I have been told by many people that my recent experience of having a very sick child will change me. That you come out of the other side of the ‘journey’ as a changed person in many ways. We are half way through Hen’s treatment so it is difficult to see what this change might be from here, where we might end up, how my thinking or approach to life may change. I have continued to paint and show throughout Hen’s illness but for the past couple of months my usual source of inspiration hasn’t been holding my attention in the way that it has for years.
I grew up in a small rural village on the edge of the southern marshes of the Norfolk Broads, the big skies and waterlogged carrs native to Norfolk were my playground as a child and have been my constant companion. The vast, often bleak, landscapes have always felt like home but over the past year and a half I have started to find the marshland overwhelming. The trauma of our recent experiences has overwhelmed my limbic system and the marshes are just too much to deal with. I have often described the landscape as raw and exposed, it is just that and I have found myself automatically seeking the safety, shelter and calmness of the woods.
There is a pocket of ancient woodland next to Haddiscoe Church near my studio which is hidden in a hollow along a landspring between two parallel main roads. Cars race past either side of the woods and huge arable fields are intensively farmed with little in the way of hedgerow or diversity. The woods in the hollow go unnoticed and are known as Devil’s Hole as the church sits physically higher, locally this is explained as ‘heaven up above and hell down below’. The woodland walk at Haddiscoe combined with my familiar marshes at Reedham and the dense, thriving hedgerows of the rural lanes inspired me to apply to Cley Contemporary, an annual curated contemporary art exhibition in North Norfolk. My idea to create three tunnel books of woodland, marsh and hedgerow was accepted just before Christmas and I am developing the works to show at Cley Contemporary, July 2018. The brief, set by curator Caroline Fisher, resonated with me: “The greater the distance the clearer the view. It encapsulates the idea that something seen from far away can resolve itself to become clearer than something seen close up or that a long journey can allow us the greatest perspective on a subject. It implies either distance or time between the object and the viewer.”
I hope that through the process of making new work and giving myself creative freedom to experiment and play with materials, process and subject matters I will be able to either rediscover my love for the wild marshes or find a love for something new.