Peer Led Sessions
I did two peer led sessions this week, one a creative exercise where we did Crazy 8s, and then my usual Friday group. The Crazy 8 session was very useful, and I managed to get some of the half formed ideas in my head nailed down a tiny bit more. I’m no closer to deciding on a direction though, as I keep wanting to incorporate all of the threads I’ve been collecting. It is a shame you can’t make a metaphysical tapestry and call it done….
My weekly session was very small again, just two of us. We talked a lot about logistics and about preparing our trailer as well as sharing advice and resources about our topics. One thing that came up was changing your identity based on place, and about the social capital that this costs. It might be worth looking into code switching as well, I do a certain amount of code switching, but mostly based on belonging to a religious culture that is very all encompassing. Most code switching is based around social class or race, in quite a different way. Class is a very thorny issue within the UK, and I do feel that being an American cuts a lot of that out for me. At the same time, my accent is one of the things that will always separate me. My surname is as Cornish as you can get, so I surprise people when I speak to them for the first time. This normally leads to the ever difficult “where are you from?” question.
St Piran’s Day
This week was St Piran’s day, Cornwall’s saint day. Unlike in Wales or Scotland, this is not officially recognised with a day off, but it is still important to Cornish people. We are still not huge fans of crowds, so we celebrated a bit more sedately, by getting pasties and going back to Lamorna Cove. It was a beautiful day and we were able to get some good drone shots of the cove as well.
I did a little bit of sketching, but I’m quite intimidated by drawing at the moment. I had a good tutorial with Dan and he encouraged me to try quick draw exercises or to look for some online warm up suggestions. Drawing was something I used to enjoy, and did a lot of, but I found myself stopping as the years have gone by. Trying to start again is difficult, and my biggest hurdle is being paralyzed by wanting to produce “good” work. There is no such thing as “good” work, there is only work!
I have noticed that some of my problem with quick sketches is getting frustrated with filling space or trying to get repetitive marks down. I think I should try some charcoal on a mid toned paper, and do some tonal exercises or mark making experiments, or at least some darker, softer pencils.
My copy of the Phillip Marsden book I mentioned last week arrived, and it has been a fantastic resources. Marsden covers everything from the concept of topophilia (the love of place) to historical topographers who studied Cornwall, to rambling explorative walks to digging through the archives of the Morrab Library. He covers such a wide range of subjects and history, all linked together by his search for Cornwall’s spirit and mixed with more domestic interludes describing his family’s restoration of a Cornish farmhouse. In addition, the book is quite scholarly, with comprehensive notes and a rich bibliography. Several times Marsden documents visits to libraries, museums, and collections, writing about his sources directly from the originals.
I was struck by his visit to Andrew Lanyon, the son of famous Cornish artist Peter Lanyon, and his evocative descriptions of some of Lanyon’s works.
Lanyon, as an artist, was very grounded in a sense of place. Marsden describes Lanyon’s preoccupation with place in Rising Ground, “His paintings were about places, real places. They had names like Bojewyan Arms, Trevelgan, Portreath; they were not just images, but stories.
For him, tackling the big questions meant an understanding of place – not the regional or provincial, but the local, where a single field or a lone cove can conjure up a whole world. In his painting he was trying to recreate a ‘mile of history in a gesture’.” (Marsden 2015 pg. 213) Lanyon was one of the few Cornish artists in the famous St Ives art group, who’s heyday was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Lanyon’s relationship with the rest of the group was volatile, according to Marsden: “His work and his life were a ceaseless struggle between the local and the universal, between the figurative and the abstract, between the place and space. Lanyon describes himself as ‘a place man’: ‘I paint places but always the Placeness of them’.” (Marsden 2015 pg. 210)
I have not finished the entire book yet, but I can already tell it is one I will return to again and again. The sheer breadth of what is covered is staggering, and I enjoy Marsden’s prose and sense of love for place and history that shines through.
LANYON, Peter. 1946. The Yellow Runner [Oil on board]. Available at: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-yellow-runner-peter-lanyon/mAGmInGhmA2GKQ [accessed 13 Mar 2022].
MARSDEN, Philip. 2015. Rising Ground : A Search for the Spirit of Place. London: Granta.