These arrangements have been made from things I have found on and at the edge of the beach I walk at the top of Langstone Harbour at Havant. They are a direct response to the environment as I find it.
Religion, Flowers and the notion of Rubbish.
As a child I was brought up at Selsey Bill, where my family attended St Peter’s Church. My maternal Grandfather was a Vicar and my paternal Grandfather was a Lay Reader. My weekends were spent playing by the sea and singing hymns in a beautiful flower filled church. When I felt upset, whereas some would turn to the church for comfort, I was drawn to the landscape and the sea where I found solace, inspiration and an inner feeling of power. This was drawn from the knowledge that there was something out there greater than me. As a contemporary artist, it is the landscape and the sea that still ignites some deep seated need within me, to catch and record this fleeting feeling I experience whilst out in the landscape. In the past the Romantic landscape artists worked out in the countryside, sketching and painting, searching for a moment of transcendence, a moment of communion with God. They were trying to imbue their paintings with religious feels which they experienced first-hand out in the mountains, over looking the sea, or in a sublime moment where they felt the immensity of God and nature. I am following this path which was trodden before me by artists such as Claude Lorraine, Turner and Casper David Friedrich. As they did, I am out in my chosen landscape sketching, photographing and collecting things, experiencing and becoming a part of a very small section of the landscape that fascinates me.
As Thoreau has said; “ the whole world can be revealed in our backyard, but only if you give it proper attention”.
My backyard, or the site that has caught my attention and has continually surprised me with something new to look at each time, is Broadmarsh Nature Reserve at Havant. It is an “edgeland” bordered by the sea, the sewage works and the M27. An area once mined for flints and subsequently used as a landfill site in the 1960’s – 1970’s with its own incineration plant attached, has now been tastefully remodelled and re-landscaped as a nature reserve. On my frequent visits I have encountered rubbish and I have been horrified by the amount and type of rubbish I have found. Initially I went expecting to enjoy the English countryside, but instead I have discovered an “edgeland” a piece of countryside abused and remodelled by man, a ghost of its former self. I went hoping to find my moment of transcendence and to my amazement, even in this struggling landscape, I did.
Rubbish seems to have become so mixed and entangled into the land itself that we have ceased to see it; we seem to have accepted the litter of our consumer-orientated lives, as a part of our environment. I have become fascinated by the relationship between the rubbish and the landscape, so much so that it has become the subject of my research, pushing the boundaries of what we understand as landscape art to reflect the landscape of today.
At this particular time of year, as winter turns into spring, much of the vegetation has died to reveal the bones of the landscape and all the colourful rubbish caught within its margins. The landscape is bare which is reflected within the Church itself during the period of Lent, when traditionally it is unadorned. The dried remains of the Teasels stand at the edge of land and sea, reminding me of my Grandmother who arranged flowers at home and at church, which produces a compulsion in me to create flower arrangements that are a snapshot of the landscape at this very moment in time. The dried skeletal plants form a frame work in which the rubbish has been caught, a reflection of the winter landscape as I find it today, with the beauty of the plants at their heart.
By placing these arrangements in a church my intention is to combine the traditions of the Romantic landscape artists, which I follow, together with the traditions of the church, in which I grew up. With these arrangements I am offering a magnified, passionate view of what I have found and how I feel about my new understanding of my environment. I feel the planet is fighting to maintain an equilibrium in which mankind can survive. I have become a recorder of this fight, in which the planet’s main adversary is the human race. I have accepted this situation and with these flower arrangements I hope to draw the plight of the planet, to which we do have a deep seated spiritual link, gaining the attention of a responsive audience.
We need to help the planet save the human race form self destruction.
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