Tag Archives: airfield

passing places – part II

Monday 22 May 2006

I live near a disused airfield, in which the public byway through it is a well known shortcut. Interspersed regularly along this single track road are a number of notch-like bays, all with the sign ‘passing place‘. I’ve always been intrigued by these signs – a metaphor perhaps for taking stock, remembering or acknowledging both the present and the past, the transience of all things (in which I am most interested as an artist) – the small in-bays in which one can only momentarially stop and survey the flat vista, whilst waiting for another car or cars to pass. Here, the landscape is bleak, almost deathly in winter time, the rough-ploughed ground of black earth dissected by the fast disintegrating tracks of old runways.

This is a photograph that I took from my car window last September, the idea to take four in my travels back and forth over the year at the very same passing place – an idea which has yet to fully materialise.
suffolk fields, passing place sign

I’m currently involved in an art trail (local open studios), of little mention here perhaps as there is no associated website, but it’s all part of the local Arts Festival. Over three open days I’ve had twenty three visitors which seems little to boast about. One does feel a bit of a curiosity at such events – meeting and greeting, and in the words of one of my visitors – enabling a small glimpse into the private world of the artist.

Visitors have come and gone, all intrigued, some inspired, but this passage of people has been very good for me to articulate my artistic concerns. I’ve been labelled purely abstract and yet I want my work to engage people with their own perceptions and experiences of the smaller details in the landscape. Expounding upon the surface and material qualities of my work I’ve felt compelled to draw upon their own notions of beauty and aesthetics – textures connect us with something very pagan, earthy, a direct experience of nature or the environment, more muted colours can be serene, beautiful, philosophical, or reflective of the human psyche. The anticipation of visitors on what is a thoroughly miserable and dull day weather-wise has prompted me to sit down and write this.

I never made it to the centre of the Fens, Kings Lynn, to the private view of the Eastern Open Exhibition ’06. I was feeling under the weather – a mild bug of the sort you get when teaching – they only materialises during the holiday breaks. I recently said to a friend that I’ve also no desire to drive for two hours to look at my work in a gallery, when I have been staring at it for most of the last year in my studio. Morose and apathetic perhaps, passing off a new networking opportunity (and to view the work of the other selected artists) – but the weather has been so unseasonably bleak – made all the worse as I have spent much of my free time nurturing my skills in gardening.

This journal could easily evolve into a gardener’s blog – the trials and tribulations of organic gardening. I’m awash with baby plum tomato and pepper plants, the courgettes are already setting fruit and yet it’s a tad too early to transplant outside, and the climbing french beans are sending out their spindly tendrils in search of any vertical structure on which to cling. But, I am holding my guns until the end of May (never cast a clout ’til May be out, or some such saying). Aphids are a perennial problem but it is pleasing to see ladybirds and hoverflies on warm days, and I’ve made an impenetrable hedge from holly clippings to raise the ante somewhat on a war with slugs. So, where has this sudden burst of near self-sufficiency emerged from? Both frugality and a genuine desire for real food no less. My homemade compost has come in most handy – too rich on its own for many plants, but the beans and courgettes will hopefully languish in its earthy goodness, further enhanced by some ever accomodating hens in the organic manure department.

I am showing some new paintings with two other artists at the Halesworth Gallery next month. My plan is to show three new large pieces, a triptych and six small works – multiples of three are appealing to me at the moment. It is proving hard to focus completely on my art when now is also the busiest time in the garden, but tight deadlines and a visiting public are always a great motivator…

halesworth gallery exhibition

Beware of banality

Thursday 1 December 2005

I keep noticing the most ordinary things – trees strewn with the grey tattered remains of plastic bags, stumps of long dead trees by the roadside, the traces of tyre tracks drawn out along muddy, puddled lanes. Why I am attracted to these subjects and signs, only made complex by an interest in their very banality?

old airfled
[corner of disused airfield, Suffolk]

I grew up near to a second world war airfield. In between the criss-crossing of the disintegrating runways were wide expanses of arable fields (before the  industrial redevelopment of the many disused airfields made way for a creeping expanse of new buildings and businesses in the 1990’s). Our kitchen overlooked this unassuming vista, a landscape devoid of any complicated structures, aside from changes in the sky and the earth. The only visible changes to it were seen in the textures of agriculture – from freshly ploughed brown clods or furrows dusted with snow, to the regimental spikes of spring green, or the rustling, harvest shades of gold and yellow. Much of my childhood was spent cycling and exploring the deserted runways, dense thickets of bramble, blackthorn and elder evolved naturally out of the surrounding pockets of agricultural wasteland. Out of the crackle-patterned concrete tracks emerged small green patches of wind-sown wheat, linseed or meadow grasses. This was not a picturesque landscape; there was little cause for celebration but it was a place of escape.

abandoned - airfield
[disused airfield, Suffolk]

Fast forwarding to now, I see that this perception of the landscape is ever present (and perhaps haunting) in my work. I see a near level horizon, the melding of indistinct greys and browns on a misty winter morning, fragmented patches of ground. My work appears to need to acknowledge and distill these overlooked scenes of rural ordinariness, the blandness and the bleakness, but even banality has hidden depths…

Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.

WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn