PLACEMENTS / OFFERINGS

“Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation.  Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.”

Wernher von Braun

 

 

Lines of Connection –  elements of private rituals – transactions with the land, tokens, gifts, offerings. These artefacts and substances, once removed from their own potent environments, and secreted far from human habitation,  somehow accumulate their own mythic circumstances.

 

 

Yew Walker – labyrinthine path-walking, secret location, Kingley Vale, Chichester

A wagtail’s secret cache – left at the Covenanter’s Grave, Lanarkshire

Hawthorn root tied with straw – left at Shunner Fell, North Yorkshire

Tumble of stones on watered earth –  left at Prior’s Coppice, Rutland

Collected from hollows, dried, connected – left at Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire

Raw berries on Reindeer Lichen – left at Grey Whethers Standing Stones, Postbridge, Dartmoor

Cremated remains of  fox – Croft Ambrey Hill Fort, Herefordshire (not yet completed)

Glacier water encapsulated – left at Black Clough, Derbyshire

Assembled feathers of Kittiwake, Fulmar, Razorbill, Herring Gull, (and Turf Maze Walk) -left at Julian’s Bower, Lincolnshire

Ash Leaf Skeleton – left at Grimspound, Dartmoor

Storm water encapsulated – left at Newgrange, County Meath

Phallic Stone(Fascinus) (left in situ), Kielderhead, Northumberland

Sea-Mist Walk – shoreline walk, Lindisfarne, Northumberland (not yet completed)

Turf Maze Walk – Charlecote Park , Warwickshire

Bale of Bell Heather, tied with seagrass – left at Rannoch Moor, Highlands

Assemblage of Sphagnum and Cloudberries (left in situ),  Whitelee Moor, Northumberland 

Three Chaffinch egg shells filled with dried worm casts  – left at Leash Fen, Derbyshire

Small, circular gritstone trail – created and left at Bleaklow, Derbshire

 

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PLACEMENTS

 

Within the corpus of many  small , personalised objects that I have created,  I am attempting to circumvent any obvious ritual or quasi-religious connotations, preferring to locate these objects within a new context, as yet, undefined, but rooted within some kind of forgotten folk tradition.   Some of my most recent objects have consisted of “bundles” or “stacks” of found materials, disjecta membra, that are bound together, sometimes with hidden or “secret” objects housed within them, or personal messages written on paper and secreted within the bundles that have some kind of subjective significance that is difficult to explain,..they are certainly informed by the idea that they house or contain a kind of life force, or organic energy, a seed -memory, and regular handling and scrutiny would appear to invest them with something ” other” than any normal found ephemera ..I view these objects very much as the ” material context” of the particular landscape that I am investigating, and these objects signify the  transit of a walk, and are generally found in stages along the way. The stacks may contain bones, feathers, fragments of bark, leaves, seeds, etc, that have then been stored and handled frequently, until they acquire a particular resonance, and they are then ready to be transferred to a new location.

 

Once relocated, these bundles and stacks are once again embedded into the landscape, their shape altered, and constantly transforming through the action of time, weather, and the advancing processes of decomposition.  In this way, the bundle becomes a seed, a transmitter, a resonator, a receptacle for the organic memory of each of the components, something which speaks without words.

 

 

 

 

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Placements, recent research..”Notions”

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Acts of Transference  

“Spruce Circle with Honesty” 

Materials : a loose assemblage of spruce twigs, bird bones, “honesty” seed pods, grass seeds, feathers,  found elements from walks in Northamptonshire, 2014.

Transferred to: To be reconstructed at an undisclosed location in the New Forest, Hampshire,  July 2014

“…every excavation of archaeological sites today ends up with a number of things that have no obvious function. These tend to be catalogued as ‘ritual objects’ and are set on one side for archaeologists to worry about later, as those in the next millennium certainly will about the rocks, crystals, shells and pieces of driftwood they are going to find in the ruins of our homes…”

“…There are some things, perfectly natural objects, which get picked out and picked up just because they catch the eye. As fossils will. Triangular Shark’s teeth and spiral ammonites have been found out of context on Paleoliothic floors, chosen, it would seem for both decorative and symbolic value…..some were drilled to be worn as charms and amulets, but none altered in any other way. They were chosen and not made. Though these things may not have intrinsic value or practical application, the act of choice makes them very special indeed… it gives them not only extrinsic value, but an ability to soak up emotion like nothing else in our lives…”

“..the very act of handling objects over prolonged periods invests them with some kind of life force..”

“…these are not yet “ritual objects” , things involved in specific rites or ceremonies, but are already more than ordinary things , and need a new, more descriptive name. I propose to call them “notions”…”

Sourced from Lyall Watson, Biologist, Anthropologist, Ethnologist, et al..Serendipity Books, 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placements, archive material from 1992

Skarrein (Seed) 1990

SKARREIN  (Seed) , 1990,

200 x 200cm approx.  

Mixed Media,  including: blood, earth, hair , grass pigment, leaf pigment, flower petal pigment, mud residues, assorted organic media. (private collection) 

The current crop of my work under the title “Placements”, can be traced back through a line of enquiry that began in the early 1990’s, with a series of 12 images and 6 small sculptures that were loosely exhibited under the title, “The Poetry That Remains” as part of the Pushing Against the Wire arts festival, curated by myself, Justin Mitchell, and Lester Faulkner.

These pieces were then re-exhibited in  a small group show a year later under the same title, with a dear friend, Malcolm Pollard, and Mark Brown, who also managed the newly refurbished Roadmender Arts Centre at the time. Both of these shows gained mixed , but mostly favourable (and some incredulous) reviews, and a small amount of coverage in the Guardian arts review.

These works, recently retrieved from my personal archive, manifested from my desire to create images that harnessed some kind of “power”, or “potency”, a life-force, innate within natural materials. Back then, I was fascinated by the transformative energy engendered by ritual, and ritual objects, and how this might potentially be translated into a workable art form. I began researching the ritual practices of various pagan cultures, shamanism, and animism, and a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum of anthropology in Oxford stimulated, and influenced me enough to create images and fetish objects that I felt would demonstrate or contain this putative “power”.

Nearly all of this corpus of work was created using simple,  natural pigments extracted from slate, stone, earth/mud, plant juices, leaves, seeds, and “mixed organic media”, such as blood, semen, hair, and skin, plant residues, and saps, etc. These  materials, I felt, would have once existed as living entitities, and would therefore emanate some kind of biotic energy once transformed by my hand creatively.

Interestingly, and quite tellingly,  nearly all of these works were exhibited without a marked price or value, and they all eventually found a natural home with the people for whom I hoped they would resonate most, with no money exchanging hands. I hope those people still feel the power of those works in the way they were intended.

Fish Fetish

Fish Fetish Object, 1991

20 x 20cm approx,

mixed organic media: paper, earth pigments, fish oil and skin, fish skeleton, thorns, leaf pigment, blood, mould, glass base.

Some 23 years later then, Placements re-visits, and re-establishes that line of investigation, after a circuitous route that took me off into mail art, and subsequently, sound installation art, which kept me distracted until about 3 years ago.

The most recent works under the title of Placements still attempt to encapsulate an impalpable “seed memory” , an organic energy, with the exception that this time around they take the form of exchanges – transactions with the land, utilising remnants and remains, natural materials that nature has discarded.   These exchanges, these reciprocal acts, are the axis about which all other subsequent projects on this site rotate. Like the magnetic plasma fields that loop and arc from the surface of the Sun, they dissipate, vaporise, and re-connect to the land, interlocking, coalescing, and fusing PLACES, in a subtle exchange of  energy, between man and place, and place to place.

The name of this blog, PLACE, conveys meaning not only as a noun – place, as location, but also a verb – to place, to deposit, to leave something, a trigger for the memory, a seed, a catalyst, a prop for the imagination.

Thus, these disjecta membra, created from the land, are returned to the land , newly placed in the various locations that interest me, and have some kind of significance and potency in my imagination, they serve as way markers, interventions, minor alterations to the status quo, interlocking and binding to a site, and reciprocating its energy. Sequestered and housed in a new locale,these objects are still transforming a process in which they will deteriorate, and eventually decompose, merging once again with the land, further transformed.

Thorn-Cone, July 2014

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Pine cone amulet, stuck with thorns. Despite the apparent violence of this object, it serves merely as a sculptural representation that will be transferred and secreted within the area of Orford Ness, Suffolk, some time in August.

The old Ness site was used for some time for the testing of bombs and munitions during the war, and I thought this piece would be an appropriate representation, an object-memory, a prop for the imagination, a discreet communion with the land nearby, which once resounded with the sounds of controlled detonations.. the single pine cone, is apparently benign, but when stuck with thorns, it becomes a weapon in its own right, physically, and visually warding off any creature that may stumble upon it. The Thorn-Cone literally appears as if exploding….a poignant reminder of the violent activities that once took place at Orford Ness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Feathered Nest”

Discarded, abandoned, or wind-blown nest found on a walk along the Brampton Valley Way, Northamptonshire. Re-formed, with added materials, and reshaped . Awaiting re-situation at Dovedale Derbyshire.