Art in the Time of Coronavirus

‘Medicine Wheel’,
16th August 1982 – 15th August 1983 One natural object for each day of the year. twelve segments of paper, one for each month, made during that month from the pulp of particular plants. a mushroom spore print.
230 cm. diam. x 8 cm. deep – collection Leeds City Art Gallery

This piece has recently been up on Facebook, posted by Douglas Park, and someone wrote to me from Australia about the effect this piece had had on her work.

It was a critical piece for me made at a difficult time of my life, my wife and mother of my two small children had moved away leaving me on my own in a small cottage in rural Kent. I missed my children. In some ways the isolation was similar to the self isolation going on now but more acute because of the separation to my children. However I was beginning to work again and was using what was around me – nature. As I said in Silent Spaces “Walking in the Stubble Fields, looking down. Waiting for the first lapwing feathers of the year – two feathers lie together – 16th August 1982. As I bent down to pick up those two lapwing feathers, I realised instantly that I should make a work by doing just that: picking something up off the earth every day for a year to make an object calendar.”

I worked out the structure for it and made the frame: this gave me an idea of the size of object I could choose as it had to fit between the spokes of bamboo. I started on that day in August with those two feathers. I would collect objects during the week, keep them on a tray and tie them on at the weekend. In the beginning it seemed like a daunting task but as time went on I learned to let go and allow objects to come to me. One day for instance I was walking across the field in front of my house, as I did most days, and there was a swan’s egg. I guess rats had found it but were unable to break the shell. I learned also that crows moult their primary feathers in June. My children found objects for it and became very involved. I would also invite friends to choose a day and find an object. the work intimately followed my year – my father died during that time and there is a special object for him.

It did not know it at the time but it took me down into a state of mindfulness where everything became connected. My wife returned and we moved into the town of Lewes in Sussex and the half completed work came with us. Later Simon Cutts showed the piece at Coracle in South London in a show called Repeat. Then at the Serpentine in a group show called Salon D’Autonne with Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy, Bill Culbert amongst others. Later he took it to New York to a show at the Puck Building under the title British Art, New Directions – Assemble Here, with artists like Bill Culbert, Anthony Gormley, David Connearn and Yoko Terauchi. John Russel gave Medicine Wheel a glowing review. When the work returned to London it was found a home at Leeds City Art Gallery, where it still is.

So with its slow meditative mindful connection to nature this was very key piece for me


Art in the Time of Coronavirus | 2020 | Uncategorized