Blonde hair. Straightened. Trim. Lip lined, eye lined, cheek lined, her small blue handbag rattles on a golden chain. Ballerina pumps patter the parquet floor into my studio. The smallest wince of lips . She turns and turns and turns, a pirouette, exiting stage left. A trace of perfume lingers in her wake.
Well, already today I have had some brilliant conversations about how we look at place and what it means to walk. I have also been trying to write something for my talk tomorrow which I am giving . So for those who already know why and how I work don’t feel obliged to read the next bit. But, it is useful to me to think again how I have come to do what I am doing and why it is important.
Walking, a Practice.
At the heart of everything I do is walking. It is the mechanism that allows me to look at the world, but more than that, it satisfies my curiosity, and gives me a space for my imagination to wander, to admire the ordinary and extraordinary moments that present themselves.
I have always been a walker. I get it from my mother. We were a transient family, moving because of Dads work or, sometimes just for a change. And, my Mum not content with physically moving house would take us on long walks. I do remember one occasion being out with my Dad funnily, and the walk took longer than anticipated.We walked for what seemed like hours, getting caught in very heavy rain and soaked through, I loved every minute. Even as a small child, walking away from home, even without my parents held no fear, and to this day I do not know what it means to get lost. I realised that one can never get lost in a place, you just keep walking and you will find your way home, should you want to.
On arrival in Dundee for my Masters course I knew nothing of the city and so my natural inclination was to walk its streets, in order that I could locate myself within its topography.I drew a line on a map from east to west and decided that this might be an interesting way of connecting to the city. I repeated this line and added a north south line. They became my weekly walks. Every repetition resolved slightly differently, each return a new movement, a half remembrance of what had gone before, yet bringing new phrases to the composition. So I drew and I photographed and wrote about my finds and I also re-imagined a new line from the collection of moments, of pictures, of conversations. This formed the basis of the composition ‘ The Hunting Ground’ that I performed for my degree show at the college and in various venues throughout Dundee.
So I have continued to walk lines – along the Dighty burn in Dundee, in Pittenweem and, just recently a project in Montrose where I walked a line from the docks to the industrial estate on the towns northern edge. I created a series of drawings, paintings, text,and an evening walk with 26 people through the town which sparked lots of chat and stories about Montrose. In response I made a short film called ‘If we should meet sometime ‘. As the title suggests it is a film of sharing some of the things from my life.
I walk through built space, along its streets and pavements, the rhythm steady as the towns dreams, desires and misfortunes are sung around every corner. It is only through walking our lines that we weave ourselves into the fabric of a place, and for that present moment , belong.
Sitting here in my studio in the Festival I feel on show. My work feels decorative, to be glanced at silently, without comment or conversation. Am I decorative too ? I want to be out walking, connecting with the streets, the people. Instead I feel awkward, silently dismayed as people come in and say ‘What a lovely view’, as they look out of my window and then leave. A fish out of water. Oh, to disappear in my duffel coat and wellies – even in August and march over the landscape with my sketchbook in my pocket. I really am trying, but I fear this is not for me. To be fair, I have had some good comments and chat about walking, drawing and conversation but I am struggling to find a way of making this process feel comfortable and enjoyable. There is also the difficulty of strangers in my house, in my studio. My studio is ‘my space’, a space in which my thoughts and actions are born. To have others walk through, makes me feel vulnerable in a curious way. I have attempted to organise and beautify the space, perhaps another attempt at being decorative.. I have removed all the paint and ink from the walls, given it a coat of new, fresh, white paint, the process of my work eradicated. Why ? Why did I do that ? I think I need to claim back my space. I am going to get my painting dungarees on and make some work. Go on an imaginary walk down to the shoreline with my black, sticky ink. Picture to follow….I hope.
Pittenweem from the the golf course. The geology is fascinating here. Across the Forth is Siccar point, the place where James Hutton established proof of Huttons Unconformity in 1788.This assumes that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the Universe now have always operated in the past and apply everywhere in the Universe – (Gould 1965, pp.223- 228 .) Meanwhile I take home some pebbles to weigh down a large drawing I am exhibiting in the Festival.