KYST 07 – from Helligpeder to Jons Kapel, 16/2/18

For at læse denne KYST 07 blog på DANSK se her

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 07 Overcast, cold and facing an onshore wind, Helligpeder presented a bleaker prospect than it had during last week’s visit. Squadrons of cormorants flew over the agitated waves. A pair of swans took shelter in the harbour, the only noise the grinding of a digger repairing one of the harbor arms. There was not a soul to be seen save the digger operator, who must have started work even earlier than me.

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I walked northwards, at first on the beach and then on the road when the going was too hard. Groups of flightly mallards sheltered from the waves amongst the huge erratic boulders that skirted the shore. Soon I had reached Teglkås, another tiny fishing harbour, almost a carbon copy of Helligpeder. Here too generations of fisherman and their families had based their lives around the catching and processing of herring, cod and salmon. According to an information panel in the harbor, there was only one commercial vessel still registered at the harbor.

At some point between Helligpeder and Teglkås I must have crossed the ‘Tornquist Zone’, a geological boundary between the younger rocks of south of the island and the older bedrock of the north – a crustal boundary that runs from Norway all the way to the Caspian Sea. Stepping from the Jurassic sandstone of Hellipeder to the gneiss of Teglkås was effectively a journey of a thousand million years. I stopped just before Ginesminde, the last house before the cliffs really started, and previously a cafe.

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At this point the coastal path turns into the woods and up over the cliffs. I thought I’d try to see if I could walk all along the shore to my destination Jons Kapel, where I knew there was a wooden staircase that would take me up the cliffs and back to my pick-up point. The shore was strewn with slippery granite boulders of all shapes and sizes and hard going. I stumbled and tripped, laden with my ridiculous unwieldy rucksack, chair, drawing panels and umbrella. I stopped for some food and marveled at the lichen diversity on the boulders. Here I really felt far from the madding crowd.

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Finally I rounded a small cape and could see the strange and impressive granite formation of Jons Kapel (‘John’s Church’), framed by the vertical white cliffs of ‘Hvidkleven’ further north.

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As I settled down in front of Jons Kapel the sun suddenly started to shine – surely a good omen, for here I was supposedly at the site of Bornholm’s conversion to Christianity. According to legend, Jon was a hermit who gave sermons from the cave at the bottom of the cliff, eventually climbing to the ‘pulpit’ at the top of the cliff, when space ran out. With the constant roar of the waves, the awkward boulders and the steep cliffs, it is difficult to imagine a less agreeable spot for introducing a new religion. In any case, the ‘church’ lit by the sun was a marvelous sight, clad in a rainbow of lichens and mosses (see image at top)

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Soon the sun retreated behind a band of clouds and the wind increased in intensity. I retraced my steps a little and made some studies of the cormorants perching on the cliffs. Many of the birds were engaged in a rather half-hearted courtship display, arching their backs and wafting their wings provocatively, before giving up and looking around, seemingly a litte embarrassed. Still, a sign of the impeding spring, though spring itself still feels very far way.

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By now it was spitting and I made my way back to the Jons Kapel and climbed up the huge wooden staircase to the top of the cliffs. Here, gazing down at the granite cliffs, I made my last painting in the gloom and the rain, and trudged off, absolutely exhausted, to my lift home. For the first time, I had not seen or spoken to a single soul all day.

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KYST 06

Weather report: overcast with some sunny spells in the afternoon, 2 to 4 °C, wind 6 to 9 m/s from west. Visibility: bad. Hours of sunshine: 2

Lessons learned – walking on granite boulders is not fun. You need to peg the brolly down in even minimal winds (boulders are not good enough)

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 8.18km

Day lasted = 9 hours, 52 minutes

Birds seen and heard = only 17 species (1 new one, a razorbill, though not perching on the cliffs unfortunately = running total 42)

Other stuff = looked for ‘dragons gold’ moss, but couldn’t find any

People talked to = 0

In my head = chess moves constantly running in an unarticulated way in the background of my consciousness (without actually thinking, I move boulders across my vision as if playing a game of chess)

2018-02-17

 

 

 

KYST 06 – from Hasle Havn to Helligpeder, 9/2/18

For at læse denne KYST 06 blog på DANSK se her

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 06 As I settled down and unpacked my bag at last week’s end-point, I looked above the silhouette of Hasle’s marina up to a deep blue and completely cloud free sky. For the first time since this project began I could look forward to some sunshine. It was bitterly cold but crystal clear, and a deep frost had covered everything in white fuzz. There was almost no wind.

I began to paint but, as my palette and water began to adjust to the ambient temperature, the paint started to freeze on the paper. It was incredible to see the crystalline shapes appear within the painted washes but soon the paint started to freeze on the palette itself, and the sludgy mess was impossible to work with.

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I left the marina and headed north – not on the coastal path which deviates here from the coastline, but on the rough and barren beach itself. The gentle sandy shore of the last few weeks was now replaced with granite pebbles and rocks.  After a while I stopped and set up the brolly, and experimented a little – creating ice washes and adjusting the temperature of the water, and even adding a little gin that I had bought with me.  The ice and pigment combined to make incredible but very subtle patterns.

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The beach was covered in pebbles with some larger erratic boulders, bordered by layers of sandstone and clay finely marked with black veins of coal. I made studies of some far off gulls and cormorants, but fought against the ice on the paper and my freezing feet. As often happens, the discomfort I experienced translated into expressive and animated brush strokes – reflecting the moment in an honest and authentic way. Again the ice created incredible textures on the paper.

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I packed up and ambled onwards, slipping on the ice-covered granite pebbles and boulders, deposited by retreating glaciers. This part of the coast bears witness to the time when Bornholm was released from the grip of the Ice age, and just inland is a terrace and slope which is actually a coastal cliff from 10,000 years ago. This afforded me some protection now from the freezing south easterly wind, which was picking up a little, and I looked back towards the rising sun and Hasle, and a fanstastic ivy-covered tree.

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Continuing northwards, I sat in the warming sun and spent far too long painting an old and twisted hawthorn bush. There were very few birds around and no people at all.

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I could see the white chimneys of old smokehouses in the distance. Here the path rejoined the coastline, and I was glad to get off the pebbles for a while and follow the road to Hellipeder, my destination. At Hellipeder I settled down and prepared for the fantastic sunset that I knew I was imminent. The small but very picturesque harbor is no longer used for commercial fishing, but is today managed and maintained by a group of volunteers. Again my thoughts drifted back to the recent past, only 60 or 70 years ago, when this harbor would have housed and protected a close-knit community of fisherman and their families.

I painted in strips, every twenty minutes or so, and followed the sun as it disappeared behind some clouds, only to reappear momentarily blood red. I struggled with the colours and the pace of change, but just as the sun finally dipped below the horizon the paint started freezing again, creating some amazing crystal patters on the deepening blue sky (see painting at top)

KYST 06

Weather report = Sunny with some cloudy spells,  minus 3 to 1 °C, Wind 3 to 7 m/s from south and southeast. Visibility: Good. Hours of sunshine: 8

Lessons learned – you need to mix large quantities of gin into water to stop it freezing. Neat alchohol must be better and cheaper.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometres walked = 6.93km

Day lasted = 9 hours, 27 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 27 species (1 new one = running total 41)

Other stuff = a sparrowhawk flashed by. What an amazing bird.

People talked to = 4

In my head = whether I can escape the illness currently afflicting most of my family and half of Bornholm, the Jordan Peterson interview on transgender politics, being strong and resiliant, social change, how best to protect and help people I love

2018-02-10

 

 

 

KYST 05 – from Klympen to Hasle Havn, 2/2/18

For at læse denne KYST 05 blog på DANSK se her

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 05 Unpacking in dawn’s gloom, the fresh south-westerly bit into my hands. The wind, though cold, was invigorating and I quickly huddled under the shelter of my ‘M60’ giant brolly, and carried on where I had left off the week before.

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As I sat and painted the emerging day’s light, a kestrel appeared as a black cross in the distance, hanging in the onshore wind over the grass and brush that bordered the sandy shore. The wind must have been perfect for the little bird as it managed to remain completely still, as if pinned to the sky, making constant small adjustments of its tail and the angle of wings. Then it would wheel around and take up a new position, a little closer towards where I was sitting. This went on for some time. Every now and then it would make an aborted dive, or a hooded crow would mob it momentarily. Soon, it was right over my head, completely oblivious to me, as I sat and sketched and sketched.

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A connection with a bird like this is my ‘endgame’. By intently looking, following and drawing I become completely lost in the moment nothing exists other than the bird in its environment and its connection to my eye and my consciousness. It blows my mind to witness such a creature, battling in the wind, struggling to survive, perfectly evolved. By looking and drawing I raise the level of my own connection to the bird. Amazing… I’ve always had ‘a thing’ for kestrels anyway – it was actually the first bird I learnt to draw over 40 years ago…

Time flew and after the kestrel moved on, and after I had talked to TV2 Bornholm who were on their own journey around the island, I packed up and headed north towards Hasle. Heading into the harbor area, I stopped in the shelter of some trees and made a couple of sketches of a Herring Gull, sitting stoically in the freezing surf.

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Walking around the deserted harbor area in Hasle, I wasn’t feeling ‘it’. II walked past the chimneys of the herring smokery, and read some information panels that described Hasle’s fishing past. Just a few decades ago Bornholm’s fishing industry was lucrative and coastal towns with a good harbor like Hasle did a roaring trade. But then, in the mid 80’s it collapsed through overfishing, and has never really recovered. Hasle has since reinvented itself as a tourist destination. It lacks the charm of the prettier East coast towns, but seems somehow more honest. It certainly wasn’t charming today, as the cold wind and lack of sun presented a rather depressing prospect.

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I struggled with the straight lines and concrete of the harbor. Once again I cowered under the M60 and looked for birds again. Some cormorants were resting on the harbor arms, throwing some amazing shapes.

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Time was running out and I walked back along the harbor arm and then onward to the marina, where rows of new smart terraced summerhouses sit overlooking rows of small sailboats. I looked around for inspiration, never a good idea, and wrestled with the familiar question of what and why. I want my paintings to reflect my day’s experience, but I also want them rooted in the place where they are created. But I’m not making a bloody guidebook. I finished off with a wide angled view of the darkening clouds, tinged with orange, and behind which the invisible sun set. Hasle’s strange hodgepodge of a silhouette, with grain silos, diving platforms and boats of all types, glowered silently below.

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KYST 05

Weather report = overcast. 1 – 3 °C. Wind 5 – 8 m/s from Southwest. Visibility: Good. Hours of sunshine: nada

Lessons learned – need to enjoy being in the towns more

Stops with the M60 = 3

Kilometres walked = 5.70km

Day lasted = 9 hours, 03 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 22 species (2 new ones = running total 40)

Other stuff = a possible rock pipit amongst the rocks. Could have been a meadow pipit. I love wrens, had no idea there were so many of them on the coast.

People talked to = 2

In my head = Chess moves. Human evolution. Should I go out and get drunk on Friday night? My foot black and blue and sore because I fell during Floorball on Monday. 10km race on sunday, can I run it?

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KYST 04 – from Levka to Klympen 26/01/18

For at læse denne KYST 04 blog på DANSK se her

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 04 Driving to the coast through thick fog, I was nevertheless excited and eager to see what the day would bring. Incredibly, the sea was calm yet again, and there was very little wind. Bands of thick fog rolled in with visibility sometimes down to a few hundred metres, while at some moments the horizon could be suddenly be seen.

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I trudged north. This part of the coast seems quite deserted and there were very few people about. A fisherman, a couple of kayakers and not much else. The sandy shore of the previous two weeks was starting to give way to boulders, pebbles and shingle.

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Eventually I reached ‘Kultippan’, an incredible lunar landscape of mud and clay, jutting out from the coastline. The mud and clay had been deposited here during the 1940s, as a waste product from a nearby open coal mine that is now a small lake. This short-lived enterprise at one time employed 60 people but closed after just a few years as it was not economically viable.

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The resulting landscape is like nothing else on Bornholm. The thick fog together with the lack of vegetation created an apocalyptic mood. Perhaps this in turn influenced my own mood, but I struggled with the landscape, the fog coming and going, and the thick clay getting everywhere.

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Some passers-by explained how, when they were children, the mud mountain had still been flat and they had even skied and tobogganed here in the winter. Now, the mud was carved with innumerable valleys, rivers and rivulets, decades of rain water having left their tracks. Exasperated, I decided to forget about observing in the literal sense and tried something else. I played with the paint, trying to recreate the journey of water through the clay and mud, with the paints on the paper.

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I watched some birds on the calm sea from my high vantage point. A solitary velvet scooter (the black one) was seemingly trying to ‘fit in’ with some long tailed ducks, near a group of great created grebes. They all shunned him.

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Eventually I carried on northwards to my destination ‘Klympen. I sat on the beach as dusk fell. There was no wind and there were no people. Though obscured by the fog, I could hear the ducks calling to each other far out at sea. Just as I packed up, thousands of chacking and chawing rooks and jackdaws suddenly wheeled and swirled over me, before disappearing into the murky blue emptiness, on their way to roost in the nearby forest.

KYST 04

Weather report = thick fog sometimes clearing but otherwise overcast. 3 – 5 °C. Wind 0 – 3 m/s from South and East. Visibility: Poor. Hours of sunshine: nada.

Lessons learned – Don’t have to throw toys out of the pram when things go wrong, have all day to do stuff. Take a break from looking every now and then.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometres walked = 4.47km

Day lasted = 8 hours, 35 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 23 species (3 new ones = running total 38)

Other stuff = disturbed heron flying into fog over sea, panicked and turn back. Funny

People talked to = 6

In my head = same old, same old

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KYST 03 – from Blykobbe Å (Skovly) to Levka 19/01/18

For at læse denne KYST 04 blog på DANSK se her

See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 03 After a brief walk through the murky woods at Skovly, I arrived at the coast and found the patch of grass where I had concluded KYST 02 the week before. The sun was not yet risen, but already it was apparent that the weather was mild and the snow and ice that covered most of the rest of the island was nowhere to be seen. Even better, there was no wind, and looking up I could see patches of cloudless sky. I sat still as a pair of buzzards drifted just over me, calling plaintively, one settling on the twisted branches of a nearby birch. A jay shrieked just as an energetic flock of siskin bounced past. No one else about. A good start to the day.

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I headed north, facing the ragged collection of fishermens’ huts at ‘Sorthat Odde’. The sun had broken the horizon now, and the fine colours together with the contour-like lines of shingle and seaweed left by the waves caught my eye. I made an unsuccessful study of some mosses, lichen and a small dead fish which I found on the water’s edge (a sea trout, a smolt?), and then a charcoal drawing of an incredible root system of a pine tree, perched on the edge of the dune between the beach and the forest. The black centre surrounded by twisted roots looked like a portal to the underworld.

Eventually I continued north, past the huts and the rather feeble but lovingly restored gun emplacements, and up to the edge of ‘Pyritesø’ (Pyrite Lake) an old clay pit now filled with fresh water and separated from the sea by a thin wall of mud, clay and sandstone. It is here, specifically in the Jurassic ironstone deposited as a by-product of the clay extraction, that Bornholm’s dinosaurs have been found (well, their teeth and the odd footprint). I had a quick look for any fossils, but, no luck. Instead I settled on the wall and made some studies of the tufted ducks and Goosanders resting in the calm waters of the lake. Before my lunch I made by a study of the reflections on the far side of the lake. The waves will eventually break through the wall and then the lake’s present shoreline will become part of Bornholm’s coast.

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Incredible to think that just a few hundred meters away, deep in the woods, lies the derelict remains of the ‘Hasle Klinker og Charmottesten Fabrik’ a factory extracting first coal, then clay and kaolin, and producing tiles and refractory mateirals. Closed only in 1980, it was the island’s biggest employer, at one point providing the livelihood for over 600 families.

But now, just the odd dog-walker, a few joggers, some canoeists paddling by, and a birdwatcher friend. Looking to the sea I could see bands of rain passing slowly northwards. The edge of one cloud must have just clipped the island, and for a pair of minutes it sleeted a little, followed by a ten minute burst of bright sunlight. Packing up the M60 I trudged northwards again. Here the coast is rather straight and at one point I could see the distant chimneys of Rønne to the South and Hasle to the North, both about 5km distant. Over-heating in all my gear I sat on the beach and watched a male Long-Tailed Duck feeding not far from the shore. It is a fantastic privilege to share time, to really observe a wild creature going about its business. To watch it struggle for survival, a perfectly evolved amalgamation of form and function. The Long Tailed Duck is an tough little bird, and it was extraordinary to imagine it swimming underwater looking for food on the sea bed, as it periodically disappeared from my view with a rather flamboyant dive.

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Reaching my destination, Levka, I was tired now and the wind had picked up. The sky and sea were huge and almost absurdly dramatic. I made a painting in ‘strips’, trying in vain to capture, tame or follow the ever changing movement of tone and colour as the sun set behind the clouds. Each time I looked I became aware of new colours and new movement and the overwhelming hugeness of it all together with my tiredness resulted in a complete and thorough exhaustion. This time I was, thankfully, picked up.

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KYST 03

Weather report = overcast, but some very brief sunny spells in the afternoon. 0 – 3 °C. Wind 0 – 3 m/s from West. Visibility: Good. Hours of sunshine: 15 minutes.

Lessons learned – Walk slowly. Before you pack up completely, walk ahead a little just to check that something good is not just around the corner.

Stops with the M60 = 1

Kilometres walked = 5.51km (again!)

Day lasted = 8 hours, 16 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 29 species (12 new ones = running total 35)

Other stuff = A flock of 7 Whooper Swans flew right over my head.

People talked to = 1

In my head = the difference between recording the coastline in a sort of objective and didactic way, and recording my own subjective experiences. The two possible extremes, and the balance between the two. Relationship between observation and perception. Francis Ngannou vs Stipe Miocic. Glad for some birds. Feeling that I’m ‘owed’ some bad weather…

For the full updated map see here

KYST 02 – from Hvideodde to Blykobbe Å, 12/01/18

se denne side på DANSK her

(see here for introduction to the Kyst project)

KYST 02 From the moment I sat down on the grassy knoll where I had finished KYST 01 the previous week, I was aware of the peculiar weather conditions. There was no wind at all and the sea was glassy and mirror-like. A thick layer of low cloud meant that the rising sun was completely hidden. Instead the day started with a slow and almost imperceptible brightening. I could just about make out some feint orange edges on some of the lower clouds, but otherwise it was an almost apologetic start to the day.

I started right where I left off, looking south to the chimneys and church spires of Rønne. My first painting out of the way, I headed north, around the ‘corner’ of Hvidodde and left the town behind me. Now I found myself on ‘Antoinette Beach’, a narrow and gently sloping sandy stretch of coastline stretching north for 10km all the way to Hasle and bordered by a forest of mostly pine, birch and spruce, planted in the 19th century to halt the spread of the migrating sand dunes which threatened the coastal farms at that time. The forest bordering the beach is criss-crossed with innumerable paths for dog walkers, joggers and mountain bikers and, in the summer at least, is Bornholm’s unofficial nudist beach. No luck today though as the beach was almost empty, and I trudged on northwards.

The complete lack of wind meant that it was easy to keep warm, and I didn’t even need to put up the ‘M60’. Stopping by one of the huge granite erratic boulders (‘vandreblokker’) that dot the shore – deposited by retreating glaciers in the last ice age – I struggled to depict the huge sky and sea in all its subtle glory. At first glance, the mirror-like sea seemed to blend almost imperceptibly into the cloud covered sky, but over time I became aware of the incredible and delicate variation in tone and colour. Even more challenging, the everything was changing over time – but so slowly you hardly noticed it. At one point the sea at the horizon would be bronze and darker than the deep violet blue of the clouds it bisected, a moment later, it would be lighter than the clouds and silvery grey. But everything happened so slowly, it was incredible to just sit there at watch it all unfold right in front of me. Amazing.

I had my telescope with me, and the tranquil sea meant I was able to see much further than usual – for miles and miles in all directions. Groups of graceful Great Crested Grebes (store lappedykker) were preening and resting on the undulating waves, and further out a large and active flock of Long Tailed Ducks milled around. A solitary Common Scooter rested close by some Goldeneye. The huge vista, the glass-like sea and the gentle lapping of the wavelets at the water’s edge, together with mournful calls of the Long Tailed Ducks created for a calming, almost soporific spectacle.

The traces of mica and patterns left by retreating waves is definitely something I want to return to.

In the afternoon the sun tried to break thorough, but to no avail. Eventually I reached the mouth of the Blykobbe river, my destination, but the day had passed too quickly again and I had little time to really explore the area. This is one of the places where a kingfisher might turn up in the winter, but no such luck today. I wandered around, tried to get something down but with no great success. But I’ll be back next week, and that is a wonderful thought.

No pick up today, so I had a retrace my steps in the dusk, all the way back to Hvidodde and my waiting car. Thankfully, compared to KYST 01, I had lightened my load a little and the going was not too difficult. The walk back gave me time to reflect on the challenges and encounters of the day. A strange day, a dreamy day, and a real contrast to the frenetic and soggy KYST 01. As before, the question of what and why and how dominated my thoughts. Little or no progress was made in any of those regards, but find solace in the fact that there are still 50 weeks to go…

KYST 02

Weather report = overcast, thick layer of cloud. 1 – 3 °C. Wind 0 – 3 m/s from East. Visibility: Good. Hours of sunshine: none.

Lessons learned – not sure… get there earlier

Stops with the M60 = 0

Kilometres walked = 5.51km (not including walk back)

Day lasted = 7 hours, 17 minutes (ditto)

Birds seen and heard = 17 species (8 new ones = running total 23)

Other stuff = mica lines left by waves

People talked to = 2

In my head = why am I doing this? what am I (supposed to be) looking at/for? relationship between seeing and remembering, poker, trip to Brussels, NaturBornholm commission, dinosaurs, etc, etc,

KYST 01 – from Rønne Havn to Hvideodde, 05/01/18

(See her for an introduction to the KYST project)

KYST 01 began with a touch of the ‘man flu’ and an unfamiliar feeling of apprehension – somewhere between anxiousness and excitement, almost as if I was starting a new job or something. I had arranged to meet Steffan from TV2 Bornholm and Kathrine from Radio P4 Bornholm – both there to cover the start of the ‘journey’. The sun was due to rise at 8:27am, so the plan was to be at the end of the northern pier of Rønne Harbour a little bit before to give me time to set up. On the way down to Rønne Kathrine called to say that there was no public access to the pier, so we raced around to find an alternative start point, which made for a rather farcical start to the project. In the grey drizzling rain, with my ridiculously overpacked rucksack, my ‘M60 Brolly’ (a giant umbrella) and huge chair, it all felt a bit weird, absurd even.

Although not right at the pier’s end, we found a good spot at the entrance of the harbour in the carpark. It seemed like a fitting point to start the journey – the main point of entry to Bornholm with a view of the ‘capital’ Rønne, and its industrial surroundings. I managed a couple of drizzly watercolours, and abandoned a drawing. After an hour or so, Steffan and Kathrine left and I started walking towards the ‘fyldområde’ (loading area) of the harbour, where there are often some quite exciting birds (long and short eared owls, twite and so on) in the colder months. Soon after I started, however, a car pulled up alongside and a rather nervous, but polite, harbour security guard asked me what I was doing. My giant umbrella (well it is called a ‘M60’) had evidently caused some alarm. No problem, I explained what I was doing and he left me to my own devices.

The loading area was rather bleak. It was cold, but thankfully not windy, with bands of fine rain regularly passing through. I put up the M60 and tried to look around and see what was about.

Almost no birds, just a few hooded crows and some distant gulls. So began a bit of soul searching, which was to become a bit of a theme – ‘…What on earth am I doing here? What am I looking at? Where shall I start? Why? and so on. The need to ‘record’ something and the need to let my eye be drawn in. It is very easy to chew over these sort of questions too much, and I always find it best just to do something when paralysed by self-doubt and indecision. So I just lookled around and was drawn into the contrasts between the dull ochres and browns of the grasses and colours of the loading sheds and harbour infrastructure.

After a while I wandered a little around the nearby Nørrekås Marina, where I saw a diseased sea trout floundering around in the shallows. Apprarently it’s normal for this time of the year for their mating-induced abrasions to get infected with bacteria – due in part to the low-saline content of the Baltic Sea.

Next, a brisk walk along the seafront heading north, where I began to regret the fact that I had taken so much gear. I stopped again to sketch my destination point ‘Hvidodde’ in the misty rain, but it was all proving a bit challenging.

 

Continuing North, just before Rønne’s abbatoir I was forced to a make a diversion ‘inland’ for a little while before I came out on to the coast again, where I set up the M60 again for a quick lunch. The view here is commanding – looking south you can see all of Rønne, while the forested point of Hvidodde can be seen looking north. Only it couldn’t, because at this point visibility was reduced to just a few hundred metres through the misty rain. Looking out over the ocean, enjoying my pot noodle, I did however, manage to see a grey seal bobbing around in the surf, just 20 metres or so from the shore. This is the first time I have ever heard of a seal seen from Bornholm – on the nearby ‘Ertholmer’ islands their incresing numbers are causing much distress to some (and joy to others). Not enough time to sketch it though.

Time was racing and the whole day went by much more quickly than I had imagined. The last leg of my journey was to take me to the final destination at Hvidodde in time for the sunset at 3:44pm. The coast here is wild – there is no beach to speak of, just huge boulders, and there is not really any public access. Some of those lucky enough to have a garden leading down to the coast have built wooden steps down to the sea. Perhaps in the summer at low tide there it is possible to swim from there, but today the water was high and there was very little room. After a while the going got really tough and I began to curse the comfort of my M60 and padded chair. Jumping over slippery boulders with the sea crashing in is no joke (OK it is), and at one point I had to jettison the M60 and chair and take the rucksack on alone. Once I had reached the rather broader beach at Hvidodde I turned back to collect the M60. Then back for the chair. By the end of it I was drenched in sweat and laughing at the utter ridiculousness of the whole situation.

At Hvidodde I quickly set up my gear and looked south back towards Rønne to make one last painting. Working from the left of the paper in 10 minute strips, I had no option other than to try and capture the fading light and rawness of the whole experience – the cold, the rain, my aching limbs and my (now forgotten) man flu…

KYST 01

Weather report = overcast, light rain in morning and afternoon. 3 °C. Wind 2 – 3 m/s. Visibility: poor. Hours of sunshine: none.

Lessons learned – less gear, more painting, day goes more quickly than you think, pay more attention to stuff nearby

Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometres walked = 7.19km

Day lasted = 7 hours, 25 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 15 species (!)

Other stuff = trout, seal

People talked to = 3

In my head = why am I doing this? what am I (supposed to be) looking at/for? relationship between seeing and remembering, pros and cons of technology and social media, , Black Mirror, Trump, etc, etc, etc

(see here for the updated map in more detail…)

 

RUM

 

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No, not rum but ‘rum‘ a Danish word that can mean ‘space’, ‘room’, ‘place’ or other things, depending on the context – and which is the theme for this year’s Bornholms KultureUge (Bornholm’s Culture Week).

I have been asked by the organisers to make an ‘anamorphic street painting’ for the opening event on Saturday the 16th of September – an ephemeral artwork painted directly on the cobbles of the town square. The brief was simple and non-prescriptive – just to create something non-permanent in ‘Stor Torvet‘ with the theme of ‘rum‘ as the starting point.

Well, I have used the anamorphic technique several times in the past, see here and here, to create a three dimensional space in which the viewers are themselves immersed within the artwork, so ‘rum’ fitted the idea of an anamorphic painting very well from the start. I’ve never created something like this ‘out in the open’, but I very quickly decided I wanted to create something that would grab the attention of passers-by, and have something to do with the whole idea of ‘public art’ – a hot topic on Bornholm in recent months (see below).

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Practically speaking, the ‘venue’ posed some specific challenges. The cobblestones themselves are rough and uneven, with large irregular (and sometimes grass-filled) gaps in between. This immediately causes problems with the creation of the three-dimensional illusion that is so important in anamorphic perspective drawing. The square itself is on a slight angle as well, which caused also caused a real headache in terms of defining horizons, vanishing points, levels and so on.
The non-permanence of the artwork also presented the possibility of weather playing an important role (more below…)

So, back to public art – a prickly subject here on Bornholm. Last year, a local fund that supports the arts (and me) called Brøderners Larsens gifted some money towards the creation of three contemporary artworks to be created and placed in the centre of three roundabouts on Bornholm (under the management of the local Arts Council). One of the artworks is already completed see here, and received a certain amount of criticism, but it is the second one that has really lit a fire and caused Local Controversy’. The artist collective ‘Randi and Katrine‘ proposed to create a rather kitsch and humorous sculpture of a Bornholm Round Church (itself a ‘symbol’ of tourist Bornholm) in one of the aforementioned roundabouts – felling the fine tree that is currently in the centre of the roundabout. To cut a very long and slightly tedious story short, the destruction of the tree to make way for contemporary art became a bit of a local story, with many arguing against the artwork in local papers, Facebook and so on. I followed this debate with some interest – on the one hand it is great to see art being pushed into the public sphere, but on the other hand it is depressing to realise just how far removed the ‘normal’ public is from contemporary art practice and its proponents and components. The whole debate became distilled and simplified – ‘tree vs crap sculpture’, ‘nature vs art’ or ‘good art vs bad art’ with very little debate on the potential merits of public art – and more importantly (this!) – how and why the general public could feel so far removed from contemporary art practice in general, and the commissioning of this artwork in particular.

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And so on to my idea – in the middle of the town square is a large granite sculpture by recently deceased Japanese Bornholm-based Jun Ichi Inoue. Hemmed in by cafe tables and chairs in the summer, and often completely ignored by passers-by this neglected sculpture is actually a gigantic ‘sundial’ positioned so that light passes between specific points and casts a shadow on  a granite stone at the equinoxes. At various times people have suggested moving the sculpture, while others have pointed out that it is a site-specific work and should not be moved. Whatever the case – there is no question that it is neglected and ignored.

DSCF7825I propose then, to try to draw the public’s attention towards Jun Ichi Inoue’s sculpture, and to the merits and possibilities of public art. Hopefully people – ‘normal’ people – will come and take selfies and look at my painting and Jun Ichi Inoue’s sculpture. Hopefully they will react more positively to public art, who knows? I’m going to be employing the services of former students of mine from Bornholms Art School to help (it works out at about 80sq metres ‘on the ground’), as well as my own kids, and the whole thing is going to be a brilliant experience. Hopefully it’ll work out, and the rain will stay away for a while…

My own personal opinion is that the proposed Round Church sculpture looks questionable to say the least – and I have reservations about the commissioning process (local artists?) – but I have not seen the complete sculpture yet, and reserve judgement (and I can’t wait to see it). In any case, my opinion or ‘judgement’ is meaningless in relation to my support for all sorts of public art in general. I’m not expecting to love everything all the time, but just the idea of public art, the support of the Brørderns Larsens Fund and the inclusion of interesting contemporary artists is a positive thing as far as I’m concerned. Three sculptures on roundabouts on Bornholm – brilliant! And the tree? Why not get local artists such as Hans Henning Pedersen to make something with it? I’m hoping to use some of it in a school project I’m doing next year, if I can…

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Anyway, back to the town square. The original idea was to have the painting completed by 12 noon on Saturday the 16th of September. This is not going to happen. Bornholm is currently in the grip of an autumn storm and I am checking weather forecasts hourly. All being well, I shall begin on the afternoon of Friday the 15th, and take it from there, working all day Saturday and Sunday. I hope to be completed by 12 noon on Monday the 18th – hopefully I’ll see you there…

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Update – the finished work…

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‘Villads’ School Project

DSCF7740‘Villads fra Valby’ was the working name for a huge art project I worked on during the first half of 2017.

The project was originally conceived by the local Bornholm council as a way of encouraging a more fluid and less stressful transition from nursery to school for Bornholm’s 5 and 6 year olds. At some point in their discussion and planning, they had the bright idea of involving local artists, and that’s where I was called in, together with local artist and illustrator (and Glasgow School of Art graduate) Tilde Lerch Engstrøm. The idea was to create an art-based project that would encourage the children to feel more positive about starting school, while at the same time giving them the opportunity to meet their new school mates, teachers and surroundings in a comfortable and creative emotional and physical space.

Originally, Tilde and I were given the popular Danish children’s book and film ‘Villads fra Valby’ as a theme or subject from which to  base our project, but actually we rather quickly dropped Villads and worked within the framework of self-portraits and communal self-expression instead. The project that we created was thus: Four sessions with every child of school-starting age on Bornholm (over 300 kids). Two sessions at their nursery/playschool (not sure what the correct English translation of børnehave should be – but Danish kids don’t start school until they’re 5, 6 or sometimes even 7) followed by two sessions at their prospective school. Running throughout spring 2017, the idea was that, come their first school day in August, the children would already be familiar with their new school, their teachers and their new school mates, and would be comfortable working in a creative and expressive way with each other.

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The idea was that the children would produce a life size self-portrait (cut out from Foamex panels) which they would draw and paint themselves – paying particular attention to how they felt about starting school (shy, proud, expectant, nervous, etc.) and how these feelings could be represented on their self-portrait (position of eyebrows, arms, colours and so on). On their figure would be a ‘secret’ door, behind which the children could draw something special that they loved. At the school, the children would then work together to arrange Foamex triangles together to create a giant artwork.

The first session was a bit of an eye opener for me, as it had been ages since I had worked with children this young – it seemed like ages in fact since I had even talked to a young child. But the kids quickly brought me back to earth with a bang, and we concentrated on practicing drawing techniques, mark making and generally having fun. The second session, where the children began to draw and paint their figures, was even more eye-opening, as the difference between what I thought the kids could do and what they actually could do became obvious (not to mention the huge difference in ability and engagement amongst the kids themselves). The third and fourth sessions at the schools were no less challenging, as it became clear that my inexperience with working with young children meant that I had seriously overestimated their ability to work together.

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Bu no matter! A lot of enthusiasm and good will, will go a long way, and throughout the process Tilde and I were supported by a fantastic back up team that organised all of the practical and organisational matters, as well as the professionals working at the nurseries and schools, for whom I now have the highest regard and respect. Furthermore we were helped by other groups of people the ‘mijløpedaler’ that ferried the Foamex sheets around the island, and the ‘remissen’ that cut them all out (all 312 of them…)

‘Villads’ was a pilot project; a vast and ambitious project that was challenging and even disruptive in many ways for many people. Along the way much hard-won experience was gained and hopefully this will lead to even more successful projects in the future. Despite all of the stresses and difficulties, however, my abiding memory of ‘Villads’ will be the children themselves and their joy and pride when showing off their figures to their friends and families at the ‘private views’ (all 15 of them) that we held around the island in May and June. For what its worth I really enjoyed working with the children – almost as though I had forgotten how much fun they could be. The way children of this age can draw – completely free from fear – is a wonder to behold, and they created some truly wonderful self-portraits. It really was uncanny to see how they somehow managed to capture their expression or their personality even, with a few deft strokes of the pen. Amazing…

If you’re any good at Danish, here is a film of one of the private views, made by Øens TV, Bornholm…

More photos and film soon…