Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Inspired By Landscape II - The End? ...

The exhibition at Cliffe Castle finished on Sunday and was deinstalled yesterday.

Watershed has dominated my life for the past 12 months and its sad to think my time on the project has come to an end. Its been a fascinating and exciting year. I've met and worked with lots of great people, visited even more reservoirs than usual and observed a whole new world of wild life.

Its all been lovely and special highlights include my tour around the interior of Leeming Reservoir Valve Tower, drawing in the calm haven of Machpelah Mill, seeing a curlew's nest with eggs on High Brown Knoll, photographing a Golden Plover on Wadsworth Moor, searching for the elusive Twite, all the glorious walks along the tops and splendid days out with the Outdoor Art Group. Thank you to all who have taken part or helped me to achieve my goal of encouraging more people to access and enjoy our upland environment of water and moor.

Artist/Photographer Simon Warner is taking over as Watershed Artist in Residence and I'm looking forward to connecting to his soon to be announced blog about the project. In the meantime here are a few last pictures of the display cases at Keighley including the black and white woodcut prints that were produced by students from Titus Salt School. 

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Winter Widdop Water

I often wonder about the secret life of the high reservoirs at Widdop and Walshaw Dean during the dark, and especially in the long nights of winter.  Sometimes moonlight, sometimes starlight but mostly deep, deep black. And no matter how many times I read it, nothing better expresses the strange cold life of Widdop than Ted Hughes poem of the same name:

Where there was nothing
Somebody put a frightened lake.

Where there was nothing
Stony Shoulders
Broadened to support it.

A wind from between the stars
Swam down to sniff at the trembling.

Trees, holding hands, eyes closed,
Acted at world.

Some heath-grass crept close, in fear.

Nothing else
Except when a gull blows through

A rip in the fabric

Out of nothingness into nothingness

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Workshop At Cliffe Castle

I'm off to Cliffe Castle tomorrow to deliver a workshop in the morning for the Responses to Art group. We'll be looking at the exhibition of my artwork and Char's writing and then doing some practical work.

I've decided to show the participants some unfinished work that's related to the Watershed Project - specifically on the theme of The Enfolding Landscape and the idea of revealing the hidden. I'm creating a series of mini booklets based on the Turkish Map Fold.

These are just some  woodcut trial proofs for covers.  When the booklet opens, a larger piece of printed paper unfolds to show the main image.  I've still a lot to do but hope the group will enjoy seeing the thought processes and practical problem solving that will lead to the finished piece.

I've been told to expect up to 23 participants so will have my work cut out helping them all to get to grips with the folding scheme.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Towers of Silence

Here I am in the big basement room at Machpelah Mill with the 3 towers just before I took them down for transporting to Cliffe Castle for the exhibition.  I used the self-timer on my camera for this shot as I did want one photo of me with them in that space.

I absolutely loved working down at Machpelah, the atmosphere of the room was so benign, peaceful and conducive to intense concentration.  The silence was very calming and I already miss being in that space now I've moved out and given the key back.  The best thing was the quality of the light especially in the late afternoon when the sunlight spilled off the canal, through the windows and onto the walls.  I've written about this in my other blog  Tumbling Hills.

It was purely a happy coincidence that this aspect of the room related so well to my ideas about projecting video of moving reservoir water onto the valve towers for the exhibition.

Below are two of my favourite photos taken during the 5 week drawing process.

Work In Progress

I didn't show any work in progress pictures here of the large-scale charcoal drawings I made for the Inspired By Landscape II exhibition, as I wanted them to be a surprise.  So (hopefully) here's a little slideshow of one of towers coming into being.  It really did feel like I was constructing every brick, but contrary to normal building procedures I was able to defy the laws of gravity and work down from the top!

Friday, 7 October 2011

OAG - More Pictures

Geoff Mitchell took this great photo of the OAGers at the start of our day out when the temperature was still a bit on the cool side.  And Lisa Bendel's  shot has captured the sense of vast space within which the rocky outcrops and swirling grasses dominate.

The pylons are a prominent feature of this bit of moor and from an artist's point of view their complex shapes add interest. 

Vicki certainly looks very cheery as she makes her lively pastel drawing.

You have to admire Harry's insouciant style when at lunch time he nonchalantly drew out the bottle of wine and 3 glass tumblers he'd been quietly lugging around! The afternoon took on a rosy glow all of a sudden.

The strong wind never abated and this photo of Sue trying to draw in it brings to mind the image of a ships figurehead or one of those winged Nikes.  

Afterwards Sue sent me this fascinating contribution:

Writing of his struggle across Blackstone Edge in 1724, Defoe said: "here, tho' it was but the middle of August, and in some places the harvest hardly got in we saw the mountain covered with snow; but we found the people had a way of mixing warm with cold together, for the store of good ale which flows plentifully in these mountainous parts of the country make up for all the inclemencies of the weather."

Sue added, "our windy weather was not quite as bad as poor old Daniel but adventurous nonetheless! Pity we didn't sample the store of ale - though the wine was pretty good!"

Monday, 3 October 2011

Outdoor Art Group - Blackstone, Light Hazzles and Warland

Nine members of the OAG experienced a marvellous outing on the tops today.
The trip was planned at very short notice in an attempt to capitalise on the tail end of the lovely weather.  A moody morning looked less than promising as we waited for the 900 bus up Cragg Vale to Blackstone Edge, but it never felt cold and once we started walking  the sun broke through and lit up the hills with a glorious amber light.

We followed a straightforward route along the Pennine Way, taking in 3 reservoirs - Blackstone, Light Hazzles and Warland - with 2 major stops for creative work.  A very insistent, warm wind was our constant companion animating the water surface with darting ripples and fanning the long red grass into equally liquid movement.

Some of the group had never been up to these reservoirs before and enjoyed finding a new area to discover and discuss.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Exhibition at Cliffe Castle, Keighley

The Inspired By Landscape Exhibition is now up and running at Cliffe Castle until 15th January 2012.

The opening on Saturday afternoon was well attended with lots of people coming over from Hebden Bridge, Bradford, Leeds, Harrogate and even Chester. 

Until the doors opened on Saturday I'd not seen the complete installation with all the projections running and the lighting in place so it was a lovely surprise to see that everything worked well together.  The giant charcoal drawings of the reservoir valve towers looked suitably dramatic on their individual walls overlaid with the projections of rippling reservoir water, with the blue light behind giving a feeling of space.

Big thanks are due to the very hard working team at Cliffe Castle, who really put the time in to ensure the large octagonal gallery was looking its best.  Special thanks to Paul Mahoney for his technical wizardry with masking the projections so precisely and understanding the effect I wanted to achieve. Thanks also to Mark Wharton for filming the water with me.

Something about all the different lighting used in the show makes it strangely difficult to photograph. The projected water disappears if you use flash, but without it the ripples take on a reddish cast. On the above photo I've had to do a lot of Photoshoppery to make it more like the real thing and its still not right.  I'll be going back with a tripod to have another go but to get the true picture you'll just have to go in person!

Friday, 23 September 2011

The exhibition starts tomorrow

Well thats it, the artwork is all installed and everything is out of my hands now. Tomorrow, Saturday, sees the opening of the Inspired By Landscape II exhibition at Cliffe Castle, Keighley from 2 pm till 4pm.
Anyone reading this and in the area is very welcome to attend.

Here's a photo of the entrance to the edifice that is Cliffe Castle, I love the tower and wish it were possible to go up to the top floor where there must surely be the ghost of the mad woman in the attic, a sinister monk, giant moths, or at the very least a flock of blood-sucking bats?

Owing to a broken car, I'll be travelling over to Keighley on the scenic 500 bus again tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it as there'll be a merry throng of friends from Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd on the same trip. We just need a bit of sun to light up the glowing autumnal rushes along the moor road over to Oxenhope and illuminate Leeshaw and Leeming reservoirs as we pass. Because thats what my exhibition work is all about. 

Monday, 19 September 2011


Not sure if it was the right decision to avoid showing any photos of the big drawings here until after the Exhibition Preview but I do so want their size and monumentalism to have maximum impact at the show. I like a surprise every once in a while and hope the people who've been following this blog and who are coming to Cliffe Castle on Saturday will feel it was worth the wait.

The drawings are being exhibited with an extra added element I haven't mentioned here at all.  This is something completely new to me and involves equipment, other people's expertise and much that is beyond my immediate control so at this point I don't know for sure it will all come off.  I believe the drawings are strong enough to stand on their own but really hope the other bit can happen because it should transform and animate the whole exhibition.