Some years ago a long standing family friend and close friend of my Dad was being treated for cancer. He and his wife had often been to Elgol on the shores of Lock Skavaig on the Isle of Skye. They loved this place. I too had been there and as is the case – and now slightly frowned upon – I picked up some stones from a stream bed. The stones were small, but smooth & beautifully polished to a honed satin finish by the action of water. They could be held in the hand and moved around. The feeling of them was somehow special and resonant. I still have them now, wrapped in a cloth bag for fear of damaging them. I sent one of these stones to Dad’s friend. In doing that I think we had a non verbal conversation at distance about place and memories. I like to think it was re-assuring for both of us.
I have always picked up stones. They represent something unique about place, time and experience. Geology is fascinating.
I live by the sea in Ramsgate on the Kent Coast. I walk on the beach most days. I have found many sea urchin fossils. Each has a unique story. Each stone can still trigger memories of where and when it was found, what the weather was like…was the tide in or out.
I have created work for several projects with Cancer treatment centres at a number of Hospitals, including Churchill Hospital Cancer Centre, Oxford and a Macmillan Cancer unit for Tameside General Hospital. At Tameside Hospital and found my inspiration on a 12 mile walk entitled “Journeys through the Landscapes of Tameside” – this walk eventually became the brief for the project.
Stewart Ramsden, my walking partner who compiled the walk, had also been a cancer patient at the hospital and was part of our project’s champion group. Our route was eventually described by an eccentric figure of eight. Wild Bank and Hollingworthall Moor from Godley – a 12 mile walk through town, suburb, farmland and moorland.
The following words were made from my notes on the day:
This is a walk
A meander, a physical experience or just maybe a day-dream
A walk is more often along a path
The path or footpath changes in colour, texture and topography –
but there is always a remembered route to follow or a map to guide you
or maybe a venture to somewhere new
There is a constancy in moving forward
Things seen on a walk are half experienced and half remembered
A vivid green hedge
A tyre track
A discarded toy
A cloud which looks like a tree, a stream which looks like silver, a flash of colour
Horizon merges with sky
This is a landscape with no fixed perspective
Sky reflected in water
A small stone becomes a boulder
An object picked up and carried in the hand along the way
Track marks in fields are gestural and dynamic
Distant buildings become a child’s building blocks
The layersPatterns in brickwork
Our project for the new Radiotherapy Unit at Dorset Hospital was similarly inspired by a walk along the Jurassic Coast I made ten years ago. I was hoping to find myself an ammonite to take home. I didn’t find any, but I saw many encased in rock by the shore. I saw the Blue Lias beds that contain giant plesiosaur fossils. The layers are like drawers in time. Each opening to another world and perhaps another wonder. I was also allowed free time to spend in the Dorset Museum Archives amongst boxes and drawers and piles of specimen stones and fossils. The way these objects were carefully curated and stored – often in intricate patterns and collections of similar sizes and or type. was inspiring and reminded me of my collections at home and of how precious they are to me. The artwork has grown out of this fascination. The stones I have created are imaginary in colour and pattern, although informed by nature. They are perhaps stones I would like to find. Stones I would hold in my imagination to remind me of journeys I have made and places I have been.
We have now had the approval and sign off on the artwork proposals following a recent meeting with key Staff and stakeholders this week. The deadline is looming. The new building opens on 12th December. The work has to be manufactured and installed before this date.
To create the digital work each element requires up to 3 copies of each shape. One blank, one black & white and one in colour. The black & white originals are a mix of hand drawn motifs and textures, which are then scanned and worked on in Photoshop. I create a series of related shapes and masks, which I can then combine with larger patterns, often in repeat.Colours are added at this stage. I will often scan objects such as found paper or leaves and work on them digitally. I take too many images in the street, of shapes of water on the pavement – or reflections in windows – or a small plant growing in a crack in the ground or on a wall. All these can trigger an idea for a pattern or story.