Green Room: Blog
News from residency artists, learning programme participants, workshop and masterclass students charting their experiences and responses to time spent at The Rodd. Please do revisit - and make sure you are signed up to our mailing list to get updates direct to your inbox.
Five days in Rodd Wood
Over the last five weeks we have had between sixteen and twenty young people coming to the Rodd to experiment with 2D and 3D drawing in Rodd Wood. All 100 or so students are newly enrolled on the Level 3 Diploma and Extended Diploma in Art & Design at Hereford College of Arts. They have been accompanied by their tutors Lotte Millward-Brookes and Matthew Thomas. The first four of these five visits have all coincided with beautiful autumnal days and we are hoping that the last visit tomorrow will also have good weather. The students have been making works in the woods and have left them each week so their next peer group can visit them and see how they endure. At the end of their day of being creative in Rodd Wood we have noticed that the young people are relaxed and smiling as they walk back down to the grain barn. Students have commented that they have felt totally immersed in the landscape and have been inspired. In November, the Level 3 students may be curating an exhibition of their work in the Gallery here at The Sidney Nolan Trust; details are to follow.
On her recent residency at The Rodd, artist Halina Dominska chose to revisit the idea of Sidney Nolan's Snake mural. This was part of Sidney's Oceania group of works which also included Shark and Paradise Garden. Snake was created over 1970-72 and is comprised of 1620 paintings divided into 270 panels of 6 paintings. The complete work measures 9.14 m x 45.72 metres. The materials used are mixed media on paper. Most the original pictures that make up the mural are flowers or human heads but are also reminiscent of animal life. Snake can now be seen at MONA Gallery in Hobart, Tasmania. The ambition of the MONA building matches that of Sidney's mural so it is well placed. Mary Nolan said the original title of the mural was The Rainbow Serpent. Halina fashioned small scales out of bark she had gathered and then combined them with a favourite material of her which is latex. She noticed the agricultural netting hanging all around the grain barn. Certainly her final netted snake which she hung in the barn echoes this. Suddenly I find I am aware of all the curves in the architecture of the barn whereas before it just felt linear. Halina reveals a softer side and dimension to the space of the barn.
Opening up the narrative
Artist's Studio Museum Network Colloquium
On a recent h.Art residency, artist Halina Dominska discovered a Herefordshire Archaelogical Report about Rodd Wood. This survey, made in conjunction with the Forestry Commission recorded fourteen sites of charcoal burning platforms and three sites of saw pits within Rodd Wood. She shared this with another on site artist Lotte Scott, pictured above. Lotte had planned to use her h.Art residency to make charcoal at The Rodd. She dug a fire pit and experimented with different containers to make two batches of charcoal. Her results were impressive, shown below. Lotte will hopefully be coming back to explore this relationship between the Colliers (as Charcoal burner folk were originally known) and Rodd Wood further. This would appeal to Sir Sidney Nolan who was interested in the human occupation of the land.
Amelie Williams visit to Ikon and The Rodd
Amelie Williams from Caban Sgriblio at Gwernyfed High School, has been working on Arts Alive Wales's Creative Writing project. In July 2017, she was invited to attend two of the Arts Alive Wales Portfolio project plus project workshops as writer in residence. In the course of one week she attended an Ikon Gallery visit and visit to The Rodd, Sidney Nolan's last studio and home. Here she writes about her visits.
Roxy Shaw writes about Sidney Nolan
Roxy Shaw from Caban Sgriblio at Gwernyfed High School, has been working on Arts Alive Wales's Creative Writing project. In July 2017, she was invited to attend two of the Arts Alive Wales Portfolio project plus project workshops as writer in residence. In the course of one week she went to Ikon Gallery and to The Rodd, Sidney Nolan's last studio and home. Here she writes about her visits.
Ikon Youth Programme 'Looping the Loop'
This image was made by one of the participants of the Ikon Youth Programme who came to The Rodd to attend a one day spray paint workshop with Dan 'Newso' Lickiss. Dan taught the art of spray painting, with reference to Sidney Nolan's techniques and art that the group had observed in the Nolan exhibition at Ikon and here at Sidney's studio. This one day workshop was part of a larger summer arts programme called 'Looping the Loop', run collaboratively by Ikon and Sidney Nolan Trust with funding from Arts Connect Partnership Investment Fund. Eight young people from Ikon Youth Programme attended the workshop. Alongside spray painting techniques they felt they had learnt other things such as an "interest in the lives and careers of established artists; perseverence when challenged; not being afraid to try things out of a comfort zone; more about thought processes when met with challenges; and how to be expressive.” Creatively, they expressed gains such as learning how to create patterns with cloth like Sidney Nolan used to do, being free with paint and not worrying so much about accuracy, perseverance and using stencils and painting on a large canvas.
Sandwell Young Peoples Service 'Looping the Loop'
On 3rd August 2017 ten young people from Sandwell Young Peoples Service came to the Rodd to participate in a spray paint workshop as part of the 'Looping the Loop' summer arts activty programme. This was run collaboratively by the Ikon Gallery and the Sidney Nolan Trust supported by the Arts Connect Partnership Investment Fund. The young people were between the ages of 11 and 15 years, and their comments showed that they had gained artistic confidence through the activity. For example, in regard to what they felt that they had learnt during the day they wrote "I'm quite artistic; I have an imagination bigger than I thought; that I am a good painter; I'm more of an artist than I thought; I have more confidence than I thought I did; that I can spray paint." The workshop gave them confidence and this is turn seemed to lead to them being more ambitious in their creative aspirations for the future. There was an opening held on 1st September at Ikon Gallery to launch a three day showcase of the work that Sandwell Young People Service and the other 3 groups involved in the project had created. This was attended by the young people from Sandwell and they were visibly proud of their achievements. The group had a lot of energy and Sidney Nolan Trust Director Anthony Plant was pleased to see this group sitting in the accompanying Sidney Nolan exhibition looking quite at ease in this white cube environment. He was delighted that this in itself was an indicator that the project had achieved one of its aims of bringing these groups of young people into new environments.
St Basils 'Looping the Loop'
St Basils works with young people across the West Midlands to prevent youth homelessness by providing support and accomodation. From June to September 2017, St Basils took part in Sidney Nolan Trust's joint collaboration with Ikon Gallery Birmingham, supported by the Arts Connect Partnership Investment Fund. This project was to deliver a summer of arts activity with young people and was titled 'Looping the Loop'. Using the Ikon Slow Boat as a catalyst , the group took part in artist led workshops, including working with spoken word artists Free Radical and spray artist Dan 'Newso' Lickiss. The young people brought together their creativity, experiences and skills to make work and explore themes inspired by Sidney Nolan's practice. Four young people from St Basils came down to The Rodd on 1st August, accompanied by their youth worker, Saber. They were also really taken by all the animals at The Rodd and enjoyed being chased by the rooster and just getting up close to the Welsh black cattle. They also liked having lunch in the rustic farmhouse, and Saber pointed out that the whole experience would not have been the same if they had been in a modern building.
St Pauls School 'Looping the Loop'
St Pauls is a small independent school in the heart of Balsall Heath that supports young people who have experienced difficulties in main stream education. They provide a welcoming environment for pupils and students aged 9 to post 16 who have emotional, social and/or health difficulties and special educational needs. Over June to August 2017, St Paul's took part in Sidney Nolan Trust's joint collaboration with Ikon Gallery Birmingham, supported by the Arts Connect Partnership Investment Fund. This project was titled 'Looping the Loop' and invovled attending three workshops, one here at The Rodd and two at Ikon Gallery and on the Ikon's 'Slow boat' on the canal. Four pupils from St Pauls arrived at The Rodd on 14th June and stayed the night enabling them to take part in two days of activities. The main workshop was with Dan 'Newso'. He taught the the art of spray painting, with reference to Sidney Nolan's techniques and art that they had observed in the Nolan exhibition at Ikon and here at Sidney's studio. On the first evening we had a BBQ and sat out under the Rodd's new event shelter. On their second day the group did some green wood work, and made a woven compost bin for the farmhouse.
2017 Arts Programme for Young People
Over Summer 2017, Ikon Gallery and Sidney Nolan Trust have collaborated on an arts programme supported by the Arts Connect Partnership Investment Fund. The project has been inspired by the spray-painted work of Sidney Nolan that had been on exhibition at the Ikon Gallery. It was created to benefit young people from Birmingham and Sandwell and took place during June and August with a show case at Ikon on 1st - 3rd September. The project was called 'Looping the Loop'. Groups of young people from four of the Trust's partner groups in Birmingham and Sandwell had the opportunity to take part in a series of three workshops held at both Ikon Gallery and The Sidney Nolan Trust. The partner organisations supporting young people were St Basils (combating homelessness and its effects), St Pauls School in Balsall Heath (for young people excluded from mainstream education), Trident Reach (working with young people to maximise positivity, independence and participation) and Sandwell Youth Services. Also the Ikon Youth Programme were able to take part in the project. Partner groups were supported by the Trust and Ikon staff to encourage participation by young people who often find it difficult to commit to new activities outside of their normal realm of experience. The groups all visited the Nolan show at Ikon after which they engaged in artist led writing workshops on board Ikon's Slow Boat and spray paint workshops in the Grain Barn at the Sidney Nolan Trust. There was a third and final follow up workshop at Ikon to plan and curate their showcase and design fliers etc. for publicity. Alongside the scheduled activity, each young person had the opportunity of completing Bronze Level Arts Award. Outcomes for young people were to : Learn new creative skills Gain valuable skills relevant to work and training Take part in an art exhibition Meet people from art and agricultural backgrounds Experience new environments: the gallery, the narrow boat, the countryside, Sidney Nolan's studio Time out from everyday pressures Develop creative talents with ongoing support and signposting The opening of the showcase at Ikon was attended by two of the young peoples groups. Spray paint works were displayed alongside some of the written words from the word workshop.
Routes of Discovery
Sandra Lane There is nothing more valuable as you set out as an artist than someone taking your work seriously, and providing you with a place to work, materials and somewhere to stay, for no other reason than they want you to immerse yourself in beautiful surroundings, and take the experience away with you for it to work upon your practice. This is what the Sidney Nolan Trust offers. Coming to the Rodd is a very immersive experience, far from London in every way, the colours, sounds and rythmn of the days take over. It’s strange to share a house with new people - but only for a moment as you have such a strong common bond - I’ve had great conversations and a huge amount of laughing with my fellow residents. On arriving at the Rodd we were assured there was no pressure on us, the most important thing was to walk the land, to get the feel of the place, and that this is what had been so important to Sidney Nolan. And though every day is astonishing in its green goldness, multiple weather changes, strutting chickens and wonky horned cow, I get the feeling the most important effects of the residency will be subtler, and longer lasting and be having an effect for a long time to come. I’d been making ceramic shoes planting them like a presence amongst my more abstract sculptures. I started here with a large elegant shoe. Since digging my own muddy clay out of the hills in Rodd Wood I’ve made a rustic boot and now a bare foot filled with earth and field plants. This last one interests me more than any of them. I don’t quite know where it will lead. Lotte Scott I arrived here at the Rodd after an incredibly busy, hectic summer – finishing my MFA at the Slade, moving out of London to start a new life in Macclesfield and preparing for upcoming exhibitions this autumn. I was hoping the 10 day residency would give me time to reflect on my practice and immerse myself in a new landscape. For the last five years I have made work about one particular area of the Somerset Levels, so coming to the Rodd for 10 days offered me the chance to explore a different way of working. Over the course of my Levels project, I was living in London but making work about Somerset, meaning I was constantly travelling. At times I’ve found this very frustrating, feeling that my subject landscape was out of reach, that visits to make work were highly pressured. Being here on the residency has been very different – it feels such a privilege to spend time in this beautiful place, spending every day out on the land. It’s developed my thoughts about what it means to make work about place, history and landscape – how a deeper a response relies on time spent directly experiencing place. During my time here I’ve enjoyed discovering Rodd Wood most of all. Halina Dominska Residing at the The Rodd has been an absolute pleasure, the support and care we've received from all the Sidney Nolan team has been faultless. The landscape the Rodd is set within has been a constant inspiration, surrounded by nature and uninterrupted views of the landscape seem to instantly open the mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking. Engaging with your wonderful visitors has been a joy, I've learnt so much from them, discussing practice and residency research has enabled me to make further connections with my work. Living with three UK based Artists with different practices and educational backgrounds has been invaluable. We've been immersed in artistic discussion, from discussions about our practices to processes to artist survival, the conversations have been endless. Where else would that happen for such a concentrated amount of time. We've all made connections with each other making the experience even more special. What will I take away with me? Working in a concentrated way with the materials around me has enabled me to question aspects of my practice which may of taken a much longer period of time to consider, this has quickly highlighted further understandings about repeating themes within my work. On returning to my studio I intend to engage with my peers on a regular basis after the positive impact this experience has given me. New knowledge about Sidney Nolan, his artwork, interests and love of the Rodd and the Sidney Nolan legacy have given me lasting memories about my time here, ones which have helped shape my future practice. Cowdinsky: Soon after being selected for the residency, I found that I couldn’t ignore Sidney Nolan’s centenary, along with his artist studio, that has recently been unveiled and opened to the public. It felt like the right time to direct my attention to Nolan’s practice. Research has played a consistent part throughout this residency, governing the materials, subject matter and technique, enabling me to formulate a story to manipulate what is believable. My practice often encompasses subverting the conventional gallery space to create unexpected experiences, merging the boundaries between art and life. ‘The Incredible Solan’ is a performance piece influenced by Nolan’s 1963 Gorilla paintings, composed around an expedition to Africa with his second wife Cynthia in the Autumn of 1962. ‘Solan’ the gorilla, along with all his artistic materials is presented within a cage for the general public’s pleasure and amusement, deploying humour as a mechanism to suggest the resident artist being a zoo like spectacle; highlighting the tentative relationship between the artist and institution. The residency has channelled me to become fully immersed in the rich artistic energy of the Rodd, embracing new experiences and challenges. The Trust has consistently been a fountain of knowledge for me to dip into, making the process feel shared and informed by staff, on-site artists and the public. Undoubtedly I’ve been influenced and stimulated on a day to day basis by the resident artists, we’ve lived together, shared the same space and ate the same bananas… time and environment have developed these connections making us in tune with one another’s specialities which is fascinating to be around! The Sidney Nolan residency has been invaluable, generating a pool of fresh ideas for me to explore and develop into the future.
Arts Alive Wales aerial view
On 28th July, eleven young people participating in Art Alive Wales's week long Portfolio programme of arts activities came to The Rodd. They had been to the Ikon gallery earlier in the week and seen the current exhibition of Sidney Nolan's work there. They finished their busy week off at his home here, visiting his studio, the current 'Reflections' exhibition in the gallery and the landscape of Rodd Farm. Two of the participants have been tweeting and blogging about both visits and will be sharing a written piece about the whole experience with us very soon. Emma Posey organised the workshop for the day, bringing with her filmmaker Sion Marshall-Waters, digital specialist Gavin Johnson, and a drone specialist. Rachel Dunlop and Morag Colquhorn from Arts Alive Wales accompanied the group. They had a tour of the organic farm, and then partcipated in two workshops. The first was flying the drone over the landscape and making some films. The second was making landscape trails from found materials and following them with the drone. At the end of the day they put on a short exhibition, which visitors to the Rodd were also interested to see. Arts Alive have sent us some wonderful photographs and footage of the drone's eye view of our buildings and landscape. Photograph credits to Sion Marshall-Waters and footage to AirLab.
Experimental lithography masterclass
This weekend Professor David Ferry led a six strong lithography masterclass. He gave a fascinating evening lecture with examples of Paula Rego prints on the Friday evening followed by a meal cooked by our very own print maker Michael Hancock. Saturday and Sunday were rammed with learning lithography techniques with an emphasis on experimenting and changing images on the transfer plate. Participants said that David was totally inspiring, convincing them that it was okay to experiment and enjoy the process itself, rather than worrying about producing a perfect drawing and then print. They found this approach very freeing.
Into the woods with creative intent
Found materials were adopted as a starting point for a day of mono printing in the woods and studios of The Rodd
Is it enough?
Walking away from the Rodd on Thursday evening, I wondered "Is it enough?" The Sidney Nolan Trust had hosted a fantastic happening. In our grain barn. For 2 hours. On a weekday; early doors. How to describe it, if you missed it? It shouldn't have been missed. In a big city this event would have attracted hoards. Our faithful following turned out and witnessed the sounds, the films, the performance, detailed work, all unpicking elements of Sidney Nolan's chosen land and building scape. Eight PhD research students, brought together, funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council, North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. They had just 3 days to make a response from their own focal point. And how they reacted. They worked solidly. An intense period of looking, wondering and making. I worried about the vacant audience's missed opportunity. However, Pavel Prokopic, one of the artists, outlined how he saw this event as a vision of a utopia. He described how in the future, where capitalist work is no longer the driving machination, how all folk will make work, and all folk will be artists. He saw that artists/makers will attend each other's events, like this one, and enjoy. This was a lovely vision. But for now I wondered if it was enough that this happening was witnessed by so few? It seemed a shame that this marvelous experience was not had by more people. I wondered how we can we do more at the Trust to draw more people to this wonderful work going on, on site? There was a brilliant performance from Sara Davies, treading carefully along and among the large Sidney Nolan frames, making one think of bodies and borders, vulnerability and portraits, and memories that we ease ourselves in and around.
City girl guides meet water, mud & paint
Guides Visit 10th June 2017 I met eight very excited girl guides and their guide leaders half way down the drive, arms filled with bags and coats and all wearing big smiles - no apprehension here! After getting to know each other we set off – with Jo who would be running the pond dipping session to let out the chickens and collect the eggs. “Are they supposed to be flying out of the field?” “Yes – they are very free range!” “Does this egg have a baby chick in it?” Followed by a long explanation by me about fertilisation! “Can I catch a chicken” Lauren called as she chased one into the trees. The guides were clearly very happy to be here! Down in the shallow stretch of the River Hindwell, where for many years the cattle have frequented it as a drinking hole and crossing place – we hunted for water creatures – and we discovered fresh water shrimps, water boatmen, may flies, stone flies, caddis flies and snails. Wellies filled with water, clothes got wet, wellies stuck in ankle deep mud. Nets were used to search the beautiful flower covered stretches of the shallows. Guides laughed and whooped and shouted –loving the freedom and the excitement of exploring. After lunch and goodbye and thanks to Jo, we visited the gallery and Nolan’s studio where masses of questions were asked as the girls made sense of the paintings. Our painting workshop that followed was certainly inspired by what they had seen and a new found love of mud. Earth pigment paints, that I had made up earlier, were smeared on paper and hands and arms – the guides were truly embracing this new found creative freedom! This is the most exciting part of my work in learning - seeing how people respond to the opportunity to create. The group settled and began their own separate paintings on the boards I had provided. They painted, stencilled, flicked and splashed the paint, they moved it around with their fingers, talking about colour and patterns and composition. It was magic. Ready for home and the girls talked about how they loved the river and the painting. “How much does it cost to come here? I want my school to raise money to bring us here again”. “Can we take a chicken home?”
Tony Hall's Earth Weekend May 2017
New Art West Midlands Residency Winner: Her residency at The Rodd will be 9th-17th September 2017
Words and sentences collected from conversations taken place at The Rodd: April - May 2017
Introduction to Lithography:Blog
16 &17 May 2017
8th May 2017
Anthony Plant: A Rodd Walk
7th May 2017
Dia Mexi-Jones: The Allure of the Borders
Visiting MA student from Bath Spa University. Blog post: 22nd April 2017
28th April 2017
Amy Sharrocks: Rocococo
In residence 7th - 9th April 2017
Amy Sharrocks: Nature
In residence 7th -9th April 2017
Thoughts after Lines in the Landscape residency
Kate Morgan-Clare: Worry Lines
During Lines in the Landscape residency
Spray paint, pottery and some firsts for a young family
Young people relished working with clay and created a large scale work that brightens up the Grain Barn
Amy Sharrocks: Making Clouds on Sunny Days
In residence 7th - 9th April 2017
Kate Green: White Ribbon Walk
Reflections of walk: 16th March 2017
Kate Green: I found another way
Reflections on Walk: 24th February 2017
Eiko Soga: Day 12
Blog entry 8th April 2017
Eiko Soga: Day 10
Blog entry 6th April 2017
Celia Johnson: Masterclass
2nd April 2017
Words and sentences collected from conversations taken place at The Rodd: April 2017
Kate Green: Walking with Instagram
Lines in the Landscape 6th April 2017
Allison Neal: Back to Nature
During Lines in the Landscape : 3rd - 6th April 2017
Thomas John Bacon: Day 6
Blog entry 5th April 2017
Thomas John Bacon: Day 5
Blog entry 4th April 2017
Amy Sharrocks: Blog before arrival
Blog entry 5th April 2017
Eiko Soga: Day 5
Blog entry 3rd April 2017
Thomas John Bacon: Day 3
Blog entry 2nd April 2017
Anthony Plant: Earth
Blog entry: 2nd April 2017
Thomas John Bacon: Day 2
Blog entry 1st April 2017
Kate Green: Walk 31st March 2017
Walk 31st March 2017
Thomas John Bacon: Day 1
Blog entry for 31st March 2017.
Eiko Soga: Day 4
Blog entry for 31st March 2017
Kate Green: Walk 31 March 2017
Walk 31st March 2017
Eiko Soga: Day 3
Blog entry for 30th March 2017.
Thomas John Bacon: Blog before Arrival
Blog entry before arrival. 30th March 2017.
Eiko Soga: Day 2
Blog entry for 29th March 2017.
Eiko Soga: Blog
Blog entry for 28th March 2017. Arrival day.
Masakatsu Kondo: Before Arrival
Blog entry 27th March. Thoughts before my arrival.
Eiko Soga: before arrival
Blog entry: 22nd March. Thoughts before my arrival.
Summerisle Revisited by David Ferry
Summerisle Revisited: The Artist’s Cut Prologue Crossing borders: facts and fictions The artist David Ferry has consistently worked with collage throughout his printmaking practice and advocates the application of a ‘collage mentality’ to printmaking as a way of enabling ideas to infuse process. His visual re-scripting of the 1970s cult film the ‘The Wicker Man’ (Hardy, 1973) is an example of this approach. This paper will explore how a ‘collage mentality’ can be used to analyse a film narrative, and its relationship to other graphic, sociological and geographic contexts. The following dialogue has been constructed from several conversations that took place in March 2013 between David Ferry and writer Stephen Clarke. The setting for this constructed dialogue is a walk around Rodd Farm, location of the Sidney Nolan Trust - a centre for printmaking in Powys on the Welsh border. The Rodd was chosen by Ferry as an evocative landscape that had inspired the twentieth century Australian artist Sidney Nolan and which, for Ferry, has resonances with the film ‘The Wicker Man’. The dialogue takes the form of a script for a film attempting to map out a fiction of time and place. This approach investigates how a ‘collage mentality’ can also be applied to collaborative writing. Scene One Breakfast at The Rodd: looking over the script Stephen Clarke: How did you arrive at working with ‘The Wicker Man’? David Ferry: The film came out in 1973 when I was still at school. I don’t think I saw it until 1983 after I had finished my postgraduate studies. It became more noteworthy and significant as one understood more about ones socio-political standings and leanings. What is interesting is that the film for me increased in value. I think that an artist is somebody who thinks via dawning realisations. My project ‘May Day in the Centre of England’ is a thirty-two panel montage of the script of ‘The Wicker Man’, taking you through an idea of the film rather than a literal illustration of it. It’s in two parts, ‘Day’ and ‘Night’, with the Maypole as midday (figure 1). SC: How were these panels made? DF: I look at: pageantry, folklores and customs; pictures of the Maypole; pictures of knitting patterns; pictures of social interaction. And somehow within the collage mentality they begin to bear witness to images. The sketchbook is a classic bridge between the idea and reality. We have selection, rejection, suspicion and intuition. Developing a grand scheme I put a schema up on paper, the scale of what the work would be. SC: So this becomes the film’s storyboard? DF: It does. It becomes my script from the script, visually. I re-edit it using simple tools of the trade. The images are cut out of magazines and then attacked with spray varnishes and graffiti paint. Spraying through things to make backcloths or whatever. And then the operating table when the fragments then become built to be something else. SC: A film is constructed from chopped up parcels of time that seem to have continuity. Likewise your montages are chopped up parcels that produce a kind of artist’s cut that mirrors the director’s cut. Montage reconfigures material and if you reconfigure you end up with a different understanding. DF: The actual novel of the film by Anthony Shaffer (screenwriter), in collaboration with Robin Hardy (the film’s director), wasn’t published until after the film was released in 1973! So, in short, we have a screenplay, and a novel, the actual film itself - a cinema release and a ‘Director’s Cut’ - and an artist’s interpretation influenced through the suggestive ‘travel’ of the film and personal experiences of social stereotypes in location. Scene Two Setting the scene: The Rodd is an island SC: Although labelled a cult horror film, ‘The Wicker Man’ uses imagery that could be in a tourist board guide to the Highlands. The film uses folk music alongside images of bright sunny skies and blossom on the trees. It sells Summerisle as a destination that you want to go to. DF: That has encapsulated our imagination even before there is any sense of scenario, screenplay, narrative or other kinds of human interaction. The interesting thing about the fictional isle of Summerisle is that we are kind of landing anywhere. Summerisle is totally fictitious; it didn’t exist. To us, because we circled it like a bird in the aeroplane, we were absolutely convinced it was an island. A colour enhanced photographic souvenir postcard of a selected location provides us with a similar changed reality. The interesting thing about souvenir postcards is that colour enhancement effectively conjures the fact that this is possibly in the Mediterranean, but it isn’t. For example, a postcard of the fountains and children’s paddling pool at Lytham St. Annes alludes to a perfectness, and rather like Summerisle in Northern Scotland, supposedly, looks rather more like La Palma. What we have is an image, which actually tests the fact that Summerisle and La Palma are the same. On our walk we will look at The Rodd as an island created by Sidney Nolan. We can see that there are specific parallels in looking at things that on one level of our understanding we can construe as real but through an imaginative understanding are transformed. We can be in either Summerisle or in the Island of the Rodd here in Presteigne (figure 2). Scene Three Our hero the detective SC: This dialogue is a montage in itself and our walk is a metaphor for the process of moving through the script. DF: Apart from his aeroplane by which he descends, Sergeant Howie walks everywhere. He has no other means of getting to a point faster or quicker than his own self frame. This is why I had this idea of going to a type of island setting (The Rodd) and walking through it as a great deal of the action in ‘The Wicker Man’ takes place with Howie walking through things. SC: We are pathfinders. Although we have maps we don’t go everywhere on the map. We are constructing a particular path or narrative. DF: Sergeant Howie goes with his briefcase. He could be in Glasgow or Edinburgh but he isn’t. He is in this supposedly real place which we know is fictional but in the context of the scenario is a very, very real place called Summerisle. SC: You can see the narrative of the film through Howie’s eyes and be shocked at these despicable acts, such as putting a frog in a child’s mouth to cure a sore throat. DF: That happened in the sweet shop-cum-post office. It was a sweet shop but the sweets weren’t Mars bars, Bountys or Aeros; they were in the shape of animals and things. The similarity was enough to convince one that it was the sweet shop. Howie would have felt a level of knowledge in that context, would he not? SC: At one point in the film Lord Summerisle turns to Sergeant Howie and he says ‘You’re the detective here’. Obviously, Howie is the detective because he is the police sergeant and he is trying to make sense of this experience. This is a direct appeal to the viewer to make sense of the film. DF: A significant scene that was in the novel (Hardy and Shaffer, 1978) and not the original theatrical version (Hardy, 1973) is the fact that the person that drove Howie to Lord Summerisle is the one lesbian on the island who is absolutely aware and conscious of the prevailing religious rites but is removed from it because the fertility concept of the lesbian is clearly not going to issue forth fruit. So, both of them, travelling in the cart to the castle are absolute outsiders: one of them within a context and the other thinking that he commands a context and is absolutely completely misguided. His belief in his righteousness and the prevailing good of the police was so incredible that even in his Punch’s outfit, where he seemingly thinks that he has rescued the girl, he is trapped on an island. The villagers have taken the spark plugs out of his aircraft so that it is not going to go anywhere. He is almost nihilistic in his last stand to control the narrative. He went that far and he couldn’t go back. Scene Four Lunchtime in the village [The artist and the writer head to the local village of Presteigne to look around the town] SC: Does context frame our way of seeing? There are actually no monsters in the film. They are all ordinary people living life within a particular structure that mirrors feudal Scottish society. DF: When Howie is on the rampage looking for the missing child he goes on a massive walkabout turning the village upside down. He visits all the shops. In ‘The Director’s Cut’ (Hardy, 1979) there is a scene that shows ladies having their hair done in the hairdressers. They are sat under the heaters, their animal masks are just by their side and it is absolutely as normal. Howie goes to the fishmonger who is as proud as anybody to show him his own mask. What initially excited me about this film was the fact that endemic in the ordinary was something just left of centre. It is neither extraordinary in the context of ultra surrealism or ultra carnival it was just simply a mask, a fish mask, a salmon mask, a bull, a reindeer or whatever. These were neither overtly theatrical nor were they overtly comic. The mask was just simply an object, a curiosity, placed within a greater 90% of reality. The misplacing of an object can sometimes be extraordinary. I am thinking of that iconic surrealist sculpture where we have got the Bakelite black telephone with a lobster on the top of it or the production still from ‘Dr Who’ of Daleks on the Westminster Bridge. What I feel about this particular film ‘The Wicker Man’ is the fact that it is 90% reasonable, and the other little percentage fragment is that bit that makes the ordinary remarkable. SC: I wonder if you personally had the reverse experience of what you are saying about ‘The Wicker Man’? You say 90% of ‘The Wicker Man’ is ordinary and understandable and 10% is bizarre. You grew up in Blackpool of which 90% is bizarre and only 10% ordinary. DF: In Blackpool you could see elephants on the beach, trunk to tail walking across a tram track. At night the tram itself would be encrusted in lights in the shape of an American cowboy train or a rocket. You put those two things together and you’ve got a remarkable scenario of strangeness acted out in real time and space dimensions. SC: You say that ‘The Wicker Man’ is a modern day pagan adventure that explores social structures. DF: I think that that period of time is salient in respect of a type of both graphic and sociological mindset. This film is not isolated. It is within both graphic and social constraint of a particular way of looking at something. There were already prevalent social stereotypical options operating in British Cinema that belied a truth but relied on stereotypes. ‘Carry on Camping’ (Thomas, 1969) is a significant film of its time, which portrayed a tragedy of sociological order and a fear of a new order. ‘Get Carter’ (Hodges, 1971), shot on Tyneside entirely, is a fictional realist cinema presenting the narrative in location which is both the backdrop and a geo-social interaction. Scene Five Afternoon at the Rodd: a strange field SC: You mentioned that a particular view on The Rodd reminded Nolan of Australia. DF: We chose to do our walk around the fictional Summerisle on Rodd Farm because it reminded Sidney Nolan of something that wasn’t there: a track of land in Australia. There is a map of the Burren in Ireland made by the artist/cartographer Tim Robinson (Robinson, 1977) and underlined on this map there is an area simply called ‘a strange field’. In this field are odd shaped things. The original function and purpose of these apparent anomalies of dry stone walling is lost. They present an opportunity for contemporary interpretation based on archaeological research or, what I think is a more viable, imaginative speculation not based on any credible archaeological knowledge at all. SC: Can we build our understanding from fragments? DF: We circumnavigate our surroundings based on early recollections of our growing consciousness in relation to how people interacted; what architecture was surrounding you; what social dimension surrounded you. I am very clear in my mind that those aspects of the self never leave you despite new adventures and experiences. They are the pertinent bottom of the structure and rather like veins coming up through a structure they can be readily tapped into. You can put a main line in a vein and be, lets say, in Adelaide or Melbourne, and see immediately aspects of Torquay, Eastbourne, or Lytham St Annes because the vernacular architecture is similar to that which was your structural starting point. Even though it is remarkable that Nolan came to The Rodd, there was a semblance that connected to his understanding of why he was here. He never lost sight of those initial atmospheric and character driven memories that were still pertinent to him in later age. What I am arguing is that those early understandings of oneself, and the characters and the situations, shape our viewpoint. We are not looking at something so completely new and remarkable. When I look at this film ‘The Wicker Man’ and make work surrounding it, I am not illustrating the text as such, I am fuelling what the text is giving me via those reminisces, memories, contexts, social interactions, that are parallel to the constructed script. We are looking at where this is not simply process, it is a collage mentality able to grapple with time and space. Scene Six May Day Parade SC: Popular culture has its stereotypes but ‘The Wicker Man’ has its own. DF: I am not setting myself up here as an expert on fertility symbols, rites, and rituals. What I am receiving from the film is the reiteration of those things as they have gone through umpteen filters before they have even got to us: they have gone through set designers, directors, writers, costume designers. Everybody who is, in a sense, involved in the production had a hand in reiterating those facets which were once extremely important to some villages’ pagan rites. They have become rounded hybrids where the overt sharp edges of the particularity have all but gone. Rather like little Ken and Barbie you can still see the aspects of female and manhood but only just. There is no longer any need for it, you just sort of know that is what it means. These characters are not from the gravel pit of ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Dr Who’. They are regular guys - the hairdresser, the butcher, the harbour master, the chemist, the doctor – who put on an animal mask. The May Day parade is the devout of the village going about their daily business on that particular day: the Teaser (the head of the community), the Obby Oss (Hobby Horse), and the complex Punch, fool and King-for-a-day character (figure 3). Scene Seven Around the Aga: the sacrifice in the kitchen SC: At the end of the film the missing girl leads Howie through a cave. She effectively leads him through a vagina. DF: There is a point where the May Queen ditches her crown into the water, which is a very little detail but it is quite significant: throwing something away, a sort of innocence lost. The villagers did take a chance on Howie not being tempted by Willow MacGregor’s charms [the landlord’s daughter] but he was not allowed to by his own faith and the villagers took a gamble on his faith being resolute right to the end. SC: He did actually do what he set out to do which was to save the missing girl. DF: He did and he didn’t. He rescued the girl because he was lured into a position where he could do so but ultimately he was completely controlled from the first moment he set foot on the island. SC: Similar to this dialogue and our walk, Howie has been scripted. But unlike the film your edit ends at night. DF: In my edit there is an orgy in a nightclub, which is the end of the May Day because that is where the fertility symbol absolutely takes fire (figure 4). SC: Our walk through the landscape of ‘The Wicker Man’ has considered montage as a form of editing. DF: My point of view is that there is a difference between the technical and the visual in printmaking. There is a need to infuse idea into process. Montage is in my view a reason why printmaking hasn’t capitulated into pure craft. You need the mental framework of the collagist to relook at ‘The Wicker Man’, as a compass to your understandings of the developments of ideas and sociological orders. I can read it in a particular way and as an artist I am able to reiterate it, I hope, in another visual sense. Scene Eight Night-time at The Rodd SC: In your version of ‘The Wicker Man’ Howie’s investigation starts at the beginning of the day and finishes with the end of day. At the close of the film version there is a fantastic picture postcard sunset. DF: That sunset actually happened in real time and space. They weren’t expecting it. The film-makers thought they would have to special effect that. It was almost as though Nature itself wanted the film to be completed. SC: Whereas our walk around The Rodd has been thwarted because of Nature’s intervention. DF: ‘The Wicker Man’ was meant to take place on May Day. The actual film itself was shot in October/November when it was particularly cold. All the blossoms were falsified. The fact that we were walking in Spring and that we had to dig ourselves out of snow, maybe this is where we erstwhile cultural travellers get stuck by our own time and space petard! Epilogue The artist explored This paper has taken the form of a script that runs through a fictitious single day in Presteigne. This conceit holds a mirror to David Ferry’s ‘May Day in the Centre of England’, a printmaker’s storyboard that re-interprets the iconography and narrative of the film ‘The Wicker Man’ taking the viewer from Day to Night in a thirty-two panel work. At the centre of this discussion of ‘The Wicker Man’ is David Ferry’s observation that our upbringing and early memories form the way that we negotiate our understanding of the world. Things that we encounter run parallel to this understanding. For Ferry ‘The Wicker Man’ resonates with previous memories, contexts, and social interactions. The film’s significance has increased in value for him as he explores its imagery and narrative through printmaking. A film is constructed from edited fragments that seem to have continuity; a film’s cut reconfigures material into a believable narrative. Such a narrative uses a combination of stereotypes and location. In ‘The Wicker Man’ stereotypes are heightened with the conflation of pagan characters from folklore, such as Punch, the Teaser and the Hobby Horse, with the well defined village roles, such as the fishmonger, the baker, the school teacher, and the landlord’s daughter. Location provides the backdrop against which these characters interact. Places themselves are transformed through an imaginative understanding and this was considered by Ferry in his choice of Rodd Farm as the setting for our narrative. Ferry draws upon these stereotypes and their location to construct his own Artist’s Cut of the film. In contrast to an illustrative approach in printmaking the application of what has been referred to in this paper as a ‘collage mentality’ allows for a rich variety of visual readings. Using the tactics of layering, colliding, and the intrusion of the misplaced fragment, the extraordinary and the remarkable can be drawn to the fore. The contention of this paper is that the mental framework of the collagist may allow printmaking to explore beyond the known and start to map out the unknown.
Anthony Plant: Walk #5
Anthony Plant: Walk #5 From King’s to Australia House in 37 years. From Australia House to King’s in 101 seconds.
Kate Green: Walk #4
Kate Green's walk in Devon holds deep personal significance....
Natalie Ramus: Walk #3
When I knew that I would be attending a lecture about walking at Tate Modern in London, I decided that walking from Paddington station to Tate Modern could help me in understanding the act of walking better. As this walk was a walk intended as an artist’s walk, my experience of walking had shifted. Just knowing that my intention was to observe, experience and absorb my perceptions seemed so much more open. I had wondered about the fact that this walk would be in an urban landscape, one so different to the rural agricultural landscape here at The Rodd. I wondered whether, through memory, if the experiences would connect in my mind whilst walking; if I would carry the landscape of The Rodd with me in my mind- therefore having a personal imagined experience of a hybrid landscape. As I walked the streets of London I thought about how Sidney Nolan painted Australian landscapes whilst being surrounded by the lush green land of the English / Welsh borders. In a sense, Sidney carried the Australian landscape with him- in his mind and I thought about how this is the case with not only artists, but with all of us. These landscapes we hold in our mind as a point of recollection, comparison and comfort (or discomfort maybe) are with us always- so can we ever be completely present in a landscape? Can we ever just experience ‘it’ without any other landscape creeping in? Is the landscape that which we walk upon and move across, or does it exist purely within our perceptions? As I moved through the streets I realized how controlled we are when we walk. We learn to walk when we are toddlers, and we don’t tend to question this movement until it is challenged or taken from us through injury or illness. This repetitive one foot in front of the other action just seems to happen! We just do it. Walks are often contained within routes with invisible boundaries- like imaginary tubes. We occupy space within; not above or below our bodies- but within; moving through space, along predetermined/ influenced paths. A to B. Start to finish. Beginnings and ends. Even a wander that is seemingly unplanned is controlled or navigated through environmental tracks; along pavements, tunnels, stairways. I started to think about how we don’t ever challenge how we walk. We walk forwards and upright. A sidestep only to avoid collision / contact with another. I wonder- Is it possible to navigate a town completely without those learnt / imposed rules of walking? Can we reject all that society says about how journey happens and why? How can I dismantle the act of walking, and if I did manage to dismantle it, how would I move through space? What would that walk look like? What would my body look like? How would it sound? There are recognisable walks that happen when we walk. The rhythmic repetitive sounds of my footsteps and the insides of my thighs rubbing. The tonal mumble and too-ing and fro-ing of conversation. The in and out gasping of breath as I rush up steps and I try to catch my breath. Despite all these sounds I feel silent. If I were to reject this ‘standard’ of walking- what would I sound like and would this disruption mean that I would become more physically aware- physically present? I suppose the first rule to break is the rule that says a journey’s purpose is to get from A to B…. so what would happen if I navigated space with no destination? My pre-programmed mind can’t help but wonder where I would end up and what would influence my path- but I know that I’d need to ‘not think’ / not predetermine. Is that even possible? Isn’t our inbuilt ‘sat nav’ instinctive? Is it part of our basic nomadic DNA? I now see that the urban space has made me realise how we are conditioned- and that these rules apply even when navigating rural spaces. We are still upright, forward facing and following paths. I feel that I am returning to The Rodd with a desire to disrupt, dismantle and question the very act of walking.
Kate Green: Walk #2
It takes about 15 minutes for me to drive from my present home, a bungalow named Fairview, to The Firs. My studio is roughly mid-way, in a farmyard opposite 1 Buckton, a cottage that was my home for 4 years. During that time I worked at The Firs as a personal assistant. At 3pm on 25th January I was to attend a meeting there, in my role as participating artist and programme consultant, concerning the proposed walking event at The Rodd. Warning: clichéd walking metaphor ahead. My path to being an artist is like a zig zag on a scree slope; running downhill I send shards tumbling and have to trust that the mini-terraces created by my feet will prevent me from falling and when I plod uphill I slip backwards and progress is slow. But, I embarrass myself, writing about walking is far trickier and more exhausting than walking (note to self for response to next walk). I have already spent many more hours writing, and re-writing, this account than I did actually walking the route; and I haven’t even left the house yet. It was 1.40 and the sun was shining. I had decided to drive to the Firs via my studio and do some work for an hour, but then I thought, ‘Why drive to a meeting about walking?’ On previous occasions, I had walked to my studio from home and I had walked to The Firs from Buckton; so why not combine the two walks. I clipped the lead on little Dot and we cut through the diagonal lane at the back of the council houses down to the main road. I always feel there should be a more direct route to The Firs. You can look across from the Wigmore Rolls and see the oak trees that pour down, like sand in an egg timer, to the bank on which the Colliers’ house sits, but the line is blocked by rivers and hills. I could have chosen to walk past Court Farm and down to Walford; or skirt the fields to Stonybridge; or walk the back road via Letton and cross the Teme at Brampton Bryan. As I walked, these floating tendrils searched for anchorage across the topography in my head and I wondered why on earth I had chosen to walk on the busy main road. Now, I realise I wanted to walk the same route I would have travelled in the car. That’s the great thing about walking; you feel the solution in the soles of your feet. We have all driven along and almost clipped a walker with a wing mirror and thought, ‘Why would anyone choose to walk on a road?’ I was in that walker’s boots as Dot trotted along on the lead, cowering slightly as traffic sped by. A red car was approaching us on the opposite side of the road and, hearing the heat of braking behind us, I looked back to see a large stock lorry brought to halt as there was no room to pass us without crossing the white lines. We stepped up from the tarmac, balanced on the high sliver of a muddy grass and the driver nodded before he drove on. We crossed the Knighton road at Walford and I let Dot off the lead. This was the prone-to-flooding single track lane to my previous home and old neighbour Henry drove by and waved. We crossed the river and called by at the studio. I stuffed a blanket in my bag for Dot to lie down on, as she would have to be tied up outside when we reached The Firs. We walked fast towards Bucknell and met Ali and Alan walking past the turning for Adley Moor. ‘I can’t stop,’ I said, ‘I’m walking to a meeting about walking at The Firs.’ They told me they were going up there later with a Burns’ Night supper. By this time I knew I would not arrive for 3pm so I emailed ahead. I knew this road so well from driving, cycling and walking and there were no surprises. No surprises; what I mean to say is that I think I may have stopped looking. I admit that I was hardly more aware of my surroundings than if I had been in the car. Was that because I was following the same route I would have driven; or was it because I was so over familiar with this little stretch of territory? I had been walking on autopilot and, with no need to navigate the external landscape, I had turned to my internal landscape for interest. The local landscape had become all about me and I pondered how it was inhabited by 20 years of versions of me; spirits that had the potential to be released as I stepped on the ground, like spores from an old puffball. It is difficult to look afresh at the familiar; so much easier to concentrate on what is new and exciting, but only now do I realise how introspective I was on this walk. We kept up our brisk pace along Oil Mill Lane and crossed the Heart of Wales railway line in Bucknell, said hello to Lance Phillips the butcher who was putting screenwash in his van and turned left into Dog Kennel Lane. They were tidying an oak tree at Florence’s and I saw the tail end of Anthony Plant’s car waiting as they cleared branches from the road. He was late too, so I would only be 15 minutes behind him. I was propelled up Mynd hill by a surge of energy. It always amazes me; these moments on walks when you are thrown forward as if you have stepped on a landmine charged with positive energy. Dot trotted on ahead to say hello to a black Labrador on a lead and I felt light and hopeful and cheery. I was being given an artistic licence to be myself and realising that acknowledging my strengths is not arrogance for there is plenty I admit I cannot do, such as dancing at parties or driving in cities. Dot and I walked up the drive to The Firs and Penny was weeding between the granite sets as I tied the little dog to the porch upright and went into the meeting.
Kate Green: Walk #1
20th January 2017. Kate Green reflects on her first walk of 'Lines in the Landscape' residency.
Collaborative Sound Installation wit Rie Nakajima and Pierre Berthet
Straw Castles, maggoty marks and tales of the riverbed.
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva works with print maker and zoologist Michael Hancock
Drawn by the river
Anne Bean's river drawings overseen by The Rodd's herd of cattle
Yuyu Wang - Drawing at The Rodd
Tess E. McKenzie
A Different Place
Artists take to the skies
Residency artists gained a fresh perspective to the beautiful landscape of The Rodd and its environs.
Ned Kelly Armour
David Noonan, Shaun Gladwell and Vanley Burke don the iconic armour of Ned Kelly (costume from the 1970's film tracing Kelly's life and starring Mick Jagger).
Artists in conversation share their working themes and experiences at The Rodd
The Making of a Slave Ship
Masterclass with Vanley Burke
Vanley Burke meets The Rodd
Vanley Burke Meets The Rodd
Blog post #6 by Caroline Horton
Hills and rivers and a room full of strangers
Blog post #5 by Caroline Horton
Not capturing Wednesday
Blog post #4 by Caroline Horton
Is it therapy? Well it feels great
Blog post #3 by Caroline Horton
Blog #2 by Caroline Horton
Human-Nature on Pinterest
Human-Nature on Pinterest
The Kids from Kidderminster
Blog #1 by Caroline Horton