Jo Atherton

4-11 April 2015

On my arrival, I was mesmerised by the epic location of Brisons Veor and reflecting on my week, those feelings have only grown. I am familiar with the Cornish coast, but was not prepared for the raw beauty of the peninsula. The studio really does feel perched on the very edge of our nation, if not the world, and is the ideal environment for total submersion in a project, idea or reflection.

Typically my work involves working with found materials that have found their way onto the tideline. Increasingly I have been reflecting on the assemblages of objects I put together and how they become evocative signifiers for my own tastes, experiences and memories. We are all collectors to a greater or lesser extent, and the unspoken curatorial decisions made throughout life reveal much about a person’s taste, sentimentality and class. It is this bond with objects I have increasingly been returning to, in particular the very personal relationship we can enjoy with a commodity, set against the dispassionate backdrop of global trade.

Thinking about this part of my creative process during the week, I began to notice the large number of container ships and tankers ghosting along the horizon, on a shipping route up to Liverpool, Ireland and beyond. In the UK at least, almost everything we own has, at some point, spent time aboard a ship. Articles crammed into containers alongside identical versions of themselves embark on a global journey. I began to view the innocuous steel-clad containers as slow-transiting vitrines of our time, holding the would-be relics of the future. The unique aspect of Brisons Veor enabled me to watch these huge ships silently moving across the horizon and consider how I may incorporate this largely unseen element of industry into my creative practice.

During the week, the sea was my metronome, as I planned my days by the tides and fully immersed myself in the area. It has been a wonder to observe the watery transience of Priest’s Cove; a submerged world, ever in flux that is both land and sea twice a day. The very force of the waves that batter the humble inlet are a constant source of inspiration. Learning to look in detail and experience a place intimately was a means of examining my own perceptions of the world and how I choose to record and display my experiences. The memory of others who made their living along this coast, and those artists who have been inspired to record their time at Brisons Veor were never far from my mind during my week.

I felt compelled to record the rugged coast, at the very frontier of our island and consider our inherited sense of place. Names and remnants imbued with histories – Carn Gloose, Gribba Point, Maen Dower, Are Point, Porth Nanven, Portheras Cove, and so many more revealed on the local map – To what or whom do these names refer? What fragment of the past do we still hang on to, echoed in our sense of place today?

Sketching with charcoal directly on the beach, or further along the coastline, I managed to produce almost fifty drawings of individually named headlands. Spirited sketches working quickly to capture the flow of the land, shape of the rocks and a loose impression of the environment enabled me to engage with the landscape in a way I have not done for some time. My sketches have become personal landmarks by which I orientate my week at Brisons Veor which I will be using to develop a new body of work and the very process of working en plein air has added much to my existentialist experience of the landscape.

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