Tumulus

The words ‘cairn’ and ‘tumulus’ refer to mounds of earth or stones which cover over prehistoric burial grounds or tombs. Whilst a cairn is a pile of loose rocks and stones, which tends to cover over a single burial, a tumulus is more of an earthwork- a larger scale grassy mound which can often contain large tombs or multiple burials, and can date as far back as the late Neolithic period. TUMULUS  On the OS map of Comrie, around the River Ruchil area where I had been walking, I saw markings of a couple of tumuli, and they aroused my curiosity. I wondered who (or what) might be buried there, and I began to think of artefacts and bones which might be buried deep below these mounds. This is another hidden layer of the landscape- without the aid of markings on a map, and a bit of knowledge about burial mounds, an earthwork such as this would be easily overlooked, despite the fact that it had been constructed as a monument to mark the importance of someone’s life. I was thinking of layers, and burying, and wondering how I could bury fragments or words yet still allow them to be partly visible. I had a bag of wax beads in the studio, and decided to try a little experiment with them. When melted, I poured the hot wax onto paper, playing with it by allowing it to dry a little, then adding more on top. I love the semi-translucence of the wax – it allows you to see a glimpse of what is inside, yet obscures at the same time. I had some earth which I dug up in Comrie, and small stones from the banks of the Ruchil. I decided to put these into the melting pot, and mix them in to the molten wax.

IMG_5565Molten wax with earth mixed in

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I also mixed in some of the river gravel which I had collected 

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 The mixture was then poured onto canvas, left to dry, before more layers were poured on topIMG_5556

I was trying to create my own little burial mound on canvas

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The wax feels gorgeous to touch…a really beautiful medium to work with

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It now resembles the contours of an earthwork, although not quite as precise as those of Charles Jencks!

I left the wax mound for a few days, but realised that it would not be a piece which would last long, as the wax had cracked on one of the edges. Wanting to retain the translucent qualities of the wax, yet preserve the contours that it had created, I covered the piece with one layer of tissue paper and PVA glue.

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When dried, the wax was still visible through the tissue, as were the contours.

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The background was painted white, to give a contrast between the opacity of the canvas and the glassy appearance of the mound.  I think that the result is interesting, and I like the fact that the earth and stones are buried inside the wax, sealed in but still visible through the layers of this translucent tumulus.

Waxing Lyrical

I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma on how best to present my poetry as art…I have decided that I want to omit the photos I have taken, not that I dislike them really, but just think that the words work better speaking for themselves.  I was thinking about the possibility of combining my interests of map making with poetry and making some kind of poetry map. I saw a map by Nina Katchadourian which, at a glance, appeared to be made from shredded paper, but on closer inspection I saw that it was made from a map of Austria which she had dissected, and was shaped like a heart, as Austria is known as the heart of Europe.

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Austria (1997) Dissected paper road map , Nina Katchdourian

This started me thinking that I would like to make my poetry into a sculpture, whether or not it looked like a map. I was a bit wary about the paper tearing easily, so I thought I’d try a little experiment with some wax.

waxingpaper1 I printed out my poem about the Water of Ruchil and cut it into strips, which I then dipped into wax. The wax gave the paper a much more appealing look, more transparent, and it felt really smooth to touch.

waxingpaper2Next I considered how to fix the strips together to form a 3D sculptural piece. I decided to let the materials dictate how i did this, by using what would normally be used to fix printed sheets together – a stapler…which would allow the work to have more of a raw and honest feel to it, rather than covertly fixing it with glue.

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I added the lines of poetry quite randomly, as I wanted it to have an abstract feel to it. The strips were stapled in a sort of loop formation, and then loops which were furthest apart were folded in and fixed together to bulk the sculpture up.

waxingpaper6Above :Starting to take shape

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Above and below : The “ball” of poetry

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I decided to take some closer shots of the poetry sculpture, as I imagined it might be good for showing depth of field and make quite abstract images.

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poetry-blur5These shots remind me of vague memories….repeating words in your head over and over…kind of hypnotic and dreamlike…

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I prefer the photographs to the sculpture itself, as they describe my feelings of wandering through the landscape and remembering my childhood – dreamlike, surreal, vivid and vague. I’m also surprised at how in an attempt to move away from photography, I have come back to in a more abstract and less obvious way.

I also had a go at filming the poetry moving, but think I will try this again with proper editing software so that i can crop into the images more.  You can see the video Poetry in Motion below…

http://youtu.be/cIjjmhXpJj8

Mysterious Paths

Having made sketches of a walk along the River Ruchil where I played as a child, I noticed similarities in these drawings to aerial views of maps, which weren’t unlike islands, edges and boundaries between land and water, and pathways and pools. I also researched the area around my walk in EDINA’s Statistical accounts of the Parish of Comrie, I learned that there were remains of Druidic places of worship, which really intrigued me as I have an interest in megalithic monuments and Druids groves. Taking inspiration from this, I decided to make an abstract map which hinted at this mysterious layer of the landscape. I chose the 16 squares which I thought most suitable and began to paint in the shapes, using a limited colour palette of white, off white, a tint of cobalt blue/grey and also leaving some areas of the linen canvas unpainted. IMG_4596Although the result was quite pleasing, it was only a means to an end of what I had in mind. The map I had created was bold and graphic, and although abstract it did look like a map. This was important as next I planned to obscure the details by spraying the map white, leaving only a very subtle impression of what lay below. IMG_4603 Once they were all sprayed white, I reassembled the squares until I was happy with the layout. IMG_4612 Next I got out the stash of items I had gathered on my walks- stones, twigs, roots, snail shells, feathers etc as I wanted to add these into the maps to give a sense of the physical elements present in this landscape. I also sprayed the found objects white, as I wanted to emphasize the textures and shapes of them rather than the colours. IMG_4907 I am quite pleased with the final result, although I had toyed with the idea of adding thread stretched between pins to create paths over the boards linking them together. I think the subtlety of the maps works well to describe the hidden or overlooked parts of the landscape which I initially used as my inspiration. The natural objects are reminiscent of standing stones which can be found in a few locations near my walk, and the twigs represent the ancient groves where Druids once worshipped. The thorns and bark (above) do resemble antlers, and have a distinctly pagan look to them, although this was not actually intended. hidden_landscapes Mysterious Paths (15 10×10 panels with acrylic and found objects on MDF board 62cm x 62cm)

Roman Stone

Wanting to source an old OS map, and also find out any historic information about the site around the River Ruchil in Comrie, I visited the library in Perth and went to the reference and archives department.  I was directed to a very helpful lady who showed me some maps and photocopied a couple which were of interest to me. I was then advised to look at few websites, such as EDINA: Statistical Accounts of Scotland and Scotland’s Places (which has many OS maps in its digital archive). When I arrived home, I went straight to these websites, and found some fascinating info about the area around the Ruchil, as well as other interesting facts about the village of Comrie, where I lived since the age of three until I was in my mid-twenties. I found that a Roman General named Agricola had built a fort and a “Marching Camp” at Comrie, near the Ruchil, where he clashed with the army of the Caledonians, headed by Galgacus, in 79AD. Looking at the OS map, I found some areas marked where the Roman camp and Roman Fort had existed. There was also a standing stone adjacent to the camp, which was called the Roman Stone. As the area of the camp was quite a stretch, and the coordinates would have varied considerably between different areas, I decided to use the coordinates (WGS84) of the Roman Stone to make a piece of work. I had been thinking about making a piece which consisted solely of coordinates, and had toyed with perhaps using plants or other natural materials to make them. The fact that I was mapping a Roman Stone, gave me the idea of making a mosaic (in keeping with Roman tradition), using stone which I found nearby at the Ruchil. I also thought it would be more interesting to write the coordinates in Roman numerals so:

56 21′:65.46″N    3 59′: 06.17 W translated as:  LVI XXI LXV. XLVI N  III LIX  OVI. XVII  W

IMG_3700I collected some small peebles from the river’s edge in a bucket, and took them home to clean them. PREPARINGSTONES2Once washed, I used the barbecue and an old set of bellows to speed up the drying process.makingmosaic6I projected and traced the numerals onto a small canvas. Rather than using the the stones to fill the numerals, I decide to work into the negative space as this gives the numerals a recessed appearance as if they were carved or set into stone. It also leaves the numerals as empty space, signifying that the Romans are no longer there, just ghosts within the landscape.makingmosaic5A few hours later the mosaic was beginning to take shape. I stuck the stones down using PVA glue.makingmosaic2makingmosaic4

 makingmosaic3From this angle, the piece itself looks not unlike a road or track

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 The finished stonework…I preferred to spray the piece with a very thin coat of white to make it slightly more subtle and ghostlike.

whitemosaicdetail whitemosaicThe finished piece… I’m quite happy with the result, and I think conceptually it works as a site inspired piece, with the use of the Roman Numerals, and the mosaic technique using stone found near the site. Also the WGS84 coordinates tie in with the walking theme, as does the fact that there was a “marching” camp nearby.

Water of Ruchil

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                                Solitary stravaiger

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Stepping back in time

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Helpless and uprooted

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Thirstily searching for Life

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Charred discarded memories

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Hide in empty vessels

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Bottled up Emotions

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Weeping with nostalgia

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Open eyes observing

IMG_1751Mossy melancholy

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Dark decaying circles

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Rings of life, and death

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Bearded branches bearing

islands

Overhanging islands

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Wizened witches fingers

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Slowly shedding skin

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The ancient paths where legions trod

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Adorned with hostile emblems

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Non-native invaders thriving

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Surviving futile floods

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Dryadic burrs lie twisted

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By shallow shifting sands

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Relics of rotten remains

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Receive a new awakening

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Gushing rapids foaming

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to the Wild Boar’s Pool

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Constant flowing waters

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Reflecting on times past

IMG_3166Sunbeams over Nemeton

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Pierce the Veil of Sleep

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Sinister skeletal symbols

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Monuments to life

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Warped wefts of wisdom

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Frame palimpsestic paths

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Sacred standing stones

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Cover ritualistic remains

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Barbaric battlefields beckon

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Shackled and forbidden

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For those who draw the short straw

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Mortality confirmed

Comrie: Memories and Melancholy

Happy childhood, fond memories ….a haunted Victorian house, dens in the woods, climbing trees, swimming in the river, walks through the woods with a beloved pet.

The float parade, the Hay ride, guising on Halloween, and the Flambeaux on Hogmany.

The Royal Bar…pulling pints, old village “worthies”,  the 5 o’clock club,  the regulars, the gossip…a daily soap opera… theme tunes echoing from the jukebox.

A persistant customer…flattery and pursuit…an addictive romance…fame and fortune.

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Japanese Knotweed… memories of our “jungle” in the woods

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The “Black Pool”…swimming in deep water…floating on homemade rafts…a rope swing over the pool.

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Uprooted…removed from whence they came…helpless and exposed…aged and decaying…awaiting the inevitable…

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Roots searching…dried and brittle…seeking nourishment…thirsty for life

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Campfire songs….sausages sizzling…fun and laughter…burnt to a cinder…

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Clearing across the river….strangers  drinking beer…fugitives enjoying… their last days of freedom

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A handsome stranger…an invitation….an erotic encounter….a deep and fast flowing river…now a trickling stream

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Christmas afternoon….snow and ice…walking with my father and brother…snow crunching underfoot…crossing icy streams

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Once majestic…broken and splintered…mossy monuments of melancholy

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An intimate picnic…strawberries and alco-pops…expectations…disappointment

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A fresh white carpet…muddy footprints…traces of our presence…and new beginnings

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Rotting carcass…predators feasting…hollow and helpless

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Memories distant…fleeting moments…ghosts of the past…mortality confirmed

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