

The I’itol symbol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O’odham people who reside in the Tohono O’odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona. This symbol (actually a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person’s journey through life with its many twists and turns that represent the many choices we face along the way. The journey is one from darkness towards enlightenment and the man at the top depicts your guide who is with you on your journey from your birth until you reach your death at the centre from where you will be transported to the afterlife.  I wonder where I am / you are on that journey?

The next day in my studio, I open the page in the book I am currently working on (about my St. Michael’s Way Walk), which is all about getting lost.  Getting lost is only a problem and a cause for anxiety when there are constraints on time, such as reaching your destination within a calculated time-span or arranging to meet someone at a specified time and not being able to make it.  Then it struck me that getting lost is very much like being in a labyrinth.  And I am reminded of a quote by the Mexican writer, Octavio Paz, in his book of essays, ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude‘ in which he delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as ‘hidden behind masks of solitude’:

“Man is nostalgia and (in) a search for communion.  Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.”

'Stop, Look, Listen, work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen’, work in progress

And the more I think about it the more I realise that getting lost is in fact getting found!   It is only in that solitude that I am able to find my true voice.  Far from being fearful of finding my way back to the path, I am beginning, more and more to relish the peace that being alone brings: a space in which I can commune with my creative urges.  Perhaps we should learn to cherish those moments of getting lost more: how else might we stumble upon the unexpected, discover new directions or see a familiar thing from a different angle?  Often, getting lost, forces us to ask for help, something a lot of us are not very good at doing.

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock)  work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock) work in progress

Although this post doesn’t strictly speaking, fit into a conventional ‘photo challenge’ I felt it was appropriate.  For other ideas on this weeks Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns, see here.

P.S.  23rd September.  Walking the dogs today I notice that someone has been out flaying the edges of the paths (as they are wont to do).  In the debris lying on the ground, I rescued a few sprigs of purple heather (Cornish Heath) which I decided to take home and put in a little pot vase.  Being mildly aware that ‘someone’ has prompted me to do this (I often get this feeling), when I got home I went on-line to find out what the flower meaning for heather is, only to discover that it is ‘Solitude’.  What a lovely poetic endorsement.  Thank you!

10 Comments

Filed under Dpchallenge, Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Inside the Passion Flower: A Mandala for Love

The inside of a Passion Flower is a sexy thing: with its male and female parts clearly designed to entice visiting insects, targeted by a ring of pearly white petals and a halo of blue, white and purple radial filaments.  It has always been one of my favourites.

I grew this vine from a cutting

I grew this vine from a cutting

A Wikipedia extract:

The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:[citation needed]

Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism

I can appreciate all the Christian symbolism and in the past I have picked these beautifully structured flowers with their purply-blue and white petals that represent the higher chakras associated with communication and connections with the spirit world, to place on graves and even in the burial of a much-loved horse that was a very sad loss for his grieving owners.

However, for me, the passion flower signifies physical passion and love.  I was given a cutting by a former lover and planted it where it could grow as a canopy over the garden gate leading to my house.  It flourished as did the relationship, the passion flower serving as a LOVE Mandala to welcome the many, many visitors who passed underneath its spreading habit before crossing our threshold to the sacred space we shared in our home.  Sadly, times have changed and I no longer live in the old Farmhouse but I’m pleased to say the passion flower continues to flourish.  In fact it is so prolific that it has to be regularly hacked back so that people can reach the front door, even despite being regularly battered by the winds blowing off the moors.   This is some comfort to me and serves as a reminder of past loves.  In the language of flowers, the passion flower represents faith and belief.  For me, that is faith and belief in the power of love.

still prolific!

still prolific!

I’ve just taken a look at the pictures on line and am amazed by all the different varieties.  But for me, none of them are as beautiful as the humble(?) Passiflora caerulea.

For other views of this week’s Photo challenge: Inside, see here.

2 Comments

Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Wordpress Photo Challenge

A Panoramic Stitch-Up

Recently, I have been feeling the need to make some panoramic shots of my walks and have been waiting for the time when I can upgrade my iphone for the new one which does super-duper panoramic panning shots.  Well, who am I kidding?  That’s just not going to happen!  So I decided to see what I could do with a couple of apps I already have and started to play around with them.  The results were intriguing and I got carried away with the possibilities.  Here are a few of my initial experiments.  (click on them to enlarge the image)

It is my habit to take more than one photo of the same subject.  Stitching these single images together proved to be an interesting digital version of a Hockney style montage.

buddleia 1

buddleia 1 (stitched from several ‘still-life’ images of same subject)

buddleia 2

buddleia 2

Welsh cave montage

Welsh cave montage

Dartmoor leaves (River Avon, Dartmoor)

Dartmoor leaves (River Avon, Dartmoor)

Pembrokeshire beach pebbles

Pembrokeshire beach pebbles

Closer to Home: Interior Spaces 2 ways

interior 2

interior 1 (grainy black and white film version of ‘interior 2’)

interior 1

interior 2 (taken with camera in landscape mode)

Popping out to my small terrace I shot this 2 ways: Exterior Textures

terrace 1

terrace 1 (taken with camera in landscape mode)

terrace 2

terrace 2 (grainy tint version)

See other ideas for this weeks’ photo challenge: One Shot. Two Ways, here

Leave a comment

Filed under Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages, Studio Practice, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Ephemeral Beauty

It’s not always the big dramatic things that move us to tears by their splendour, but often the little, insignificant things that have a beauty all of their own, often passed by without even being noticed.  Just like this little cluster of fine seed-laden grass that is bowing under the weight of hundreds of tiny jewel-like droplets of rain.  Each tiny bubble sparkles as the light is refracted like stems in a glass of water.  What makes it even more poignant is the fact that just one more drop could disturb the whole lot, a passing animal brush past them or a breath of wind ruffle through these delicate stems and suddenly, the drops are gone and lost forever.  Such is the ephemeral nature of our fragile, living world.

tiny droplets of rain on grass

tiny droplets of rain on grass (taken with the phone camera)

More ideas of BEAUTY, Daily prompt: Moved to Tears, here

4 Comments

Filed under my sketchbook pages

Back to the Future: Walking with Purpose

watercolour drawing of coastal path

watercolour drawing of coastal path

Warning: Some of the content in this post is of a personal nature which some readers may find offensive (tongue firmly in cheek).

It is said (by that illusive person ‘they say‘) that it ‘takes one to know one’.  I’m talking about the committed walker.  It is not difficult to spot them: the walker-with-purpose.  They are different.  Different from the dog-walker out for a ramble with the pooch; different from the afternoon strollers walking off the Sunday roast and definitely different from the tourist who always manages to look just a little bit dazed.  No.  They stick out from the crowd in a far more arresting way.  They have an expression on their face that is totally focused on the task in hand.  They often have a ‘rugged’ look about them and carry a small (sometimes large) rucksack with essential items: water bottle, map, shower macs, note-book perhaps and they are dressed in earnest.  By that I mean, they wear proper, serious walking shoes/boots and evident layers of clothing that are ready to be whisked on or off at a moment’s notice according to weather conditions.  They even bend forward in their act of walking as if their head is propelling them to move forwards.  All the signs indicate purpose.

IMG_8845

I passed one such character yesterday who held a notebook in his hand on which was written a load of stuff in pencil.  How I would love to have stopped and asked him about the secrets of that notebook.  Was he a writer / poet……or were these directions he had scribbled out for himself?  He wore an invisible bubble around him and I felt unable to penetrate his private mission had I even had the nerve to do so.  One instinctively knows when to leave well alone.  This was not a time to intrude on a mindset obviously intent on some sort of inner journey.  These people seem to occupy a space between the physical world and a private ‘other’ world lost in thought.

IMG_9573I still consider myself an apprentice walker.  I’ve had over half a century to hone this particular craft but there is a lot to learn about the ways of the path and I am in the process of establishing my own etiquette, and more importantly, trying to find a way of integrating it into my creative practice in such a way that is meaningful and based on my own experience.

pencil and watercolour drawing of path through trees

pencil and watercolour drawing of path through trees

Knowing your limitations should never hold you back but I have learned to pace myself.  A twisted ankle means weeks of painful bruising and time off for healing, so a lot of my time spent walking is watching where I put my feet.  However, there is a section of my daily walk between two gates where there is a small incline.  I have started to use this section to gently jog along to build up my core strength.  I say jog, it’s more like an ungainly stagger.  You see, I wasn’t designed to run….and those sisters out there who have been ‘blessed’ with an ample bosom will sympathise with me.  But I’ve brought myself a new ‘over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder (Two Ronnies) sports bra which makes trotting more bearable, and I kid myself that the last part of this particular stretch is flatter so will be easier.

beach boulders, mixed media collage

boulders of the beach kind, mixed media collage

The other item on my essentials list is a ‘hiking’ stick….the carbon-fibre kind as opposed to the oap kind.  (I did have two but lost one along the way.)  This is an invaluable aid as an extension of my arm for steadying myself on uneven ground, a lever to pole-vault puddles or ditches, and  shepherding dogs into the curbside.  It is also a useful back-scratcher, or a fly switch in the same way that a horse might use his tail.  Those horse flies are particularly pesky at the moment.

those pesky flies, mixed media on paper

those pesky flies, mixed media on paper

All the images for this post are anachronistic as I have chosen to use artworks that come out of different periods in my practice.  As with everything in life, your knowledge is mostly based on your past experience and walking is no different.  The difference is in the degree of intention and I shall continue to endeavor to find my own way of walking with purpose.

See more posts on Anachronism: ‘Back to the Future’ here

6 Comments

Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Walks

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fore(shore)shadows

To foreshadow is to portend or indicate a future event.  I am always looking for signs in the landscape that might be messages for me, so I have chosen to focus on some foreshore images for this weeks’ photo challenge.  These shadows are based on the rhythms of time.

ripples left in the sand reflecting the state of the outgoing tide

ripples left in the sand reflecting the state of the outgoing tide – an event in the recent past

The foreshore is the part of the seashore between the high-water mark and the low-water mark.  It gets covered twice a day and is subject to the particular mood of the sea and state of the moon on any particular day.

Sometimes, the beach shows up unusual patterns and here a new moon shape suddenly appears on the beach.

A reverse shadow. This pale patch of sand creating an arc of light on the beach is a strange anomaly.  I have no idea how it was formed, and least of all what it might mean.

This pale patch of sand creating a perfect arc of light on the dry beach is a strange anomaly.  I have no idea how it was formed, and least of all what it might mean.

This shadow is a result of a recent landslip depositing its spoil on the beach.

Soil, silt, sand

Soil, silt, sand

Exposed fragments of rock are a shadow of past geological processed and a demonstration that nature is cyclical.

exposed rock fragments

exposed rock fragments

And our own shadows are fleeting as the beach becomes a recreational play space as we pass through it.

playful shadows

playful shadows

And strange shapes appear when I start to play with photos of blackthorn that grow on the dunes.

layered photographic artwork

layered photographic artwork

Micro-organisms that live in the shallows we can’t even see with the naked eye.

micro-organisms that dwell in the shallows

micro-organisms that dwell in the shallows

Is a darkening sky always the portent of a storm or just the closing of another day?

impending storm

impending storm in evening light?

See other images for the weekly photo challenge: ‘Foreshadow’ here.

5 Comments

Filed under my sketchbook pages, Wordpress Photo Challenge