Reflection on A.K. Dolven’s amazing Please Return (Ikon Gallery, Spring 2015)

In February I was lucky enough to catch A.K. Dolven’s amazing installation, Please Return at the Ikon Galery . It came just after finishing our last practice based module, as I started our penultimate module, Analysis of Contemporary Context, which was perhaps ideal timing. In challenging myself to think where my deepest connections with the world around me stem from, I have been thinking a lot about W.G. Hoskins’ The Making of the English Landscape (1970 – original print 1955) which I read during my last year of school in 1980. it’s impact on me was profound. Inspired by my uncle, Richard Westmacott’s work for the Countryside Commission at the time and his work on New Agricultural Landscapes,  I was struck by Hoskins’ central concept of the landscape as a palimpsest, layer upon layer of evidence from millennia of human impact and management. In many ways, I suppose this led ultimately to my degree in Archaeology, linked with my passion for the environment, MSc at Bangor (Rural Resource Management) etc… And of course to my making connections between landscape and my current ceramic work. The issue of rapid change, across environment and society, is perhaps the most fundamental linking feature, and challenge of our age. It is a theme that I need to explore further, artistically and in my educational work. Dolven’s beautiful installation, focusing on her responses to a trip to the antarctic, with it’s combination of image, video and artefact, for example Pedar Balke’s wonderful miniature nineteenth century arctic landscapes, (e.g. Balke’s Stormy Sea 1870), really struck a chord with me. Seeing this wide-ranging, multi-media approach to place completely captured my imagination and I found myself reflecting on the beauty, isolation and fragility of the changing polar landscape with fresh perspectives.

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