2016: A Year in Review

2016 has been a busy year for developing my practice and what I have been researching over the last six months. I have seen many changes take place in my practice, with new ideas, new forms of making, exploring and a developing for the coming 2017. It’s been a while since I last wrote here and I promised to write more often; sharing my thoughts and ideas with everyone I follow and those who follow me in return. First I wish you all a Happy New Year and a productive, safe, happy, exciting and amazing 2017.

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The year began with the continuation of my reduction woodcut prints and painting – exploring ways to capture in paint my journeys in the landscape, recording through snippets of images seen, those pieces that caught my attention during my walks and cycling, in and around the Taunton Deane and Somerset/ Dorset area, exploring places that many might not be aware.

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Part of my resolutions for 2016 was exploring more of the countryside surrounding my current stay. I promised myself to spend more time with Nature and explore everything she has to offer an intrepid explorer into the realm of the mystical and magical landscape that inspired people in the past including Samuel Coleridge, Wordsworth, Friedrich, Turner, and even Hardy who I would consider a post-Romanticism writer who saw the benefit of walking in the landscape.

At this juncture I had no way of knowing where this would lead me in my work and the pathway yet to open before me in my development as a painter and printmaker of images.

During Spring and Summer I set about creating and exploring various ways of revealing the landscape in art through experimenting and using various ways of layering. I set about to seek another way of showing what and how landscape art could be seen. Something I did not know I would follow, considering I thought of myself mainly as a figurative painter and previously obsessed with ways the Media manipulate imagery for their own commercial gain.  On the flip side I am also aware how artists have always manipulated imagery for their own ends too.  Humans have always spun their stories and images for one gain or another.

However, this began to change during the process of attending various residencies in Cyprus and Spain during the years 2013 & 14.  Upon returning to the UK at the end of July 2014 I began teaching in the September at a PRU for 9 months at The Taunton Centre (Taunton Partnership College) – an amazing place to help young people obtain a GCSE in Art and Design and Photography.

During this period I spent time in the landscape, writing my stories (www.adamgrose.com/thedragonfly.html) and developing new ways of representing the landscape.

During time spent on a residency in Cyprus at the Cyprus College of Art and at the Malaca Instituto in Malaga, Spain, I spent a lot of time walking in the landscape, exploring mythology, pilgrimage, walking, erosion, entropy, iconography and my relationship with Nature.  Through meditative practices I was developing, I explored the ideas on Zazen and explored the philosophy of Zen practice and its influence on the development on Fine Art practices, thinking about how this could be utilised in my practice.  What I discovered during this process was the synchronicities that came with these practices, something that appeared to become more prevalent during my travels around Cyprus and Spain.

Where I travelled I found myself presented with artists influenced by the philosophy of Zen.  It was as though some subconscious self was directing me to places that had lain dormant in my mind for over 20 years, waiting for the time I would eventually spend time living and working in Cyprus and Spain – loving their poetic languages, cultures, peoples and art.

Exploring the countryside, walking personal art pilgrimages, I revealed much about myself and pathways I thought had disappeared under the growth of adulthood, and now these previous experimental processes of making work had begun to reveal themselves to me again – reinvigorating the spontaneity I had once enjoyed in my youth.  A synchronistic path revealed when one listens to the silence and the calming of the chatter from the everyday ruminations acting upon the conscious mind, in-turn revealing the falsities of particular quests and a return to a true culture one creates from within, not the one taught to follow.

During these various travels I had collected a variety of material from the landscape: rocks, paper, found and collected everyday items.  This started during my travels around the world and continued with the six months in Cyprus (July 2013 – Jan 2014).  I started this pilgrimage to the Island of Aphrodite and re-found forgotten elements within my own practice.  Re-learning not to control the flow of information, but observing and reacting to the flow; working with and not against.  Allowing the gradual revelations of information and its contribution to the larger labyrinth with which we work our way through.

Each seeks Ariadne’s thread in the hope, the only object caught in the lid of Pandora’s Jar, this will help in our quest to find not the reason for why we create art, but become aware that we are the mediators and mediums of information in becoming something more from what it was.  An awareness that an artist brings together various strands of information, building a picture of what it is to be alive during the time allocated.

ariadne zinc plate - inkedEach of us recording and reporting for the future generations, who will look back upon our time and wonder what it meant to be alive at this time and the influences informing our post-digital age.  The re-evaluation of historical information, the flow of information and sharing those insights that move us, wishing to share with others in our time and beyond.

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Rocks and other mementos collected from travels in and on the landscape brings connections to the land we walk upon and view.  There is unmistakable realisations that we are walking landmass walking upon land.  Conscious star dust reviewing and experiencing itself when we look upon the reality and environment we experience.  The British philosopher Alan Watts retorts: ‘We live upon a planet that peoples’.  ‘As an apple tree produces apples, so the Earth peoples.’  Life born from rock, earth and dust.

Rocks – the bringers of life and through them we form our response to.  It is revealed rocks birth microbial life leading to early forms of life.  One such microbial life found in the rocks around Watchet has been researched as being able to be sent to planet Mars, leading to possibilities of starting life again on that planet.  Nature gives us everything we ever need to live, survive and learn.

Collecting rocks from all my travels around the world, including soils collected from each mile I walk on a particular journey, or from a place visited, growing the results in Petri Dishes (Petrus, Petri, Peter: Rock), these rocks become still life muses, creating portraits of them.  Exploring form, shape, colour and shifting light as it moves during the day as I paint/ draw from them.  They reveal the fractal landscape and ways my psychology is revealed through areas focused on, as though I am revealing some form from the memorial; shapes and forms take on other strange forms; the psychological or polemical.

The environmental from times lived through.  The resultant drawings and paintings explore something within an epigenetic aestheticism, where I now seem to be heading.

The drawings and paintings created during 2013-15 had taken on a life of their own – observed realities in conceptual abstractness of pre-thought.  The area Krishnamurti calls a ‘pre-naming’.  An appreciating of beauty, or happening milliseconds before our mind begins to place a label or a word upon what is seen.  In essence, being aware of the eternal now and appreciating the beauty seen without the need to categorise and label the event, keeping it free and autonomous before claiming it as our own through the abstraction of words and language.

Working with material to see how and the way it behaves, responding to its behaviour and what it wishes to BE.  Unknown at the time, this was something explored through the growing of fungi in Petri dishes from GPS recorded journeys.  The mile markers reveal the hidden world beneath our feet.

These fed into reduction prints forming aesthetic landscape art corresponding to planets, maps and associations with them.  These growths forming their own space and free from human control, apart from the boundary of the circle set by the dish and the environmental factors leading to their development.

Samuel Coleridge and Neo-Romanticism

These experiments with petri dishes and growths evolved during a residency award won from Somerset Art Works and a placement at Contains Art based in Watchet.

 

Contains Art is an art initiative that began life in 2013 and over the last three years it has grown in reputation for bringing contemporary art and artists’ studios to the seaside town of Watchet.  They have big plans set for the future and you can see more via the Onion Collective and their website www.containsart.co.uk.

During the month of September to October I stayed at Studio One overlooking the harbour of Watchet.  It was during this residency that I began exploring Samuel Coleridge in greater depth, learning more about his writing, his poetry, his walks in the area and the place where he stayed in Nether Stowey (Coleridge Cottage) and in Watchet with Wordsworth.  I also collected samples from the area to grow in petri dishes (the one above is an example).

I read Samuel Coleridge’s ideals on Romanticism and researched artists like Caspar Friedrich and his ideas on the sublime.  There appeared to be a continuing  connection through all the work I had followed over the last three years and the approaches, which by now a far cry from what I had created up to 2013.  Now more free to play and explore alternative ways of making.  The first couple of weeks I explored the area, recording my walks via GPS, collecting a range of material, preparing for the Open Studios event later in the month (17th Sept-2nd Oct) and a chance to share my practice with the public.  Through walking in the area, exploring fossils along the Triassic and Jurassic coast, I gathered as much research as possible.  I would set out exploring from 8am – 10am and arrive at Studio One from 10/ 11am – 7pm.  Long days that yielded results.

The criteria for the monotype prints was shaped by the following:

* Defining the nature of Romanticism and how it may be approached from the starting point of the primary importance of the ‘free expression of the feelings of the artist’.

* The importance the Romantics placed on emotion and summed up through the German Romanticist Caspar David Friedrich that ‘the artist’s feeling is the law’.

*William Wordsworth’s ideal that poetry should begin as ‘the spontaneous over-flow of powerful feelings’, which the poet then ‘recollect[s] in tranquillity…’

* Expressing feelings through which the content of the art had to come from the imagination of the artist, with as little interference as possible from ‘artificial’ rules that dictated what the work should consist.

* Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others believed there were natural laws that the imagination … would unconsciously follow through artistic inspiration if left alone.

* The influence of models from other works was considered to impede the creator’s own imagination, so that originality was essential and the artist was able to produce their own original work through the process of ‘creating from nothingness’ – key to Romanticist ideas and know as ‘romantic originality’.

The rocks collected revealed the variety of colours available to form into paint and printing ink.  The area brought such amazing forms to explore and everywhere I walked I imagined Coleridge might have sat in the same area and received inspiration for his poems.  Each of these served as starting points to works I would go on to create during the residency.

The rocks were turned into printing ink and I set up an experimental way of making prints, forming what I would later call print-paintings.  I was essentially applying the handmade ink to the printing surface via brush and palette knife, then hand-burnishing the paper to capture the marks on the surface of the paper.  The idea allowed the material to work with the movements of my hands and arms, working in a collaborative dance between the material and artist intervention, forming evidence of the marks left behind.

This was something I had already begun playing around with during the Summer, mainly through exploring built up surfaces of colour, until it became something you see of the wear and tear paint on a beautiful door or window pane – an element of entropy from the constant reshaping via Nature and the elements of weathering.  Watchet allowed me to explore the history of formation through its material, layering, intervention and the accident.

Working collaboratively with material, going with the flow, instead of against it, producing new changes in the way an artwork can be considered, freed from the confines of a layered history, allowing material to do what it does best and responding between material, action and production.  Playing and responding.

Over the last few months I have been reading about epigenetic memory and exploring if it can be accessed through the space between action and mark-making, without thinking or allowing thought to come before the making of a mark – trying to access a memory passed on through the generations, seeing if it is possible.  These explore psychological elements and behaviour, observing the marks made and how marks are produced, seeing if there is an underlying language that can be read and interpreted.

These are early days and this research is titled: Epigenetics and Mark-making.  This is something I will be exploring over the next few months as I build a picture about its possible benefits.  Change the environment, change the generational outcome.

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Happy New Year – All the best for 2017.

Adam.

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