Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Following the Ancient Scent

I've mentioned the project Ancient Scent very briefly in a couple of posts now. but I felt it was time to explore it in a little more depth (given that I'm spending a lot of time on it currently!) The project is a year long artist led series of sessions that will culminate in an exhibition in October. The sessions explore the methodology and surrealist techniques of the artist Ithell Colquhoun. In particular the methods that she mentioned in her 1949 essay Mantic Stain. Colquhoun lived in Cornwall from the 1950s until her death in 1988, first at Vow Cave in Lamorna and then later on in Stone Cross Cottage in Paul. Our project sessions all take place in Lamorna Village Hall, a mere 5 minutes from her little hut (which is now rather fancy....)

Ithell is/was an enormously intriguing character. I first encountered her work through her psychogeographical book The Living Stones - where she takes the reader on a walk through the Cornwall. Her writing is extremely evocative, she writes nature in the most enticing way, after reading it I was convinced I just wanted to give up modern life and step into a caravan buried somewhere in Lamorna Valley, wash in a stream and paint everyday (to be honest it still sounds pretty great...) If you can get your hands on it, and you are so inclined to read such things, definitely do - it was an extremely formative read for me (and I've subsequently re-read it twice). It's a fantastic picture of a very particular period but she was also extremely forward-thinking and I found myself nodding in agreement to many of the ideas she was putting forward, particularly note-worthy are her remarks on fox hunting in the chapter 'Hound-Voice' in which she follows a hunt through the valley:

If I can explain my feeling on the subject of 'blood sports' without priggishness, I would say that the human race can never enjoy the freedom of the cosmos until it ceases to exploit the other races with which it must share it's life. In other words, you cannot count on benevolence in your surroundings unless you practice harmlessness yourself. (The Living Stones, 1957, p.119)

I have to admit that her painting is much much less interesting to me. I find it a little clumsy and although I can completely admire and find interest in the place it was coming from, I don't generally like the final outcome. However, that is not to say I am not interested in it! I think she was enormously talented in so many ways, and another example of a woman who was quashed by her male contemporaries so really, to me at least, it doesn't matter if I don't like her work visually. I feel I've connected with her in so many other senses, she almost feels like a dear friend.

Lamorna, for those of you who don't know it, is the most magical place. It's been home to countless artist's colonies beginning with Alfred Munnings, Laura and Harold Knight, and of course Lamorna Birch in the early 20th century. Since then it has been host to a revolving selection of painters/writers/poets & sculptors. The valley certainly has a mysterious draw, it's wonderfully wild, I love it. It's full to the brim with intriguing characters and the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery, and being in it's mists it's easy to see why it has pulled so many people in.

This weekend marked our second session for the project. This time we took a walk through the valley to experiment with Frottage - The Technique of taking of a rubbing from an uneven surface to provide random forms which can be interpreted and developed, and then worked with Collage.

We stopped along the way to take a few snaps. Again I'm wearing my new shirt/coat/dress, I haven't really taken it off since my last post! I was originally wearing turquoise jelly shoes but some sensible part of my brain decided I should change shoes incase it was muddy (this was the first sunny day in Cornwall for some time). It wasn't at all muddy and I really wish I'd not listened to the very small sensible bit of my brain as I'd of liked to paddle in the stream.

On our wander we stumbled on this free chair, shortly before this we had encountered a elf-like man who appeared from behind a bush. He was intrigued as to what we were doing (frottage!) and we explained. He was delightful, explaining that he was tending a garden, hacking at the brambles that appeared without fail each year. It wasn't until the end of our conversation that we realised he was holding an axe in his hand. That's Lamorna for you, wonderfully bizarre. 

After such a glorious day I felt extremely full of ideas and excitement to get started on some new work. I mentioned in my last post that I, along with the rest of the group, have taken an alter ego so below are some pictures of a piece Hector Nit is working on called Cryptic Colouration. Keep an eye on my instagram for more pictures/ videos of what Hector is up to.

 Outfit Details

Turquoise cotton shirt dress - Phool via a charity shop

Floral cotton trousers - Petticoat Lane Market

1960s cotton neckerchief - Vintage Kilo Sale