Disembodied Hands – near St Ives, Cornwall

Contemporary art - disembodied toy hands on a rock near St Ives

Hands
Plastic hands, granite rock, Cornwall. Each hand, 7cm. October 2018

A pair of toy plastic hands positioned on a granite rock.
The hands give an unsettling feeling about the presence of the rest of the person to whom the hands belong. It’s almost as though the rest of the person is there, but in a ghost-like, invisible form.
It is in some ways a piece of art about presence and absence.
The work was created near St Ives, Cornwall.

Contemporary art, Cornwall - dismembered toy hands on a rock
A closer view of the hands

Cluster flies on a window – insects as art

Cluster flies on a window
Video. 17 sec. Near St Ives, Cornwall. October 2018

When I made this video I assumed that the flies that it features were house flies that had been feasting on a rotting animal carcass concealed somewhere within the walls of the building. The sinisterness of the insects was intended to be a feature of the video.
Since then a bit of research has informed me that the insects were in fact harmless cluster flies (pollenia rudis).
Cluster flies enter buildings on autumn evenings in search of shelter from the worsening weather conditions. Then the following day they sometimes want to get out again, as in the video.
They may enter buildings in small numbers or they may enter in thousands. In the case in the video it was many many hundreds.
The flies live in the countryside, where their larvae feeding on earthworms. They aren’t a health hazard (as far as I know).
Knowing that the flies were harmless and had entered the building seeking shelter rather than being house flies fresh from a rotting corpse in the attic altered my view of them considerably, and I now rather like them, at least on the video. They are an inconvenience though.

I particularly like the way that the flies in the video are moving in an almost choreographed manner. It’s like a little piece of performance art.
The nice calm view out of the window (apart from a bit of wind) is in stark contrast to the dynamic motion of the flies on the window pane.

Dog Walk: art installation composed of dog poo bags

Dog Walk: dog poo bags
Plastic bags arranged on path. Unspecified contents. Video. Cornwall. June 2018

A video of an art installation in the countryside that comments on the behaviour of some dog walkers.
The work features an avenue of discarded dog pooh bags.
The work was inspired by the experience of going on many walks in the countryside and coming across discarded black plastic dog poo bags: sometimes hidden, sometimes in full view. There’s a theory that the dog owners leave them there to be picked up on their return, however, many of them don’t do it.
The work was created near St Ives, Cornwall.

Fin – an addition to a rock formation, Cornwall

contemporary art - concept drawing for sculpture in the landscape near St Ives, Cornwall

Fin
Photograph with digital drawing, September 2018

A photograph of a natural granite rock formation with a drawing of a fin-like object added to the photograph as though it is attached to the rock.
The rock formation in the photograph is on the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall, a few miles from St Ives. The large rock on which the fin is  drawn is a rocking stone, known locally as a Logan stone. The stone is said to move slightly when pushed correctly.
The image is a finished artwork, despite the fact that it resembles a concept study for a sculpture in the landscape. The drawing of the fin is deliberately  inconsistent in  terms  of photographic realism with the rest of the image.
Having said that, the development of the concept as a sculpture is a possibility.

Hammers – photomontage for sculpture in the landscape, Cornwall

contemporary sculpture land art - giant hammers

Hammers
Photomontage, Cornwall. June 2018

A photomontage of a concept for a sculpture in the landscape.
The landscape in the photograph is the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall.
The hammers are meant to project a sense of overbearing force, the fact that there are several of them possibly implying organised force (such as military force). Hammers, to me, have a certain anthropomorphic quality to them, suggesting a degree of human identity – a long thin body with a head at the top. The blank facelessness of the heads of the hammers in this image suggest a mindless power.

contemporary sculpture  in the landscape - oversized hammers

The concept also contains an element of humour directed at the art world, in that the massive scale of the work comments on the often gigantic scale of works of sculpture and other interventions in the landscape. Oversized everyday objects are a common feature in sculpture.

Art in the environment, Cornwall

art in the environment - abstract sculpture near St Ives, Cornwall

Transience
Wood and acrylic paint. Zennor Hill, near St Ives, Cornwall. 25th June 2018

A transient sculpture composed of lengths of painted wood battens (the type of wood commonly used in building construction).
The sculpture was created by positioning a small number of battens in the landscape, photographing them, repositioning them and rephotographing them. Then merging the photographs.
As a result the work has an interesting relationship with time. The sculpture never existed in its entirety as depicted in the photograph, each batten only being in position for long enough to take a photograph. The sculpture only takes on its final form when the twenty-five minutes that it took to position and photograph the battens are compressed into a single instant.

A work of land art, an intervention in the landscape, or art in the environment. The wood battens are about a metre long.

Buttercup field with hidden object

Buttercup Field
Video. 27sec

A video of a field of buttercups that contains a hard-to-see object.
The object is revealed at the end of the video.
The video is on a recurring theme in my work – an investigation into perception, reality and illusion.
The video was taken near St Ives, Cornwall.

Spoiler alert – the nature of the object in the video is revealed in the next section.
The scene in the video contains, on the ground amongst the grass and buttercups, a square mirror. The mirror is hard to see partly because of the distracting proliferation of buttercups, but mostly because the mirror is positioned so that the light from the sky doesn’t create give-away shadows or highlights (buttercups that are reflected in the mirror can look abnormally lit compared with the rest of the buttercups if the angle of the light is incorrect).

The work is filmed in an almost cliched, very peaceful and calming field full of spring flowers, which to me makes a nice setting for a work that at its most pretentious can be interpreted as being a prompt for questioning the nature of reality. At its least pretentious however, it’s just a nice visual joke.
Mirrors and reflections are common features of my work, as can be seen in the Mirror Art section of this site.

Study for Square Floating in the Landscape

Study for Floating Square
Video. 36sec

A gray square floating in a clearing among bushes in the countryside (near St Ives, Cornwall).
The video is of an early study to assess the potential for the concept.
Finished works based on the concept would consist of squares suspended in the environment in positions where members of the public would encounter them, such as along pathways in sculpture parks. The locations of the squares could vary from trackside positions that are below eye level, at eye level and above eye level, where the squares would be seen to move relative to the landscape as the observer walked past. Squares could also be positioned high in the air, sometimes directly above the track, so that they are constantly silhouetted against the sky.

The square in the video, which seems to be floating in the air unaided, is of deliberately uncertain substance or nature. What is certain is that due to its shape, its colour and its position suspended in the air, the square is not a natural part of the environment.
One concept for the work is for the squares to be coloured with a non-reflective black (see image below) so that the floating squares could almost be mistaken for black portals out of the universe and into a featureless void.

Art in the landscape - floating black square in landscape
A video still showing a floating black square that may be interpreted as a “hole in reality”

Art in the Environment, Cornwall

contemporary art in the environment - intervention in the landscape, St Ives, Cornwall

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland near St Ives, Cornwall.

The simplicity of construction of the piece is important. The observer will hopefully notice the almost total lack of endeavour required to create the work, while also noticing the (hopefully) relatively high aesthetic payoff as a result of that endeavour.

The two bright vertical lines formed by the work contrast sharply with the dark shadows and the tangled and twisted branches and twigs of the hawthorn and  blackthorn in the wood.

The fact that the cord creates two hanging lines gives the cords an increased presence when compared with a single hanging cord. They seem to resonate against each other and create a more concrete effect than would be achieved with a single one dimensional strand.

A lot of land art and other art in the environment strive to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art, good examples being the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of nylon paracord.

The placing of brightly coloured plastic into the environment refers partly to humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the natural world. This is partly a message about the despoiling of the environment by our endeavours. The fact that the nylon cord is simply draped across the branch of a tree helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our throw-away consumer society. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further, and the fact that the straight lines of the cord are cutting through the organic forms of the woodland gives a slight sense of violent imposition.  However, the brightly coloured plastic looks quite pleasing in some ways and to some sensibilities, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment has a positive side to it (but also that just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is).

In fact, where would we be without the artificiality that we impose on the environment?  The artificiality that we create is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Would you like to live without the electric and electronic devices that populate your life? (The coloured cord could easily be a length of electric cable). The main problem is that we just create too much artificiality. Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.

The use of coloured cord in this work was undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Sandback.

Horizon Line – a cord stretched along the horizon

Contemporary art  - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

Horizontal Line: Cord stretched along the horizon: Cornwall
Plastic cord, landscape. September 2017

A photograph of a length of brightly coloured plastic cord stretched horizontally so that it coincides exactly with the horizon.
This is an unmanipulated photograph.
The work is partly about the all pervasive presence of plastic in our lives and the environment, with the piece of plastic cord seemingly stretching all the way along the horizon. The fact that the line of the cord is along the horizon created by the sea links the cord with the plastic pollution that is present in vast quantities in the oceans.
As well being a metaphor for the plastic that is polluting the oceans, the cord also signifies that plastic is in many ways a very useful and pleasing substance (without which our modern world wouldn’t be able to function). This is indicated by the fact that the cord creates a very pleasing aesthetic effect. The major problem with plastics is the complex molecular structures that are created during the creation of the plastic – when plastics are developed that don’t have those structures, and that thus decompose properly, the plastic problem will be greatly reduced (although of course it will still be a problem, along with all of the other problems that we are inflicting on the planet).

The work also exists at a purely aesthetic level, with an appeal generated solely through the juxtaposition of the horizon and the cord.

Art in the environment, Cornwall - a cord stretched along. the horizon
A detail of the photograph to show the church.