I don’t really want to be alone, not totally! But there are times when I do feel the need to get away from noisy everyday life and all of its craziness, and just wander alone in the landscape. This wandering has been a regular practice of mine for many, many years. It is an activity closely tied up with my work as an artist, and is normally undertaken in the region of the place I know as home.
So what’s the purpose of this wandering? What do I hope to achieve? Well, mostly I am seeking a certain solitude (not so easy to find these days), a means whereby I might drop into alignment with the living earth. The idea is to temporarily detach myself from other humans, and connect with natural life all around: the land, the rivers, the wildlife, the elements: tapping in to our own deepest nature.
Walking on Northam Burrows (which is very close to my home – in fact, I can view it from my top floor window), there was a time when I would aim to avoid all encounters with people, and especially people with unruly dogs. And I disliked coming across disintegrating ‘artworks’ that disturbed my sense of being in harmony with nature. I eventually turned to other places for my solitary reverie, though I am still very much enjoying visiting the Burrows with family or friends.
I was walking there last week with my Essential Nature group, and intrigued to find a number of roughly-assembled ‘dens’ all along where the dunes meet the pebble ridge fronting the ocean. These were constructed with some of the large amount of driftwood that had been carried downriver, washed up and deposited along the shore. The dens looked completely at home there, tucked into the edge of the dunes: quite fun and inviting and satisfying.
Maybe my attitude might have changed a bit, I thought. Maybe because there was no plastic or manufactured material involved in the constructions, but most of all, I decided, it was because they were entirely in keeping with the place.
I began to ponder how right from the earliest times of prehistory, it has been a natural human instinct to make constructions or to mark the landscape in some way. An instinct that continues to express itself right up to the present day: in the works of wonderful artists such as Goldsworthy, Long and Turrell, as well as in our casual assemblages made on a holiday beach.
These musings must be left for another blog post, but for now, here’s news of a superb TV film called “Forest, Field & Sky: Art out of Nature”. It is available to watch on BBC Channel 4 until June 2nd 2016.
PS: I see now, it is also on YouTube.