One of the rewards for us as we have worked on this collaboration,
are the new conversations that have opened up as a result of working
together. Each time Paul and I meet we find ourselves discovering
new things in common, and a fresh sense of how we are thinking about
our work. We felt it worthwhile to note down the results of some
of these conversations.
Works are produced from ground up stones that I have collected from
the landscape (beaches, streams, cliffs, mountains etc.) Each stone
provides a distinctive hue, but my main interest in this material
lies in how each pigment belongs to a particular place; collecting
each rock is part of a journey. There is a precedent in medieval
and prehistoric artists who were involved in the alchemy of discovering
and making their own pigments in order to create images. Some materials
are local, but others come from distant locations - often highly
prized for their beauty such as Cinnabar from Spain, and Lapis Lazuli
(Ultramarine) from Persia*. My materials are not precious in the
sense that these substances are, but take on significance because
of the places they come from. Each piece is made in relation to
geography as well as colour.
* I prefer to use the old term of Persia, which
has different boundaries to the modern countries and is free of
the usual connotations of media references to Iran etc.
SOME KEY ELEMENTS:
Working with rock dust, one of my first concerns was how to fix
the material to a surface in a permanent form. There was a tension
between the quality of a very raw and volatile material and my desire
to fix it into a stable order of simple geometry and straight lines.
My attempts to do this were frustrated, as the dust generally resisted
the techniques I developed to get it to settle into some permanent
order. One colour would gently drift over another, new marks appeared,
and edges would start to blur together. I started to think of these
changes as 'migration' and instead of frustration, I began to view
these natural changes as one of the most exciting aspects of the
work. Once 'finished' a purple dust might fall across a green surface
and lodge in tiny specs on protrusions, a yellow ochre and red sienna
could merge along an edge producing a third colour sensation that
wasn't there before, fine dust could adhere to white paper around
the edge of a solid shape, like vapour rising off a rock in the
heat of the sun, new marks appear from nowhere, like animal tracks.
All Rock Works contain areas of blank white space. This 'empty space'
is an important part of each work, and has been manipulated in much
the same manner as the physical materials. The white areas influence
the dynamic of each work. They could be synonymous with silence
or emptiness. They could be a spiritual or contemplative space that
the 'material' floats in. They also provide space for text that
is important to the reading of many of the works.
White borders on the square works are areas to place factual information
such as the mileage between the places the rocks came from (another
kind of space). The text and the whiteness have a relationship with
the centre that allows an extended reading of the whole, in much
the same way that the information around the edge of a map enables
a clearer and wider interpretation of the ciphers on the map.
In the piece 'Three Days Walking' white space occupies a larger
area than the coloured materials do. There are three dominant elements
that make up the piece, which are, place names, a rock from each
place, and a time, in the form of hourly intervals when the rocks
were picked up on each day. The white segments on the sticks represent
hourly intervals [a time space measure]. The white of the surround
creates a 'spaciousness' that plays an important part in our sense
of size and scale in a work. Space is as much a part our experience
of the landscape as the ground we feel under our feet. I am trying
to call up those two responses as starting points for developing
'Distance' is a theme that interests me in relation to all art dealing
with landscape. Our sense of distance and time was once linked with
the capability of our bodies, and in how far we could walk in a
day. Beyond that the imagination had to take over.... the distance
beyond a mountain range, over an ocean to another country, or to
the moon and stars. With cars and aeroplanes, distance doesn't have
the same implications for our bodies or for our imaginations. But
there is still a deep sense of reality and satisfaction to be had
in getting back to this earlier state, where we cover the ground
more slowly, and our minds and bodies feel something deeply familiar.
A few hours of walking gives a strong sense of how distance and
time exists within ourselves. I have taken 3 days to walk a stretch
of coastline that takes 2 hours to drive. At a slower pace the destination
becomes much less the focus of attention and the experience of getting
there assumes a larger place in our psyche.
Maps contain this mystery of how our minds can switch to different
concepts of distance - a small piece of paper makes a clear correlation
between inches on the map and miles on the ground. We can pour over
a map and enjoy attempting the mental bridge to the real place.
If I cut out a strip of map it is both 3 inches long and 3 miles
long. A strip of map limits our vision in a particular way, But
even 3 inches of map may allow us to view things over a greater
distance than we might on the ground. All views are limited, by
the size of our bodies and the limits of our perception. I enjoy
the thought processes that arise when making work, but the physical
experience has to be there too. Building time and distance into
the work seems to be a way of doing that.
Steve Thorpe 2007