Archive

experiential archeology

I have just found this tiny pot which I made in about 1976 as a student. Probably the best thing I created at that time as it holds much of what still concerns me in current drawing projects. The Square, The Circle and a playful response to the world I live in.

What I like most of all is its ‘pot-ness’ whilst at the same time its ‘bird-ness’.  I remember that I had seen an image of some ancient clay toys, which inspired the painting scheme. Hand-built porcelain at just 6 c.m tall, with brushwork in iron oxide.                                            This bird with four legs still makes me chuckle.

My current work still has the same archeological connections as I continue to ponder on the ancient impulse to ‘make’.        I am still obsessing with geometry in conjunction with natural forms.             My choice of materials is still governed by a perception of ancestral  connections.  Clay, minerals, charcoal. The sense of touch is still as important in 2D work.

          Making a mask / head-dress for ‘Hart of the Wood’ .                                                                                                    This is to be a stags head with intimations of Green Man.

Film making in collaboration with ‘Artdocs’.

All will be revealed in due course.

2019 has been the year of working with Andy Barret on a transitions project based upon the 1620 House in Hugglescote, Leicestershire. We were a part of a larger project, looking at ways in which this wonderful Medieval House (which was modernised in 1620 with New Windows) can be utilised to enhance children’s learning experience. The great discovery has been of Sir Kenelm Digby (who’s sister lived in the house). Why had I never heard of him before? A Man of his times, a child of one of the Gun Powder conspirators, he grew to become a proto-scientist, diarist, glass technologists, foodie, art collector and privateer. The whole project has b een a delight and the 120 children we have worked with have been great companions on this journey of discovery.

I played the part of a ‘phenomenologist’ looking back at how the structure of experienced might have been perceived at the time. Through the senses, Smell, Taste, Sound, Sight and Touch we relived the 17th century experience and made many experiments and created art works and writings to see how these have impacted upon modern empirical science. Sounds dry but in fact was lots of fun. Sad that part is all over. Next step, to write it all up with recommendations as to how the activities might be used in the future.

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The early summer has been dominated by this project in Leicestershire, working with Andy Barret, The 1620 House, a Primary School and Dragon’s Breath Theatre. I can’t believe I had never heard of this extraordinary person, Sir Kenelm Digby. Our Ken was a proto scientist, diplomat, privateer, man of letters and inventor. Such an inspiration to all of us involved.

The House and Garden are a delight. Visitors are encouraged to truly interact with the place as most ‘things’ in the house are replica’s and therefore handleable. This was the home of the sister of Sir Kenelm. She who modernised the medieval building with new windows in 1620. The garden is laid out as of the time with a maze, herbarium and roses.

In the House we told the story of Sir Kenelm  Digby and his world.  I, as Dr Jon (Phenomenologist,)  took  on the role of a scientist looking back at 17th Century through the five senses, smell, taste, sound, sight and touch. Andy in role as an Historian, told the story of Sir Kenelm, of 17th Century  world view and the rise of science out of superstition. Sir Kenelm was the son of one of the Bonfire Plot conspirators.

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Back at the school the children spent three days with us to make manifest their own story of the visit to the 1620 House and of Sir Kenelm Digby, his wife Venetia, through puppetry, scientific experiments, writing (prose and poetry), image making and performance.

A fascinating journey for us all, with history and science made alive.

Following the British Museum Exhibition of Scythian Art and Artefacts  which I saw in 2017, I have been meaning to apply some of that inspiration to my mask work.  I was particularly drawn to the painted funerary masks from the Oglakhty burial site. These extraordinary objects are still attached to the skulls of the individuals  for whom they were made.  The originals are made of gypsum. The mask of the woman, which is somewhat better preserved, has remained in my consciousness as an inspiration.              I recently made a cast of an existing mask of a woman and then realised that there were some similarities between my mask and the Oglakhty mask. I have therefor tried to replicate the painted design from the ancient Scythian mask onto my contemporary version. They are not the same, my mask has the eyes open and the forehead finishes at a hairline rather than lapping over the cranium.  The overall proportions are not quite the same.

I have had to improvise and make up details which I cannot see in the source images, especially as some area’s have been damaged.        Painting this has given me a greater respect for the Scythian creators and their skill in making the original.  I have at present left the paining in this bold state, rather than distress the paint-job to beautify and make it more acceptable to modern audiences.  My instinct is to do some subtle shading to enhance the modelling and I am not sure I like my eye lid painting so I think that I will repaint them in the white. I have enjoyed the asymmetry of the design and applying it over the nearly symmetrical face.   There is a hypothesis that the painting replicates a tattoo .

Is this character an Amazon, an ancient feminine warrior ?    Certainly my original mask was intended to represent the strong mature woman.             This being my version of the Artemis archetype  (The Huntress).