Sunday 2nd October. Into the thicket.

The stream proper I find emerges in a blackthorn wood just below the bracken pool. I climbed down in amongst the trees over a hedge, dipping and bending below the overhanging entanglement. My dog follows. We have reached the woods by the spring. Its more of a thicket.

twisted trees

The source of the river is perhaps certainly in a topographical sense easier to work out than the source of the project – why am I doing this? In one sense I can tell you categorically what the starting point for the project is and was – the flood of 2008, the tragic loss of life in a freak storm. This landscape is far more than cream teas. I can then go on to talk about the complexities of landscape and place that I am interested in, in particular a wish to ‘unpack’ the usually fixed mono-narratives of heritage. I can tell you of the elderly man I chatted to in 2007 who struggles to identify with mining as heritage site – it doesn’t bring in the money like it used to (and therefore in his mind feels rather pointless). I can tell you about the warden who told me that the only way he will ever go back to live in Zennor, the village in which he was brought up, is ‘in a box’. All this is ‘true’. So far as it goes. But there are other stories here. There is the story of how as a child I used to go out and paint in the landscape with my Mother. On family picnics we would both pack our paints. This was an important part of my early years. It is a way of working that for some years I have avoided – avoidance was easy – the excuse being ‘plein air’ is best avoided as a rather uncritical form of practice…

WC2

…and so as John Wylie says of the walker/writer Tim Robinson I return to painting outside from nature ‘acutely aware of [my] inheritance of a set of idioms and tropes, through which the landscape is framed and apprehended’ (both in terms of the history of English landscape painting generally but given the location of this work particularly the traditions of Newlyn and St Ives) and acutely aware also that the work by implicating to some degree land and life ‘bears traces of a romantic inheritance.’ (Wylie, 2012)

So we have, layered through the socio-politcal context associated with location, a story of memory, embodied in a corporeal practice of walking and painting; a return to what was very much a formative intersubjectivity and a return that I am aware brings with it, a whole set of complexities of its own. Despite this qualification, it is a deep form of knowing contained in bodily experienced memory – a becoming – a performative practice. And brings with it an awareness of the complexities here too; memory can be illusive and fragile.

WYLIE, J. 2012. Dwelling and displacement: Tim Robinson and the questions of landscape. Cultural Geographies.

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