Poniou

25/5

Gently
intimately
the stream
holds
boulder-ridden memories
of another day

stream_seaThis blog will describe and reflect on the processes involved in an ongoing project ‘Ponjou’The project focuses on a stream in the far west of Cornwall that has its source in the moor above Pennance Farm near Zennor. In summer the cattle-muddied turbid pool somehow causes a trickle for just over a mile to the sea near the hamlet of Poniou. It is another story, another picture when swollen with rain; flash flooding in 2009 resulted in tragic loss of life.

Sheet rain, coming in at the horizontal. Swollen streams and washed out valleys. Carpets hung out. It was a while before the hum of visitors pausing for Moo-Maid ice cream returned to Zennor.

The Poniou Project is focused on a moorland stream in West Penwith that was the centre of a localized storm in 2009. The storm devastated a section of the coastline, resulting in tragic loss of young lives. Sections of the coast path were washed out down to the granite bedrock and clapper bridges washed out to sea. several miles of the long-distance path were closed for months with substantial damage to the tourist industry. It is a long-term enquiry that started with photographs taken in the aftermath of the 2009 storm and an installation in a river later that year. I will be visiting and revisiting the site, walking, observing, collecting, measuring, drawing, photographing and writing to focus on the ecological, geological and cultural processes that shape the short life of the stream before it reaches the sea. The river will wind and flow through the ensuing narrative constructed and simultaneously unraveled through performance, layered image and text.

This blog will try to understand the way the developing images are functioning: can material art practices enact the fluid processes of change and abruptions inherent in the unfolding of landscapes?

In this practice-based research project, I will be bringing together my work as a visual artist with a longstanding interest in cultural geography. The research is being undertaken for my PhD in cultural geography with the University of Exeter (where I am based in the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the Tremough campus in Cornwall). I am looking at the way in images can function to reveal complex and sometimes conflicting cultural histories and contemporary narratives of place. Central to the project are ideas of fluidity and change. How might working with the life of the stream lead to the generation of images in the studio that challenge sedimented, static forms of representation and received notions of landscape?

This project is supervised by Dr Caitlin DeSilvey and Dr John Wylie (Exeter), with Dr Iain Biggs (PLaCE International) as an external supervisor.

Funded through an AHRC studentship.

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