I have been selected for this years Jerwood Makers Open, a prestigious commissioning award giving five makers the opportunity to freely develop new ideas central to their individual practice.
For some time I have been exploring the concept of veneration, with this opportunity I will be using large porcelain bells as a symbolic form to venerate the landscape. Pembrokeshire has some wonderful sea caves and I have been exploring these as potential locations to hang the bells. The Idea is to hang the bells and to document them using film and sound.
With the hanging of the bells I wish to venerate a natural architectural space but also an experience. I grew up on the coast of Pembrokeshire, and spent my childhood on its beaches, cliffs and in the many deep and mysterious sea caves. The transition from the outside world as you drift into a natural internal space is captivating. The change in light, temperature, atmosphere and sound also congers ones emotions. A pure white bell suspended in the entrance to a cave would be very evocative of that moment.
With the film I hope to capture the receding tide, the sound of the sea, water dripping from above, the wind and the chime of the bell as the light changes within the cave.
Over the past two month I have been making the bells, next I need to fire them and then in April/May I will be hanging and filming. The completed commissions will be presented for the first time in an exhibition at JVA at Jerwood Space, London from 10 July to 25 August 2013, before touring the UK.
I am very excited that my film ‘Earth to Earth‘ is going to be shown at an outdoor event in the centre of Buenos Aires on the 17th of May. Alongside story-telling and poetry, video art will be shown on huge LED screens ordinarily used for advertising. The aim is to create a contemplative mood on the widest avenue in the world. It will be quite a juxtaposition to have my film, which is so much about nature and the wild shown in such an urban setting. The organisers and I hope that this will have be very effective. I also like the idea that the Welsh landscape is going to be shown in the capitol of Argentina with its historic and linguistic connections to Wales. For those of you who can speak Spanish have a look at this…
This is the final section of my Earth to Earth film capturing the aurora borealis.
24th October 2011.
Location: Carn Treliwyd, Pembrokeshire, Wales – 51° 54 N 5° 16 W
Aspect: Looking North East towards Strumble Head along the North Pembrokeshire coast.
The starting point for this idea comes from my degree in Archaeology and Anthropology. One strong rhetoric within archaeology is that the placing of standing stones, the burial of the dead and building of monuments all has strong associations with the surrounding landscape. The location of these is seen as a veneration of the landscape and nature and it is this concept that I am particularly interested in.
I wanted to place an object in a beautiful location in the hope that it would draw attention to its surroundings, as a homage to nature. I see bells as a universal symbol of the sacred and an ideal choice for this.
As this concept developed, I have discovered three things that captured my imagination:
In Meissen, Germany, famous for its porcelain, Paul Börner made porcelain bells for the cathedral up to 50cm in height. Thought by some to be a masterpiece.
Secondly, that across the world, past and present single resonant stones or rock gongs, are used as a substitute for bells. The local village of Maenclochog – meaning ringing stone has in the surrounding area prehistoric sounding rocks.
Finally, another local legend. In a tiny chapel built into the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire St.Govan had a silver bell. Stolen by pirates, it was returned to him by angels and encased in a huge rock, which would ring if struck. Legend has it that the rock is still among the boulders on the foreshore at St.Govans
N.B. The bell was only hung while I documented it hanging in the cave entrance. It appears this has been misunderstood by some and has been seen as intrusive to the natural environment. Had I left it there, I would agree.
Here is a preview of the time lapse film I have been making to document my Land Art project Earth to Earth. Full version coming soon…
Seven days of waiting and watching every change in the weather and this is what I found on Sunday morning. 20,000 images and the disintegration of the Jar happened in the dead of night, unable to be seen by the camera. The footage is amazing but what an anticlimax to have missed the defining moment of the process. I will try again.
What makes ceramics unique as an art form is the transformative process of firing. You make the work and then give it to the fire and hope that during its metamorphosis something beyond your expectation emerges. It is a natural process. No two trees grow the same and no two pots emerge the same. I take clay from the earth, process it, humanise it and form it. I then give it back to the elements, to fire. This naturalises it again giving it its own individual character, something uncontrolled by me.
Placing your work in a kiln, relinquishing control of its final aesthetic takes a certain mind set, patience and a certain amount of faith. Placing a jar on a hill to weather away is a similar process. I am still committing the jar to the elements, air and water instead of fire and there is still a transformation.
For the past two months I have been working on the Earth to Earth project. This is part of my Arts Council of Wales research grant. This time I decided to document the weathering of the Jar using Time Lapse Photography. At first I thought this would be straight forward but the more I thought about it the more involved the project became. Firstly I needed a way to house the camera that was weather proof. I ended up modifying an electrical junction box. I knew from the experience of past attempts that the Jar would last anything from a few days to two weeks so I needed to power the camera for a long period. I used a 12v battery and a DC to DC power converter. Just getting this far took a lot of research and technical knowledge for which I am very grateful to Colin Gregory.
The Jar will be photographed day and night every 33 seconds until it has weathered away. Each shot will become a single frame in a film with 25 frames per second. The camera will take 109 pictures and hour which will translate to just over 4 seconds of film. For this I had to work out all the best camera settings, the interval between shots, the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO and so on. More technical research and long conversations with my brother Greg. As a teenager I had a manual SLR camera and that foundation in understanding cameras really paid off.
Last week I did a trial run, at first I thought it wouldn’t be, but I soon realised despite all my research I still had a lot to get right. The results however from the trial are very encouraging and exciting. The changing weather, the stars at night, moon light, sun rise, rain all captured on camera.
This project has been a journey in its self and I have been contemplating for a long time how best to illustrate it. I am hopeful that this will be an interesting depiction. I have never exhibited this project in any capacity and just recently I have had interest in it from a number of places. Most excitingly I have been asked to be part of a major exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre in January and they are particularly interested in exhibiting this piece. Lets hope it goes well.
This autumn, the V&A and Crafts Council will celebrate the role of making in our lives by presenting an eclectic selection of over 100 exquisitely crafted objects. As part of this major exhibition entitled ‘Power of Making’ people from around the world were invited to upload short films about making and a selection of the best entries will be continually screened in the exhibition. This film by Greg Rodland Buick, of me throwing a large Moon Jar was selected. It is so great to have such a talented photographer and now film maker as a brother.