Sunday 4 November 2018

' You Are Here' Mapping a sense of place with Matthew Harris in Puglia

2 weeks ago I was in sunny Italy   at the  Masseria  della Zingera  in Puglia, on course with Matthew Harris 'You are Here' : Mapping a sense of Place.   It was a fabulous stimulating experience in a lovely location in excellent company   and I'm still unravelling the processes involved in producing the piece above  and beginning to explore how I might apply them to my own developing  work.  Besides providing insightful ( and sometimes challenging)  suggestions   throughout  the week, based on our individual experiences and preferences, Matthew gave a talk about how he makes his own work. I heard him speak at FoQ  last year  ( about 'Field Notes' collaboration)   but seeing samples in the flesh  and hearing more about the thought  that goes in to them was fascinating.  

 We had an extensive list of things to bring and the outline of the workshop - that we would be beginning with drawing using a variety of media , tools and scale  to explore ways to respond to the surrounding environment  which would form the basis of  2 and 3d dimensional work that reflects a strong sense of personal and environmental place.   How it evolved I'll be revealing over a series of blogposts 
 On the first morning  we each went out on walk for an hour - in the grounds and the surrounding roads,  being mindful of the experience and collecting things as we did so ( including a large and small stick to be used as drawing implements ) . As part of the walk , we were also to find our 'space'  where we would each be working/ recording  in and from during the week . There was so much rubbish along the roads ( particularly plastics)  I collected examples of that as well as lots of plant material, doing my bit to clean up. 
 After morning coffee  we  were each given a  3m long   strip of  paper   and laying them out in the courtyard outside the studio  we  slowly drew the memory of our walk along the whole length of  it using firstly the  large stick and an  orange ink  made from prickly pear (reinforced with a small amount of procion )  and then drew from the other end  with a grey ink (  Indian ink diluted 1:8 ) with the smaller stick.   Trips to find more stones was required as they took off in the breeze!  
We then repeated the process  with the scroll of acrylic sized calico  Matthew supplied, laying it over the paper for convenience  but not tracing the marks, remembering the walk yet again . The size gave the fabric a papery feel but reacted differently. 
The next exercise  was to put  the drawing on paper  up on the design board  and choose  marks to with and make 3d drawings using some of the items we'd collected 

 I must admit  I struggled with this.  Besides  remodelling a bit of wire I'd found, my main focus was on the ink blots - finding   similarities in the  holes in walnut shells . Bethan ( fellow Cwilt Cymru exhibiter)  was much more imaginative , making a wonderful mobile from grasses based on her marks. 
 Doing blind drawings on our fabric scrolls   of objects by feel alone  was far more satisfying  - choosing different media to depict  varying textures and shapes. I used a fine Pigma  pen for a textured metal strip;  graphite for a pine cone; a very large Pitt pen marker for a crushed plant pot. I rather regretted the graphite at a later stage when layering colours as it made everything very grubby , should have bought some hairspray  as fixitive with me! 

We then listed words at the bottom of our drawing on paper about our space and objects  to act as prompts and reminders. Among my finds  were some old faded cigarette boxes and a tatty piece of cardboard  with writing on -  what is about foreign handwriting  that's so fascinating? 

First thing on the second day  we were asked to curate our objects, grouping them by type, colour, textures, shape,  and then working  on our cloth from one end , to draw some  of these groups and objects   in ink. 
The  drawings of shibori -like lines of twine, fibre and wire  remained my favourite part  and I reluctant to alter them  until  at the last minute on the last day  with Matthew's encouragement I finally plucked up the courage to obliterate the marks ( on the basis  of  being able to repeat and reinstate) . They're still there  but hidden among the layers, resulting in a much richer texture.   

 The main focus of the week however was  going to work  in  our 'space'. We paid a visit there each day , taking our fabric , responding to a series of  6 prompts , chosen by throwing a dice. Later we had the addition of  a series of 6 tasks to complete , also selected by throwing a dice, working down the cloth and back again so that you could see the development of ideas. Bethan's space  was a popular choice  with steps leading up a wall, mine wasn't too far away.I'd been there on the first morning sketching a distant church  so it selected itself and   the combination of natural and manmade features and viewpoints  worked out very well.   

On the last  afternoon after clearing up we laid the cloths on the floor and discussed the very varied approaches before draping them on the line outside in the  glow of the glorious setting sun. Difficult to believe we'd all started out with the same  paper,cloth and materials. 


Pheasant Run Studio said...

That sunset could win a prize!

Judy Martin said...

oh my goodness - this course sounds amazing, thank you for describing the process you went through so thoroughly.