25th September 2011 – setting out across the moor

Sunday 25th September, 2011. And so I set off from high up across the moor…I can see the sea over both shoulders – to my left the harsh granite storm cliffs of the Atlantic and to my right the softer coast of the sunnier washed south, behind me Carn Galva whose gentle giant protects all under his shadow… Stretched out ahead is the moor nearly as far as I can see, the ancient Tinner’s Way. I have an intent, (this walk is not one of aimless rambling) an intent to find the source of the stream that drains these bog ridden peat moors. I have my map, a rough guide to where I’m going.

Walking the open moor with summer now beginning to feel like a blur, despite the reminders of the still and seemingly perpetual bright gorse, I am conscious of the tramp of my feet, my dog at my side, pack on my back. No tent, no camping kit no spare socks this, rather drawing materials – note book, my old pencil tin (that had been my Mother’s before me), paper, board and clips (the moor is never without a wind), a plastic sack for sitting on, flask and a pack of nuts. My camera.

So walking with an intent, a sort of plan – to find something whose form and location I can only deduce: an ‘improvisatory and embodied experience…’ in which using the words of Dee Heddon ‘the walk might prompt diversions, tangents, circuits and uncertainties missed in the linear authority of the merely spoken account.’ (Heddon, 2010).

Its desolate. Its good to be alone for a while; the bleakness, the liminality gives time for thoughts. There is a rhythm to walking with a back on your back.

Beginnings of journeys are never fixed. As I prepare for this journey I gather together all the usual things in my rucksack… the practicalities of the walker, the tools of the artist, and a sense that context is everything. West Penwith in the far west of Cornwall is an area of rugged moors, ancient field systems and scattered settlements, and harsh granite cliffs facing on to the Atlantic: AONB, Mining World Heritage Site, NT ownership, long history of modernist arts practice, favourite holiday destination, walker’s paradise, second homes and homelessness, ‘portfolio working’ and scratching a living. Against this I bring to this journey a practice that work in cycles through different modes from performance to large-scale paintings. I am not a photographer but I use photography extensively as a research tool. Much of my work aims to examine how a materials-based practice can engage with the complex relationships inherent in sites and an immersion in an everyday experience of place. Working closely with the National Trust since 2007 questions have inevitably been raised in my mind around the received (and often static) narratives of place associated with heritage and tourism. Dialogue and relationships present a different context, one marked by complexity, contradiction and compromise in which different histories and narratives interweave and collide.

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