In search of Detached Badger

For those of you not familiar with the history of dry-fly fishing (me included until quite recently), or the provenance of the Oakley Beat at Mottisfont, the key figure in this very English drama is F.M. Halford (1844–1914). This photo of him was taken not long before he died. During his life he wrote many books on the subject and articles for  ‘The Field’ magazine under the pen name of Detached Badger [Ed: why? SR: still to find out.]

Surface lexicon

This laser scan of the sea surface off the Isle of Portland came to mind as Neil, the river keeper, was pointing out how the ripples and swellings on the surface of the Test can reveal what’s happening beneath. Variations in flow and depth are exploited by the fish; slow eddies as resting places, fast flows to bring food downstream. Just as the fish play these currents to their advantage, so the angler reads the surface signs to reveal the fish’s likely location. Well, my next task is to understand this fluid lexicon for myself. [This laser scan of The Race off Portland was part of A Natural History of Pseudomorphs.]

Back to where I started

Just as fish caught in the river would have been brought to the house and stored in the cellar, so it is with my work from this residency. It will be shown in the Cellarium at Mottisfont. Full circle for me, as my first installation was in another vaulted space, the crypt at Gloucester cathedral.

First sighting

I was on the Rectory Beat today and saw my first fish. It might not look much to you, but it pleased me! Trout or salmon? Not sure. But happy to spend time with Mottisfont’s river keeper learning about the river. [Thanks Neil for sharing your afternoon with me.]

Surface Tensions goes live!

Fresh into 2019 and this project is finally off the ground! I will be in residence on the Oakley Beat at Mottisfont this year, working towards an exhibition in Spring 2020. More details to follow shortly. In the meantime, one of FM Halford’s creations. I like the name!

Art in the Field

That’s the title of a recent article in ‘The Field’ magazine about my plans for Surface Tension. I never imagined that I could be described as a ‘sporting artist’! It does show, however, that I am reaching beyond my usual audience. I also didn’t expect the grilling I got from the journalist: straight to the point, no messing around, what the hell did I think I was up to? Well, you decide. You can read the article on line here. Much rather ‘The Field’ than any art magazine. [Yes, I know, I haven’t been posting much of late, but am planning on that changing in the New Year. Here’s looking ahead to 2018!]

A hopeful alternative

It was in The White Bird that John Berger wrote “art does not imitate nature, it imitates a creation, sometimes to propose an alternative world, sometimes simply to amplify, to confirm, to make social the brief hope offered by nature”. With this in mind, it was interesting to see different approaches emerging from the architecture workshop at AUB, one of which was to separate the art from the landscape, placing them back to back. The model shown here proposes that you would enter from one bank of the river to experience the artwork (soundscape) inside the small room; from the other bank you could sit looking at nature whilst suspended above the water. I am not sure that this separation is appropriate, as the landscape at Mottisfont, and in particular the river itself, is just as much an art-ificial construction as the artwork I propose making. For ‘nature’ I need, perhaps, to look further afield, to the melting icecaps, the Barrier Reef bleachings or how migrating birds are arriving back at new times each year. In this endeavour I will take Berger as my guide, and search for a hopeful alternative. [Thanks the ‘reeds’ team at AUB who produced this model.]

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