Sounds of the Derwent Valley

What a difference a few hours makes! I’m sitting here in the cafe at Cromford Mill – the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The leaves are turning brown and everywhere autumn is transforming the landscape.

Whilst I was here ensuring all is okay with my installation, I thought I would take the opportunity to have a look at some of the other events going on during the Festival.  A trip to Belper found me in the Strutts North Mill in the Basement (am I forever destined to spend my life in cold, damp spaces?). There, playing, was ‘The Derwent’, a soundscape, written and created by George Gunby. This is a ‘sound collage, featuring words, music and effects, depicting the river from it’s origins in the Peak District, through Matlock, Belper and Derby, until it is finally consumed by the River Trent’. Sitting with my eyes closed, this piece really made me focus on the sounds that, in our busy lives, we sometimes overlook.  Rising and falling, much as the river does on it’s journey from beginning to end, the soundscape had quiet moments of contemplation as well as crescendos of planes and motorbikes, reminding us of the Dambusters practising with the bouncing bombs over the reservoir and the popularity of this area with motorcyclists. Again, much as the sound piece in Sheffield, this work made me remind myself to just take a moment to listen…as well as look.

Cromford CanalHopefully the sun will bring lots of visitors to the Mill and to my installation…

Someone had commented that they thought the installation was very cool – and it gave his Grandma an idea as to what to do with all her bobbins…glad to be of service!!!

Site-specific Connecting Threads!

Well, after a very tiring five days, Connecting Threads is at last on display in the First Mill at Cromford! Despite the rain and the damp we managed to install the work along with the supporting material – even if it did take three hours to hang five photographs owing to the fact we couldn’t drill into the walls so had to devise an alternative solution. All the staff and workmen appeared intrigued as to what we were doing – although the gentleman who enquired if we were hanging Christmas decorations did dampen my spirits a little. After asking me to describe in two words what we were doing, he harrumphed and replied ‘That says it all’ and immediately left when I answered his question with ‘Art installation’ – oh well you can’t win them all!!

On a lighter note, whilst we were in the middle of installing the work the BBC arrived to film at the Mill for the series ‘Restoration’.  Wanting to show that the mill building was being utilised – even if it isn’t fully restored – they asked me to carry on working while they filmed. Whether this means that I will appear in the background on the series remains to be seen – more likely I will end up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, they seemed genuinely interested in the work and it was fun watching how the professionals film and record – should have asked for a few tips!!

Even the very changeable weather didn’t put people off visiting the Mill. There was a steady trickle of visitors and I received some lovely comments; ‘Simply brilliant, with hidden depths – I love it’ was one such remark along with ‘Alive and not pretentious – hypnotic’. Although it is not the only reason I produce work, it is satisfying that others enjoy the installation! Lets see what the rest of the Festival holds.

Connecting Threads

Looking and Seeing

Although my installation is going to be on display at Cromford Mill during the Discovery Days Festival (26th Oct – 3rd Nov), which is scary yet exciting in equal measures, I have to admit to a certain lack of inspiration with regards to anything new. Whether this is because I had everthing mapped out i.e. Foundation course followed by Degree and suddenly that’s finished, or whether it is just a natural hiatus I don’t know…

During my recent visit to the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield however, I happened across these words by John Ruskin, the nineteenth century art critic, watercolourist, philanthropist and social thinker.

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see         something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, philosophy and religion all in one.”

This really made me think about what it means to be an artist – to see something, whether that be the natural world around us, a social injustice, a concept or whatever, and about the way we try to portray it, the way we get our thoughts or our message across in a way that others can understand.

Next to the quote above was another by Ruskin:

… found myself lying on the bank of a cart-road in the sand, with no prospect whatever but that small aspen tree against the blue sky. Languidly, but not idly, I began to draw it; and as I drew, the languor passed away: the beautiful lines insisted on being traced,—without weariness. More and more beautiful they became, as each rose out of the rest, and took its place in the air. With wonder increasing every instant, I saw that they “composed” themselves, by finer laws than any known of men. At last, the tree was there, and everything that I had thought before about trees, nowhere.

This quote has inspired me to get out and really see, not just look, at what’s around me. It also reminded me of the beauty of drawing and how, when you are really focused on your subject, everthing else fades into insignificance…you begin to see.

Aspen Trees MontanaTake a moment to have a real good look at what’s around you…what do you see?

The Sounds of…

For the most part, those of us blessed with our sense of hearing are oblivious to the cacophony of sounds surrounding us, so focused are we on our day-to-day lives. Every once in a while though, something occurs that makes us stop and listen. That something happened to me on Saturday during a visit to Sheffield. In an attempt to escape the weather I wondered into the Millennium Gallery and stepped ‘Inside the Circle of Fire’, a Sound Map by Chris Watson. Sitting in the semi-darkness (though at one point I did go one step further and actually shut my eyes) I was surrounded by the sounds that have forged the city of Sheffield. I was swept from the Peaks, to the birdsong in Ecclesall Woods, to the cheering crowds at Hillsborough, the trams and of course, the furnaces of the steel-makers. The Map was accompanied by some stunning black and white images of the city by Alan Silvester. For me however, it was the sounds that brought the city to life in a way that I perhaps hadn’t thought of before: rather than images defining a place or time, it was a sound, and it was these sounds that were taking me on a whistlestop tour of Sheffield, city of steel. If you are in the are it is well worth a visit – it runs until 23 Feb 2014.

Millenium Galleries Sheffield                     Check out the gallery website for further details.