Hoof Prints

Having experimented recently with painting from mud, soils and ash, I wanted to try making marks which involved walking, and I came up with the idea of attaching paper to the soles of my shoes, hoping that it would capture some traces and impressions of my walk.

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I used an old pair of sandals with thick soles, and found a pack of Khadi paper, and set about fixing it to the shoes using drawing pins.

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It seemed like perfect weather to try this, wet and rainy, so there would be plenty of mud I reckoned. I drove to Birnam, and headed up the Inchewan path, one of my favourite places to walk.

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I took a few photos of the rain on the delicate foliage on the way up…

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The wall on the way up the path is like a mossy carpet…in fact the whole walk is probably the mossiest I have every been on.

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Delicate young ferns covered in raindrops

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     A really wet, lush, green environment…with the sound of a fast flowing stream and lots of very fresh air…just beautiful

I walked up the path until I reached a decent patch of mud, and proceeded to swap my crocs for the paper-soled sandals, which I wore to squelch through very wet mud.

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My first attempt was a bit over zealous…I completely ruined the paper, tearing a big hole into it, and realised that I had walked too far for the paper to survive. My next attempt was a bit better, the paper had a slight rip in it, but was still useable. Some of the mud that I stepped in was so wet that the prints showed very little colour, although the patterns on the soles of my sandal created a nice embossing on the paper. I also tried walking over moss a few times, but it barely showed, instead I seemed to gather fragments of leaves and bark.

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A few walkers passed me on route, stopping to watch what I was doing. I felt like I was doing a performance, and realised that I should have “killed two birds with one stone”.

Further up the path, there was slate from the nearby hill which had slid down and was lying in piles in reddish looking puddles. The soil here seemed different, in colour certainly, and this might have something to do with the minerals I am guessing.  The soil here printed a very different colour, a light red/brown, and I felt excited about the contrast that this would give against the previous prints.

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A strong result…and a much lighter, redder soil

I also walked down toward the stream, where the terrain was gravel and sand, and this also gave a similar red/brown colour.

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As I changed the papers on my shoes, the removed papers were left at the side of the path, to be collected on my way down. I met a few walkers on the way, and told them that the papers weren’t litter, just incase they felt it their duty to remove them.

I made my way down the hill, and luckily all of the prints were still where I left them. On my walk back to the car, I came across some fallen tree trunks, and noticed the same black, wiry fibres I had seen growing inside a piece of bark a few months ago. I stopped to peel a few from the trunk, sure that I might be able to use them for something interesting.

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Interesting string-like fibres attached to the fallen bark of a tree…what I now know to be rhizomorphs of Armillaria, a type of fungus.

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I’m already seeing mapping possibilities in this amazing natural fibre…

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I headed home to dry them (and myself) off, apprehensive to see the results of my walking/prints.

Once back in the studio, I used the hairdryer to dry the papers, and also removed some of the larger chunks of soil which has been stuck next to the drawing pins.

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Some of the marks are really quite beautiful, although they are a bit paler since they have dried. I am still considering how best to use these, although I have a feeling that they will end up as a book.

I’m also keen to try a few experiments with the Armillaria, and am especially excited by the fact that it might have bioluminescent qualities!

Scratching the Surface – Exhibition up!

On Monday I installed the Scratching The Surface Exhibition at Scottish Natural Heritage Battleby, Redgorton. The exhibition was put together as an assignment for my MA in Fine Art course. The brief – to put together an exhibition in a public place. The deadline – 5 weeks, which isn’t a great deal of time when you’re working and have family commitments!

Given the nature of my work, I decided to contact Scottish Natural Heritage, as this is an organisation that I would like to develop links with, either as part of collaborative research/art projects, or perhaps one day as an artist in residence.

My main interest at the moment is invasive and injurious plants, and after a few ideas, I decided that Scratching the Surface would be a suitable title. Through a bit of research,  I also found out that the site was used as a “hospital” for soldiers to convalesce after the First World War. Given that the plants which I was planning to use for the exhibition had either injurious or healing properties, I felt that this gave my work a site-specific connection, which I aimed to portray within some of my pieces.

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The poster which I designed to advertise the event, using a detail of the painting ‘Hostile Invasion’

The work I produced over the 5 weeks was:

  • Masking the Pain : a mask made from nettles, Ivy and other plants

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  • PRICK : A word made from thorns on canvas, sprayed with white acrylic

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  • Forbidden Fruit : A 3D piece mounted onto canvas, made with polyustyrene, papier mache nails and elastoplast

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  • Hostile Invasion : A painting of a hostile, overgrown landscape

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  • The Exotic Seed Company : An Installation of fictitious seed packets

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  • No way out : Wire and thorns coming out a of canvas
  • Off side : A painting of a Butterbur Leaf, in the style of stained glass
  • From Scratch : A stylized painting of a bramble stalk

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  • Sleeping with the enemy : A bed made from Giant Hogweed, Butterbur, Nettles and Thorns

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  • A sign for Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar

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  • A fanzine called Invasion of the Body Scratchers

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I also made a few more pieces which I did not exhibit, as it was felt that they weren’t strong enough, or devalued other pieces .

I spent all day Monday installing the exhibition, and had a few challenges along the way…covering the picture hanging system to give the exhibtion a more contemporary feel was probably the biggest, so I decided to use canvases to hang over the rods, onto which I then fixed my work.

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A contrast with lighting gives the exhibition a more dramatic feel (below) but I found it difficult to photograph my work under these conditions

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I have to say that I’m quite pleased with the result of my work, and its great to see it all up together as an exhibition. On Friday, between 12 noon and 1pm I am hosting a tasting session to sample some of the materials I used to create the artwork, e.g.. Nettle, bramble and rose hip wines, bramble crumble etc. and dandelion and nettle teas. I will be serving the wines as spritzers from Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar, and will set up my sign advertising this.

If anyone wants to visit, this exhibition will be on until 2pm Friday, when the 3D works will have to be dismantled due to other events taking place, but the 2d works should be up for possibly another week.