Primarily a painter, my practice is concerned with archaeology, geology and a continuing enquiry into landscape. Informed by a process of immersion, extraction and abstraction my work is a form of mapping or shorthand for a collection of ideas and ideologies, symbolising an activity in time and place.
Underpinning all the work is extensive research, including dialogue with scientists and investigative walking to thoroughly understand the geological make up and formation of landscape. I am interested in the underlying factors that determine how our land has been used and shaped, how we move through it, the impact we have and the traces we leave behind. My work attempts to reveal what is not always immediately apparent, what can’t always be seen on the surface - the rocks beneath our feet and the remaining evidence of past lives.
Much of my work originates from investigating the specific landscapes of Dorset and West Cornwall and refers to the faint marks in the earth, visible only from the air, that reveal the sites of early human habitation, traces that form a readable map laying out clues to the story to be unravelled.
The paintings, constructed from layers of plaster and oil paint, continuously built up and sanded down and then drawn on or scratched through to expose the layers beneath evoke the experience of archaeological excavations and the process of erosion.
In a departure from previous work revealing traces in the earth when viewed from above, recent works go below ground exploring the geology beneath. The work in this series references the term ‘deep time’ used by geologists to describe the concept of the vast unimaginable periods of time represented by geological timescales. Homing in on the physicality and colour of the exposed rock face of the Dorset coast and the ‘colour’ of time as symbolised by geological mapping, these works convey a sense of the age old, all knowing of the rock beneath our feet and the concept of these slowly formed layers acting as compressed data stores recording everything.
Walking the landscape to really experience and understand the landscapes and concepts I work with is an essential part of my process. These walks encompass the physical, and imagined aspects of the past and present – an immersion that involves all the senses. Exploring ancient trackways such as the Tinners Way in Cornwall or the South Dorset Ridgeway gives insight into the way we use and traverse our land, understanding the reasons for why things are where they are, and making sense of these routes. Works in the Time Walking, Night Walking and Lost Ways series capture the resonance of those journeys in both time and place.
Mapping the Ridgeway
The works in this series reference the many ‘lost’ archaeological sites revealed through the recent National Mapping Programme survey of the South Dorset Ridgeway. This area of high ground in West Dorset is one of the richest archaeological sites in Britain. Whilst the many lumps and bumps of the prehistoric henges and barrows in this landscape are clearly visible on the ground there are many, many more that can only be seen from the air where they show up as faint marks or changes in colour of soil or vegetation.
Although painting is my chosen medium for expressing these concepts, it is inextricably entwined with that of my curatorial practice. I have devised and curated many exhibitions and seminars bringing together artists with geologists, archaeologists and geomorphologists. I worked extensively on Exploratory Laboratory – an arts and science project focusing on the geology of the Jurassic Coast and through this and my curatorial role for the b-side festival and Sherborne House Arts have supported and continue to develop many exhibitions, site specific commissions, residencies, artist-led walks, talks and field trips.