Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Paper clouds



Paper cloud displayed in window at Bowlees Visitor Centre Gallery, Upper Teesdale

Paper clouds and other sculptures and how to make them

Here are a couple of videos on two of the many steps in the process of making paper clouds and other sculptures from dead moorland grasses collected in the late winter early spring. 

After collecting out in the moors, a couple of months of partial rotting in a plastic bag and cutting to short lengths the grass is cooked in a solution of sodium bi-carbonate for several hours which stinks the studio out. This starts to break  apart and digest the cellulose fibres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOYH07CTNO4

After mashing the cooked grass with a pestle and mortar the broken down cellulose is washed and then bathed in dilute bleach to lighten the colour before a final rinse in cold water. 

The pulp is then ready to store in airtight containers until needed for pouring into a paper cloud on a paper making screen or onto silk screen printing mesh. The paper is left on the screen to either air dry for a day or so, or to fast dry with a current of warm air passing over it for an hour or more. Faster drying will make the paper cockle and bend more dramatically.



Once dry, if the paper hasn't released itself from the screen, a small curved knife blade is very gently run under the delicate edges until it lifts off. 

Some of these paper clouds are very fragile at the edges but the thinness of the paper in these parts helps create a brighter silver lining when back lit. This scattering effect is enhanced when the cellulose fibres are finer which depends on the amount of cooking, mashing and bleaching and on the types of grass used.

Paper pulp can be used to make almost any 3-D object out of a skin of paper such as this model of a 25 micron wide birch pollen grain exhibited at Baltic 39 in Newcastle upon Tyne and at Brantwood, Coniston in 2015.

Birch pollen paper sculpture, Baltic 39, Newcastle upon Tyne


Birch pollen paper sculpture and paper cloud, Brantwood, Coniston

Art from the Ocean

Here's my final composition (I think) for the Tropos3 painting. I've added a few little cumulus clouds on the right and I've developed what was a weak area in the sea on the right using a sword liner, a water spray-mister and a shaper tool. The risk in art is to go too far and loose the magic by over doing things, such as adding too much detail or complexity where simpler might be more effective through suggestion. It's probably too early for me to judge whether this is an improvement or not but if you don't follow your hunches with paintings they can miss their expressive potential. I think we have to follow creative instinct: if after a few weeks the painting is saying "more to be done" then it has to be changed somehow. It could be small changes or it might have to be a radical rethink, but things evolve over time and its hard to know if the current state of the work is just intermediate, but for now this is as far as I can go.

Tropos3, acrylic and laser print on canvas.
In fact it's probably time to start several more pieces and to up the scale in order to think about the idea in different ways and get a clearer perspective on the work and what its potential is as art. I'm in discussion wit the scientists at Leipzig University about doing something much more ambitious with their TROPOS atmospheric data followed by an exhibition and a catalogue with essays. I'm hoping the Alfred Wegener Institute will be interested in supporting it and also searching for possible art-science funding from the European Union before the UK crashes out of it.

Meanwhile the oceans keep warming and absorbing acidifying CO2 and the algae and plankton populations, that affect the colour of the surface waters, continue to change, as does the weather that allows illuminating sunlight through. These paintings don't illustrate climate change science, but if they are any good as art they will help some people to contemplate the beauty of the sea and its hidden life beneath the surface as a phenomenon of great human value. I for one have always looked out on the sea with awe and wonder, seeing it as an environment of a completely different order to terrestrial landscapes in the impermanence of it and in its vitality as living thing. Human beings have always been fascinated with the sea as both dangerous alien environment but also as possible route to far away and unknown places. The memory of my particular encounter with the sea on the RV Polarstern from Bremerhaven to Cape Town will continue to feed my imagination.

Here are a few sketches and photos from the 2016 cruise. More to come in future posts when I get time!

Drawing made on Nov 14, 2016, English Channel

Me sketching the above drawing. Photo credit E. Shestakova

Drawing made on Nov 23, 2016, off east Africa


Nov 20 Sunrise 1 Canary Isles.

Nov 20 Sunrise 2 Canary Isles


The Atlantic

Sunset from the port side of bridge

Equator midday port side, so much light, aquarelle pencil

 View from the bridge top sunset

Prof. Peter Lemke discusses his idea about the ships' wake

Lionel Playford explains the idea behind the expedition mural to a group of scientists




Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Art from the Ocean

I've slightly changed one of the paintings, TROPOS 1, from the last post. I don't know whether such changes are improvements or not and there has to come a point when one must stop and work on something else, but the more I looked at it the more I felt that the sun was trying to break through in its downward passage behind those layers of cloud and that the reflections on the calm undulating sea needed to sparkle more in some way. Such changes can diminish a painting's essential energy or unspoken character but you have to risk it as an artist if your intuition tells you to keep going. That's where my plan to make a 31 piece installation of these, one for each day of the Polarstern cruise from 2016 in collaboration with my atmospheric physics colleagues from Leipzig University, would enable me to explore the memory of this whole adventure in a way that collides together the precise empirical and yet abstract-looking 'facts' of science with my subjective embodied recollections and feelings about the voyage, especially the atmosphere of the time and the place on successive days. When I look at TROPOS 1 it's as though the sunset is happening even though I know the patterns of pigment and print are stationary. Sunset's like these change imperceptibly and staring at the painting evokes that sense of imperceptible change which I don't get from the frozen moments of photographs. Is this related to Bergson's notion of duration in which our experience of time is illusory? Reading Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics (again) yesterday I'm struck by how much particle physicists like Feynman in the mid 20th century stretched their imaginations in an effort to grasp the paradoxical things that seemed to be going on in the collision chamber. This involved accepting that a particle like an electron can be a wave at the same time, the wave-particle duality, depending on how you look at it and the possibility that in particle interactions (collisions) time can go in either direction, or more accurately that there is an interconnected web of interactions across the entire universe that transcends time because it occupies space-time in which one cannot treat time as separate from space, even though that's exactly what we do in everyday life. My painting compresses 3-D space almost into 2-D albeit cropped into a rectangle, but perhaps it also collapses time into duration. The scientific data of course encapsulates both time and space as the laser beam has travelled up 8km and been backscattered 8km down again to reach the receptors and the ship has moved across the surface of the sea, whilst secretly the sun went down and the moon rose up.

Sun rays begin to appear


The rays strengthen slightly. The lidar backscatter data is still clearly visible behind the paint.



Sunday, 20 January 2019

Art from the Ocean

Now that my PhD has been converted to a more manageable MPhil (same academic rigour but fewer words required in the thesis) I have returned to the Atlantic field work from 2 years ago on board the RV Polarstern to complete some evidence to which I refer in the discussion chapter. Having researched the idea that art creates knowledge I decided that, at least in terms of the academic discipline of cultural geography, it does no such thing. Despite the much argued claims of university fine art academics and others to the contrary, within the definition of knowledge understood by geographers and philosophers (by philosopher Graham Harman most recently for example) there was no way I could claim to be creating new knowledge and so the original plan of submitting a thesis for consideration as a PhD had to be ditched. Harman's claim for art is one of metaphor ,which he sees as vital in our grasp of reality but which does not fall within the sphere of knowledge as normally understood say in science or social science. Then again Harman does not see philosophy or economics as capable of generating knowledge either, if knowledge is understood as verified true belief.

Back to the art! I wanted create a studio response to one of the scientific projects I encountered on the voyage from Germany to Cape Town at the end of 2016. Because my daily sketchbook work and the portable Yi4k action camera I installed on the side of the ship (which kindly took 34 000 photos for me) I was interested in the work of a Leipzig team of atmospheric physicists who similarly captured a representation of the whole voyage with their sophisticated laser equipment. The project, named TROPOS, involved sending a pulsed laser up into the sky above the ship and measuring the back scatter of light from water droplets, ice particles, desert dust and smoke. These were plotted as the ship went a long to produce some very colourful graphic representations of the troposphere like a slice through the atmosphere spread over 4 weeks. Here's what it looked like glued onto a canvas.



Each of the six lines of images represents 4 days of data from sea level to 8km above the ship. My simple idea was glue the raw data onto canvas and paint a landscape over it based on my field sketches. It's a juxtaposition of objective machine generated information with a subjective, human made interpretation of an actual experience of the weather. Here's how it turned out after a few iterations of applying paint and rubbing it away again then repainting.


Most of the data has disappeared but enough remains to lend a strange, slightly architectural space to the picture. Anyone encountering the original painting would see that paper has been glued on and painted over and they would see the pattern of the data underneath the paint, but its meaning would not be obvious. In fact I would hope that viewers might find it attractive in a Romantic sunset kind of way, but odd in a "what are those funny barcode lines?" kind of way.

The sketch on which it is based, was of a particularly memorable sunset near the Canary Islands and which clearly showed the pattern of a big Atlantic swell which was following us from a low pressure system hundreds of miles away to the north of us. When I look at the drawing I can feel the ship surging with the swell which was overtaking us. I can also hear the low thrum of the diesel engine exhaust and feel the warm tropical breeze generated by the movement of the ship.


When I sent a photo of the painting to the scientists they recalled exactly which sunset this was based on, even though I had given them no information about the date of the sketch nor the sketch itself (which is a mirror image of the painting). I was impressed! Other comments stimulated me to start a bigger canvas, 1.5m wide. This is how it looked on day one. With the laser printed data glued on and dry the canvas goes drum tight and sounds a bit like a bodhran. Maybe one day someone will play my paintings in an Irish folk band!


I used just two and half days of data from our passage down the English Channel in early November when  a series of fronts followed us west. This time I selecting back scatter data filtered to a longer wavelength mainly because of the darker colours and especially because of the intense blue. I mirrored the original data so that the thin white join line could represent the horizon. To be precise this white line is a 2mm gap between the upper plot and its reflected image. Then I painted over the data in the usual way with acrylic paint, scrappers, shapers, water spray, wet cloth, anything that could make a mark. Here's the result so far which may not be finished yet.



And here's the sketch it is loosely based on. Again the sketch reminds me of the feeling of being at see with little rain showers on the horizon and at least two distinct layers of cloud


My action camera had not been fully set up on Nov 14th so I have no digital photographs of the same view from the port side that correspond to the time of the sketch. I have a photo from earlier in the day taken from my cabin window also on the port side. In it you see the coaster which is slowly overtaking us and which appears in the sketch on the right hand side.



One more hybrid collage-painting is currently in production.








Friday, 29 September 2017

Lionel Playford


Here's a video filmed during a painting demonstration I gave to Keswick Art Society in 2015. The title music reminds me a little of John Shuttleworth's electronic keyboard pieces minus John's unique voice of course.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13-ve0JurCQ


Here's the painting as it is today- still not finished! I got a little distracted by a PhD but it turns out that this painting might have a lot to do with my research into art and science in contemporary landscape after all.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Successful installation of Helgoland commission



The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) commission to celebrate their 125th anniversary of science on Helgoland, Germany was successfully installed in the Bluehouse Museum building on May 17th and unveiled before an invited audience of scientists, civil servants and politicians on May 19th. All a bit strange for me but a chance to talk to some very interesting and well informed scientists about climate change as it affects the oceans.


The commission asked me to take inspiration from the North Sea as a habitat, an ecosystem, a landscape, a place of scientific field enquiry and a space of human habitation. That's a complex mix which I had to weave together into a cohesive whole. The elliptical shape was my way of expressing the sense of interconnected wholeness which I believe is the reality of this 'place'. The 13 panels, apart from being a practical way of shipping the 3m x 2m work from Garrigill to Helgoland, stood for the puzzle that scientists sometimes talk about in their collaborative work. One conversation with a plankton ecologist about gaps in knowledge and the nature of error led to a series of square holes where pieces don't quite fit together and through which you can see the support structure behind the surface of the panels- a reminder perhaps of other realities behind surface appearances

The various images, both collaged laser prints and painted areas were built up in layers over several months and came from a number of different scientists who I interviewed and worked alongside at various times at AWI Helgoland and on board the RV Polarstern icebreaker over the previous 15 months.


The painting will be dismantled when the builders go in to turn the current empty shell into the new Bluehouse Museum of the ocean. It will be re-instsalled next to the main entrance to the research offices and laboratories inside a new covered area joining the museum to the labs.

Here are a few pictures of the completed work.

Support structure built and ready to hang in the Bluehouse Museum
Panels partly erected in precise sequence with 2mm gaps between pieces.
Ready for unveiling at the 125th birthday ceremony

Unveiled at the birthday reception in the future Bluehouse Museum
Questions from Prof. Peter Lemke and Prof. Karen Wiltshire
Life goes on as usual for the Gannets on Helgolands cliffs.
My 3rd farewell to Helgoland

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

An update summary: early 2014 to Dec 2016



My Leverhulme Trust residency was completed in late 2014 and was followed by a year of continued collaboration with Professor John Woodward and others at Northumbria University both in Geography and Fine Art. This has led to me starting a practice based interdisciplinary PhD in the Dept of Geography at NU an undertaking not imagined until the residency it has opened up many new creative possibilities and collaborations. So, having recently returned from a major climate change research expedition down the Atlantic Ocean it is time to pick up where I left off in 2014 and reflect on what has been achieved up to now and what I hope to do over the next few years both in practice-based research and in parallel work.

Paper Cloud- Brantwood Coach House. Made from deer grass pulp from North Pennines and a print of a fossil pollen grain from a Wolf Crag Moss core sample by Northumbria University.


The Leverhulme residency, what happened afterwards up to early 2016.
Further posts will flesh out the aims of the PhD and update on events and outcomes as they happen.

The residency started with an attempt to ground myself in the immersive experience of landscape drawing, for the most part in the North Pennine peat moors but also in the climate research landscape of Wolf Crag Moss near Keswick. These weather-world drawings (inspired a little by the writings of Tim Ingold) took about 8 months to complete, mainly through the winter and spring of 2014. 15 drawings were made at Wolf Crags, the palaeo-climate research site in November 2013, February 2014 and May 2014. Most of the 100 outdoor drawings I produced were completed in sets of 4 in 25 locations usually working at one location for the whole day and drawing the landscape before me in a kind of panoramic sequence. This method of working was an attempt to be more systematic than usual and was very productive. Although my ideas about these drawings changed and grew over time the basic methods did not change and included choosing a location that had a line of sight to a previous location, staying in one spot all day, making full use of whatever natural materials and energies were to hand and making a set of drawings that spanned the full 360 deg of the horizon.

Here are 4 from the book just published 'Peat Matters'.





And here's where the first of the 4 was drawn- a bit wet and windy but I had actually found a dryish hummock to set my gear out although getting there and back was a little tricky!



The residency led to 3 exhibitions in north east England in 2014, a further 3 exhibitions in 2015 across the north of England, including Baltic 39 in Newcastle, an installation in a group exhibition in Taiwan, a series of public talks and events and a multi-disciplinary research visit to a peat bog in northern Lapland in late 2015. My PhD project started in Dec 2016 with an early exhibition in early 2016 and a major commission in Manchester. These exhibitions show-cased some of the outdoor 'weather-world' drawings, a series of circular collage paintings, the various paper works I made in Paper Studio Northumbria (PSN) and some new and innovative work integrating grass/moss paper with scientific inscription and instrument. Here are some pictures:

Cloud Paper 'Alnus x 5'. Elison Building, NU, 2014.
 Reproduced by permission of Northumbria University.

















from left, Cloud paper 'Alnus x 1', 'Moorland Cloud 1' and
'Betula Pendula'.  Baltic 39 Newcastle upon Tyne 2014.
'Sphagnum Cloud'. Bowlees Visitor Centre 2014. 


'Pointer' installation, Brantwood Coach House Coniston, Cumbria, 2015

Detail of 'Pointer' showing the bottom of the peat coring rod suspended above a laboratory photograph of a fossil birch pollen grain from a 4.5m deep peat core sample taken by John Woodward and his team in Nov 2013 from a bog near Keswick, north Cumbria. Pollen photograph is encased in moss pulp and resin and framed by 2 oak paper-making screens used to cast the 50 square papers made from moorland grasses and mosses and attached to the 4.5m long rod. Both the pollen and the pulp came from material at Wolf Crag Moss a research site for NU Dept of Geography's climate change research.
Set of 4 moorland drawings made at Yad Moss near Alston in the North Pennines, part of an exhibition in Northumbria University Dept of Geography 2014.

The project initiated the production of a catalogue to place the work in a wider context of climate change research and, as the project developed beyond the end of the residency, this evolved into a short book describing all of the work produced up to mid 2016. Entitled "Peat Matters: Locating Climate (Change) at the Interface of Art and Science", the book is currently printing and will be distributed to the main contributors and collaborators, other interested parties and members of the public who attended a talk given by Professor Woodward and myself at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. There will be copies available at my studio in Garrigill for those seriously interested in this kind of work.

After the Leverhulme project finished (I have just heard that sadly the Leverhulme Art Residency fund has been wound up) a one day micro-residency was undertaken in autumn 2014 funded by the Economic and Social Research Council involving a public walk, talk and some live action drawing at Dryburn Moor above the Allen Valleys in Northumberland. John Woodward led the walk which included contributions from a regional archaeologist, a landscape conservationist and fellow Northumbria University doctoral researcher/artist Laura Harrington (see her recent film Dissonance 2015) who read one of Seamus Heaney's bog poems whilst standing on an area of upland bog conservation research.

A3 page from sketchbook capturing a discussion with conservationist Alistair Lockett and members of the public at Flow Moss, Dryburn Moor near Allendale Town, Northumberland.

In August 2015 a short residency was completed at Brantwood near Coniston, home of John Ruskin the famous 19th century social reformer, art critic, art teacher and considerable artist, to accompany an exhibition there and two public walking talks with John Woodward and with Dr Matt Pound, with whom I had collaborated in peat coring and palynogical analysis at Wolf Crag Moss. In my week's residency at the Old Coach House at Brantwood (I slept in a tent on the opposite side of the lake at Coniston Old Hall because the Brantwood accomodation was all rented out for the summer season) I also made a series of large drawings from around the house and garden. How interesting it would be to spend a whole year there researching Ruskin's work and the changes in the weather he would have experienced.


Coniston from Brantwood - day of the flying ants- never this bad for insects in the North Pennines!
'Pointer'. Attaching 50 sheets of grass/moss paper to coring rod before hoisting up by the handle into the rafters to let it hang 1cm above the pollen print. Note the 'A' frame jig for temporarily supporting rod.
Hanging the installation with help from Brantwood members of staff.

Setting the pointy end (the coring chamber) above the birch pollen image.

Part of the Brantwood Coach House exhibition Jul-Sep 2015

Display of climate change research projects led by Prof John Woodward at Northumbria University
One of the climate change research posters by Prof John Woodward. Palsa mound degredation in Finnish peat mires. This is the Vaisjeaggi mire near Kevo in the far north of Finland where I accompanied colleagues from Northumbria in Sept 2015.

Detail from 'Wolf Crags Winter Weather-World', acrylic and paper collage on canvas.

Coniston Water from above Brantwood. This was the view from the top of our 2 walking talks. The sound track to this photo is a folk-rock band echoing around the hills from a campsite on the opposite side of the lake. What would Wordsworth and Ruskin have made of that? The band wasn't bad at all but of course neither I nor anybody else out walking had any choice. In a crowded noisy world the Lakes could be a place to escape from all the usual noise pollution of a modern life but the demands of modern, gadget laden tourism make that a challenge. At least Coniston Water has limited use of outboard motors so it is possible, once the helicopters, fighter jets, light aircraft and tourist cars have subsided at the end of a day, to get a sense of what the mountains once sounded like all day long. To hear waterfalls and bird song echoing across the lake is a magical sound that creates a much fuller, richer sense of place than vision alone can offer.
In Sept 2015 I was invited to join an interdisciplinary research group on an expedition to northern Lapland led by Professor John Woodward. The plan was to look at a permafrost climate research peat bog near the Kevo Subarctic research base from a number of different perspectives including visual art. The group consisted of an art historian, a human geographer, a social scientist, a photographer, a geophysicist and our host, veteran scientist with 50 years of research experience in permafrost peatlands, Professor Matti Sepella.

'x' marks the spot: Vaesjeaggi mire, near Kevo.

Whilst John and Matti took measurements on permafrost mounds (called palsa mounds) using iron rods and a terrestrial lidar scanner I made drawings, took photographs and asked questions whilst trying not to get in the way too much. The lidar will pick up any object in its scanning range and I did not want to become an error in the data! This meant taking my chances as they arose and sticking closely behind John and Matti as the scanning machine did its slow 360deg turn.

Matti, John and me doing 'the merry dance' with the automatic lidar scanner on top of a peat palsa mound at Vaisjeaggi Mire in northern Lapland
The cotton grass was in full seed whilst we were there and was much more abundant than I had seen anywhere in the North Pennines. In fact this whole landscape, though being very exposed and possessing a harsh winter climate, looked like a very healthy ecosystem relatively unspoilt by human development. It felt like a rare privilege to be able to sit here in reasonable comfort (we had nice weather for our 3 days on the bog and I had my usual cushion in a plastic bag) drawing with the materials to hand such as peat, crow and lingon berries, lichens, fungi and a little light rain at just the right moment for this drawing.

Field drawing 'studio' Vaisjeaggi mire, Kevo, Lapland

Field drawing 1 Vaisjeaggi mire. Peat, chinese ink stick, crowberry, watercolour, oil pastel, wax crayon and light rain.
The autumn berries were thick on the ground when you looked closely. The world of small plants and lichens growing on rocks reminded me of coral reefs for the variety of shape, pattern and colour.



The expedition was intense in many ways including discussions with John on the aeroplane about how I might develop my ideas from the previous 2 years of collaboration once the PhD started. One idea was to use his lidar palsa data to create a 3-D print and use that as a mould for casting terrain papers from my moorland grass and moss pulp. More of this in a future blog post.

The Bridgewater Hall concert venue in Manchester commissioned a large installation of paper clouds in late 2015 to coincide with their spring Festival of a Mountain Song. The idea came out of discussions in Garrigill during 2015 between Peter Davison (musician, poet, festival organiser and music curator for the Bridgwater Hall), Josephine Dickinson (poet, shepherd, Alston neighbour) and myself about the ways we represent our experiences of landscape. I was making paper sculptures at the time for the Brantwood show so the commission was a natural extension of that work that fitted well with the ideas behind the festival. It remained in the BWH large glass entrance atrium until mid 2016 and was seen by an estimated 20 000 people- probably the biggest audience I have ever had. The space was chosen because of its high visibility both from inside and outside the building and because of its proximity to the entrance doors meant that air currents would cause the clouds to rotate in the eddies of air so animating both the clouds themselves, their projected shadows and indeed the whole entrance space- a very satisfactory visual experience for all. Unfortunately, during strong winds in April, some of the clouds got entangled in the suspending cords and the effect of free floating clouds was reduced, so as with any untested idea I had to modify the design to minimise the chances of this happening.

Paper clouds in studio ready for transporting to Bridgwater Hall




Grass/moss paper clouds gently rotating in the main entrance to the Bridgewater Hall concert venue in Manchester.

The spot lights cast moving shadows onto the walls outside.

In late 2014 a 'terrain' paper was displayed in a group exhibition of student and tutor work organised by PSN entitled 'Paper, Table, Wall' in Gallery North, Northumbria University's Fine Art experimental display space. In late 2015 I exhibited a specially commissioned paper work in Taiwan based on the folded format of an OS map in a follow-on exhibition at Taipei University organised by Paper Studio Northumbria's director Sian Bowen.

Paper Table Wall, Gallery North, Northumbria University 2015. One of my experimental grass papers lies like a moorland terrain on top of a map of the north of England by Claire Money

'Outside In; Two Journeys'. The completed work in the studio ready to hang. Outer columns of 20 panels are mirror image tracings on rice paper of field drawings on the two inner columns. Inner columns are 20 field drawings made on 2 walks up Burnhope Seat and Round Hill from Tynehead near Garrigill. Each drawing was made 'blind' by indenting the paper with a metal stylus. The lines produced follow the edge contour of successive lines of the landscape receding one behind the other to the final horizon line. The invisible lines were only revealed back in the studio by rubbing the hot pressed cotton rag paper with a lump of dried peat from the same landscape. All 40 panels were then glued together top to bottom with 8 cotton cords and then glue backed with rice paper under pressure. Finally the outer rice paper wings panels were cut horizontally before folding over for tracing. 

The whole piece was folded up in the manner of an Ordinance Survey map and bound with picture framing archival tape. 

Trial hanging as originally intended for Taiwan exhibition.

Detail of folded wing panel showing coloured pencil tracing of field rubbing on rice paper. Note cotton cord attaching corner to wall with white headed pin.


Unfolding right hand tracings revealing field rubbings of hill contours underneath.

Left- peat rubbing of field indentation drawing of landscape edges on Arches 88 HP cotton rag paper. Right- mirror image tracing in coloured pencil on rice paper.


National Taiwan University of Arts Gallery, Taipei Nov 2015 showing final installation alongside other artist's work associated with Paper Studio Northumbria at Northumbria University. Photo Sian Bowen



In March 2016 a public talk was was given by John Woodward and myself at the Words by the Water International Festival of Words and Ideas in Keswick which accompanied an exhibition of residency and post-residency work there. The project featured in the The Dark Mountain Project's  bi-annual published collection of essays, Dark Mountain issue 9, and was discussed in a feature article in the autumn 2016 edition of the magazine Reforesting Scotland.

Part of my 'Weather-World' exhibition at the annual Words by the Water Festival of Words and Ideas at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick 2016
My outdoor moorland drawings from 2014 appeared in Janet Swailes's practical, philosophical and very comprehensive 'Field Sketching and the Experience of Landscape' published by Routledge 2016. Janet is an artist and landscape architect and we have been discussing landscape and making drawings outdoors for several years now so it was a great privilege to have my work featured as exemplars of responsive drawing with natural materials and the weather.



Weather-world drawings from the Leverhulme Trust residency as illustrations of field drawing techniques using found materials and energies

By chance I was invited to the marine biology research facilities of the Alfred Wegener Institute on the island of Helgoland in the Wadden Sea, Germany to make drawings of field work at sea and find out about their approach to the study of climate change.

Kai preparing a Calcofi plankton net on board the RV Aade in Helgoland Roads.

View of the red sandstone cliffs of Helgoland from the BAH research vessel Aade. Passing through a gap in the WW2 super-harbour wall, we roll heavily in the shallow North Sea swell. Helgoland was bombed to bits by the RAF after the war until the islanders, British citizens until 1892, were allowed back. The Bioligesche Anstalt Helgoland institute for marine biology was built shortly after and the Aade's long term data survey started in 1962. My trip was therefore the latest of thousands of daily sampling expeditions into Helgoland Roads which help scientists understand the changes in sea water and marine organisms over time. This is hugely important data within the global scientific understanding of climate change.

Professor Karen Wiltshire, a director of the AWI, suggested I could usefully develop my PhD research about landscape and climate change science by joining the AWI research icebreaker RV Polarstern in late 2016 for a 4 week residency on a training and research expedition from Bremerhaven to Cape Town. Karen, the director of science on the cruise, would then act as a co-supervisor for my project. This expedition ended on Dec 13 and I am now developing ideas and art works from it which could take several years to work through. Hoping to make a return visit to Polarstern on a voyage to the Antarctic after my PhD is complete. More of this in a future blog post.

Leaving the RV Polarstern on Dec 13 2016 after 4 weeks at sea as artist in residence.
Me beginning the 10m collaborative mural in the makeshift studio unter das helideck
Help from my scientist colleagues including Prof. Peter Lemke on the left.


A secondary outcome of the initial visit to Helgoland was a commission by the AWI to create a large artwork celebrating 125 years of marine biology on Helgoland which will be installed in the institute's new public museum The Bluehouse Aquarium in May 2017. This commission is currently at the design stage and will feature in a different blog.

Sea anemone at AWI's BAH laboratories Helgoland 

BAH research laboratories Helgoland in 1951
The soon to be rebuilt Bluehouse Museum Helgoland