Tomorrow marks the end of my two-week residency at Brisons Veor, an old mine pumping engine house turned artist in residence house. Brisons Veor is perched on a cliff almost at the end of Cape Cornwall. And Cape Cornwall itself is the most (local view) or second most (map view) westerly point at the end of mainland Britain.
So it seems fitting to write about my residency when almost at the end of it. My father told me a story, when I were young, about 'a group of students' who drove in a van from Bristol to Lands End to dig up the last cat’s eye in Britain. After quite some effort, they succeeded, and returned with their trophy, only to realise that it no longer was. [photo of offending object pending as Dad seems mysteriously to have it in his possession].
Since then, I’ve been fascinated by things that are almost at their end. If I’m reading a book, I slow down and enjoy it most when almost at the end. Often this point is so good, I don’t go on to finish it. This has happened both with Moby Dick, and ironically for Catch 22 that wonderful book where they try to stay in a constant state of boredom in order that time moves more slowly, protracting the almost certain ‘nearly at the end’ ness of their lives. On the other hand, if I want something to stop, being almost at the end of is excruciating. Whichever way I look at it, being almost at the end of something is an especially charged place.
And so it has been here, at Brisons Veor.
It’s the first time I’ve tried making work outside of North Wales. And I wasn’t sure which way being almost-at-the-end would go. I loosely structured my 2 weeks around a series of walks, following instructions I wrote myself before I left (and so, before I knew the place). All, apart from one, helping me to avoid going to the end (in terms of what would be my usual destinations – approached at speed - like getting to the highest point, the furthest point etc).
The two weeks were also structured around some light socializing (two friends Leanda Thomas and Andrea Obholzer coming down to visit one weekend, two pick ups of things for friends, and catching up with Caroline Henning, an old university friend and her family) which meant I got to meet two really interesting artists, Sax Impey and Ged Quinn.
So, in that context, here are some of the lines of inquiry and things I've been working on...
One of the striking things about this the Cornish Coast around the Cape is how everything seems fractal. It is near impossible, without reference to something else of a particular size (body, skyline, coast, rock, ship), to scale or even to orient waves, cliffs, pebbles. Mandelbrot says of fractals, they are "beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful".
But, and there is a big but to this! The exception to this fractal landscape is in the work of Sax Impey Check out his amazing paintings! I visited him in his Porthmeor studio in St Ives, to pick up a drawing for Jony Easterby. Sax does big, deep ocean waves. There is no doubt they are big. Even when they are tiny like this.
I continued my investigation into flow, starting with my journey down, in which I followed the flow of stories from the Mabinogi, culminating in the leaping into the sea of the Twrch Trwyth…
I also made a sound piece, called Mangling A Brief History (According to Three Alphabets). The Cornish Alphabet is surprisingly different to the Welsh, and between the three, there are no fewer than 37 letters. You can listen to it here
I also planted a Mabinogi garden in an old window box, with soil from Nantperis, Powys, Dyfed and the Kenidjack valley. Here are the the local people (David May and Jess) who helped me with the final filling, with soil from the Kenidjack valley allotments. Now to see what grows!
I'm not sure I really 'resolved' any of my ideas around the Mabinogi/Brythonic/Western Coastal connection. But to see a master at work, have a look at the fantastic paintings of Ged Quinn, and "his rummage through history, myth and popular culture". I spent a fantastic evening with Caroline Henning and Ged last night, reviewing life the universe and everything. Wonderful and generous hosts. Possibly too generous judging by my hangover this morning.
But back to the flow. I got into nets!
And the flow of birds, Chough (see above) and especially hundreds and hundreds of seagulls, playing with the waves and wind.
So enough of all that. I’m off now to enjoy my nearly at the end-ness of my residency, and worry about how to deal with the 2,500+ photos I've taken! Over and out from mainland britain’s possibly most westerly, most hungover resident.