Tonight is the opening of Unravelling Uppark in the wonderful setting of Uppark House atop the South Downs. Here is an invitation to the opening. It would be great to see you there! (photograph by Jim Stephenson)
‘Quartet’, my work for the Unravelling Uppark exhibition has arrived at the house, ready for the show which opens at the beginning of May. The engraved glass looks great against the dark wood of the table top (click on the image to see it in greater detail), and is situated in front of a window looking out onto the gardens from which the four birdsongs has been extracted. Thanks Polly and Caitlin for the last minute installation. Looking forward to the opening! (Image: detail from photograph by Jim Stephenson)
Walking around the grounds of Uppark, the trained ear of @mostlyscarce picked out numerous bird calls, which I am going to use as my raw material. Each call, when you listen to it carefully, assumes a ‘shape’ in your mind, its shifts in pitch and amplitude creating a mental image of the song that goes way beyond what you actually hear. But just as most of taste is in fact smell (try tasting something when you have a cold), so hearing is never independent from vision. This is where it gets interesting. Once the bird calls are converted into 3D forms in the computer, ready to be worked on visually, then I can starting sculpting in sound. Thanks @UpparkHG and @mostlyscarce for all your help with this.
Site visit to Uppark House yesterday where I met with the head gardener (@UpparkHG) and curators to talk about bringing birdsong into the house. The garden team avoid using power tools during opening hours (that includes lawn moving, and there are some big lawns at Uppark!) in order to conserve the natural tranquility and soundscape that would have been associated with the house when it was built. Interesting concept that: heritage soundscapes. Well, apart from the odd jet it was pretty tranquil up there on the South Downs yesterday afternoon, and plenty of birds to choose from. Yesterday’s visit was like passing through the wardrobe into Narnia. Must return in the spring to record the dawn chorus there. Andy, Polly and Caitlin: great to meet up and to get a chance to listen to the sounds of Uppark.
I have always been a bit envious of the Germans for some of their words: Zeitgeist for instance, it is just so good that we have even adopted it into english; Doppelgänger is another one, and then there is also Angst. When it comes to my work and it focus on specific places and their meaning, Heimat is the one. Until now I thought this to be an exclusively German concept for the place where you grew up; your origin, community, landscape, relationships, the whole mix that formed you. Heimat is the founding part of each person’s identity. But that has all just changed thanks to Jay Griffiths and her latest book Kith. I now have the english equivalent…kith. ‘Kith and kin’ nowadays means relations and family, but originally ‘kith’ referred to the place where you grew up, the locality that formed you, your home territory. So the phrase ‘kith and kin’ used to combine place and family. For me kith is Hampshire and includes the chalk of the South Downs, the ‘hangers’ around Steep, and the clay of the valleys. Chalk and clay, add water, and a recent biking trip with my boys on the Downs ended with us carrying the bikes down totally clogged with sticky off-white chalky-clay! They took hours to clean. Kith: a wonderfully pithy word. Thanks Jay.
Just out of art college we set up the first incarnation of artNucleus – Reinhild, Pauline and myself – and our first show was in Osterley Park House, a stately home on the edge of London. Called ‘Below Stairs’, it brought together the work of ten artists in the old servants quarters below the main house. My piece, Acanthus, showed a gloved hand slowly, lovingly, ambiguously tracing around the intricate plant-motiffed plaster work that covered the walls of the rooms upstairs. The glove used was then pinned against the wall behind a sheet of glass. This comes to mind now since the chance has arisen to work in another stately home, this time Uppark on the South Downs, not far from where I grew up. Curated by Unravelled Arts, my thoughts are turning the exhibition there in 2014 focussed on using birdsong to bridge between the tapestried interior and the birdlife of the downs outside. Looking forward to working with you, Unravelled.