I am drawn to the work of Bernd and Hilla Becker, who made an impact on the contemporary art world particularly after the 1990 series of exhibitions and publication of Typologies. Their use of “documentary photography” (Romain, L. 1990) to catalogue a wide range of structures in industrial / post industrial, rural and urban landscapes is a fascinating record of changes in our landscapes, offering a unique and fresh set of perspectives linked to industrial archaeology and architecture. I am intrigued by their precise methodology, only photographing on cloudy days, in black and white, mostly with a direct, front-on view, mostly “portrait” page layout….. I need to consider far more consistently a methodology in my landscape photography that aims to capture changes, details and palimpsest observations (Hoskins 1970 – see below) in the 21st century landscape.
Becher, B. & H. (1990) Typologies. München, Schirmer/Mosel
Romain, (1990) quoted in Typologies, Bernd and Hilla Becher (see above)
Hoskins, W.G. (1970) The Making of the English Landscape. London. Penguin (Pelican edition)
In February I was lucky enough to catch A.K. Dolven’s amazing installation, Please Returnat 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.
I missed Akiko Hirai‘s Open Studio event over the weekend of the 1st December, but Akiko kindly agreed that it would be OK for me to visit her studio at The Chocolate Factory, Stoke Newington, London on the following Wednesday. I am finding that visits to makers like this utterly invaluable as I reconnect myself to the world of ceramics. We discussed her approaches and techniques and I was particularly interested in the way that she uses a variety of techniques to bring the effects of wood-firing through her gas kiln. It is inspiring to visit a maker in their workshop space; to see the creativity possible from a small, confined but perfectly conceived space. Wheel, kiln, work-surfaces and shelving take up most of the space – with her wheel covered as a display table for the Open Studio event.
Photograph – RB courtesy AK
Akiko Hirai’s shelves at her Chocolate Factory Studio.
I’m enormously grateful to Adam Buick for letting me come over and join him as he opened his kiln, discussing materials and processes he uses as we unpacked. Adam’s use of local materials, particularly gravel-sand from Abereiddy Bay as temper / grog, seaweed and a clay from a Aber Mawr (where we both spent much of our childhoods) in his glazes, really interested me. You are on the right lane as you approach Adam’s workshop as you encounter pieces by a gateway, the pond……