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

For at læse denne KYST 04 blog på DANSK se her

For an introduction to the KYST project, see here

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…

 

Bird of the Month Prints – finished

So, I finally managed to finish all twelve of the prints. All were hand-printed at Tryk2 værksted in Årkirkeby, Bornholm – more info here.

The prints have already made the trip to Sweden for an exhibition, and this weekend (25th May to the 28th May 2017) they will be on display, along with some new watercolours, at Engholms Brændpunkt, Sandvig, as part of this year’s ‘Kunstrunde’… The prints cost 600kr each framed, or 450kr unframed (4.800kr / 3.600kr for all twelve). The actual image measures about 12cm square (fit a square 24cm frame)…

They will also be availiable soon at NaturBornholm, Artbox and Svanekegården

bird of the month - all twelve

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Bird of the Month Lino Prints

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I’ve been working on a new project – ‘Bird of the Month Lino Prints’ (for want of a better title) since December of last year. The idea behind the project is the creation of 12 two-colour reduction lino prints – one for each month of the year – depiciting a Bornholmian bird, or group of birds, in a Bornholm setting.

Actually I’ve been thinking about doing this for years, and my head has been full of ideas about which bird and which place on Bornholm. Self-enforced and ‘proactive’ projects like this are a much needed counterpoint to my usual working practice – ‘reactive’ responses to ephemeral changes in the environment. The self-enforced structure of the project, together with the somewhat methodical nature of printing, gives me an different way of working  which I find both challenging and refreshing.

As such, the project is driven by the following (informal) objectives/rules

  • Each print will be small and identical in format (approx 12 x 12cm)
  • The print run for each month will be between about 20 or so
  • Each print will depict a bird that is ‘classic’ for Bornholm for that particular month
  • Each print will depict the birds in a recognizable place on Bornholm – one where they can be seen
  • Each print will be a reduction linocut – in most cases with just two reductive stages (=white paper, plus two colours)
  • Each print will be nearly colour neutral, with an emphasis instead on tonal contrasts and a simplified graphic approach. Groups of birds, strongly lit and blending in and out of their background, will be the order of the day.

I am now more than half way through, and hope to be finished some time in Spring. I’m hoping they will be ready for the exhibition in Sweden, and perhaps even for Kunstrunde here on Bornholm.in April.

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All the printing has taken place at Tryk2, the fantastic printing workshop in Åkirkeby, Bornholm. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Anyone interested in Bornholm and printing should book it for a few weeks in the summer (it comes with a flat). It is very well equipped and affordable – check out their website (*new website currently under construction, will update link soon…).

Here is one of the prints I’ve been working on. Black headed gulls for August (this is actually three colours/levels of reduction, so I broke my rule here…).

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The finished print here…

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Anyway, I eventually settled on the following month/bird/place combinations…

  • January – Rooks (Råger) – Østermarie Rundkirke
  • February – Ravens (Ravner) – Rytterknægten
  • March – Lapwings (Viber) – Udkæret
  • April – Shelduck (Gravænder) – Salthammer
  • May – Ederfugle (Eider ducks) – Christiansø
  • June – Vandrefalke (Peregrines) – Vang
  • July – Razorbill (Alke) – Hammerknuden
  • August – Black Headed Gulls (Hættemåge) – Dueodde
  • September – Cranes (Traner) – Bastemose
  • October – Greylags (Grågæes) – Nexø Sydstrand
  • November – Fieldfares (Sjagger) – Svaneke
  • December – Long Eared Owls (Skovhornugle) – Rønne

The list is more a reflection of when and where I get my inspiration from during the year, rather than an attempt to showcase rare or exciting birds that you find on Bornholm. There were lots of ‘honorable mentions’ that didn’t make it onto the final list – but who knows, maybe I could do another round in a few years?

I’ll update my progress on this blog… until then, back to work…

Breaking Through – Brud i Gennem

 

‘Brud i Gennem’ (badly translated as ‘Breaking Through’) is the name of an anamorphic installation I did at Galleri Rasch in Rønne, Bornholm in the end of September 2016.

Nothing to do with birds (though I did actually hide a peregrine in one of the paintings) the exhibition is concerned with the way in which we (=I) struggle to deal with the ‘viral’ images of dead and injured children that are pumped out of Syria into the wider media on a regular basis. In a broader sense, the exhibition addresses the issues surrounding the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis and the influx of refugees into Europe (and even little Bornholm).

The main premise is this: I live in an incredibly safe war-free zone, surrounded by wonderful nature far from the dangers of bombardment and starvation , or the need to flee for my life. I take a walk  in the daytime, maybe sketch some birds. In the evening on one or other screen (or , more probably, several) I am served images of dead or dying children – ‘viral’ images that awaken the conscience, tug on the heart-strings and cause pangs of guilt – until they are swiftly forgotten and life moves on…  Until that is, the next time I sit in a bus with some confused Syrian refugees, or my child talks about the new kid in their class ‘Mohamed’. My seaweed drawing on the beach, see here, was part of my response to this situation.

14389044_10154459114611698_1035604838_n‘Brud i Gennem’ came about when I was invited to have an exhibition during Bornholms Kulturuge (‘Culture Week’) in September 2016, by Galleri Rasch in Rønne Bornholm. The theme for 2016 was ‘Brud’, an interesting word in Danish that has multiple meanings and idiomatic uses. In Spring of this year I did an art week with some students from a school in Nexø that explored some of these themes, and some ideas relating to the refugee crisis and the use of the anamorphic technique began to fly around in my mind.

Being very busy this summer, I didn’t really have time to move things on much. When the images and films of Omran Daqneesh ‘the boy in the ambulance’ surfaced on the News and online, I was shocked and appalled. The helplessness and shock on his face reflected the whole situation in Syria, and I couldn’t get the image off my mind. It is precisely the of the image that makes it so powerful. Omran looks lost, helpless – both young and vulnerable, but somehow ossified and ancient at the same time. War photographers from Syria see worse – children with their limbs and heads blown off – but the image of Omran was somehow shocking enough – without crossing the line into gore. He could have been anyone’s kid. Could have been my kid.

Going for a walk in Vang stenbrud (an old granite quarry here on Bornholm) looking for some recently fledged peregrine falcons a few days later, I was still thinking of the image, or rather, it was still preying on my mind. The deep shadows in the rocks hid a multitude of faces and figures and seemed to echo the statue like-figure of Omran, covered in grey dust, shocked into catanonia. It was then I realised how the anamorphic technique (where an image is seen as three-dimensional from a point in space, rather than a flat plane) would be the perfect vehicle to reflect the way in which the image drifted in and out of my mind.14371864_10154459113141698_864581040_n

I started the installation on the monday, and opened on the saturday – all in the incredible heat of an indian summer (the gallery is like a greenhouse). As the week went on, the exhibition began to change into something – what it is now. ‘Break Through’ works as a ‘normal’ exhibition, with pictures hanging on walls. Then there is the anamorphic composite image of Omran seen from a specific point in the gallery. Nearly hidden on the pictures themselves are also quotes taken from news report from the time relating to Omran in particular, and viral images of war in general. Lastly there is a painting where visitors to the gallery are encouraged to write their feelings and thoughts directly, like graffiti on the rocks.

I tried to change our relationship to these images – to reinvigorate them and make our relationship to them active rather than passive. To re-infect the virus.

I was helped by my family (Alma painted the amazingly small quotes with a brush), by the Gallery, and by some students from Bornholm Billedskole. The film I made with the help of Verner Kjærsgaard – a local photographer who dropped everything to lend his expertise and equipment free of charge.

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A local radio station P4 Bornholm made a film of the installation which can be seen here (scroll down to 17th Sept)

TV2 Bornholm, a local TV station made a short piece about the installation here (20.09.16).

My film of the exhibition is above.

 

Seabirds in Scotland

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Drawing at St Abbs…. (photo: Bruce Pearson)

Straight after my trip to Turkey, it was off to Scotland for the Seabird Drawing course. Formerly led by the late John Busby, the Seabird Course is now headed by Darren Woodhead, along with Greg Poole, John Threfall and Kitty Jones. This year Bruce Pearson was the invited guest tutor. Bloomin’ brilliant.

Having arrived pretty much straight from Turkey with Greg, we were both ‘battle hardened’ and eager to get out in the field again. The drawing conditions in Turkey had been very pleasant, but the wildlife and birds were sporadic at best and we spent most of our time drawing in quite a ‘static’ environment. The seabird course could not have been more different. The weather was cold, windy, changeable, windy, showery and downright challenging and the seabirds were anything but static.IMG_2593

St Abbs proved to be the most popular venue and there is really no place like it. The constant din of seabirds, vertiginous cliff and rocks, crashing waves – a kaleidoscope of colour and form. You can sit anywhere in St Abbs and find amazing stuff to look at. There is simply no end of things to see and draw, and I could gladly spend the rest of my life just walking up and down the paths over the cliffs, drawing and painting. And through time, of course, everything changes. Each weather front brings its own colours and shades, and the tides and the movement of the sun create a dynamic backdrop to the even more dynamic movements of the birds.IMG_2591

I spent most of my time working on ‘time-based’ work – following the flights of the seabirds with brush strokes and creating a long exposure of their flight lines. IMG_2595Landscapes split into different sections throughout the day, some under the sun, others rained upon. Row upon row of 10 second, 20 second sketches of the same bird. I really feel as though I am going somewhere with this sort of stuff, and I look forward to mining this more and more – I think it is a rich seam.IMG_2589

A boat trip to the Bass was another highlight of the trip – unfortunately I was not able to get on the rock this time. 13659176_10153848783012476_5109416418414769198_nIn the lee of the wind, we made countless small circles in the shadow of the gigantic cliff, drawing and painting a moving – but returning – target. An incredible and moving (ahem) moment, as tutors and students alike scribbled away in total concentration, wordlessly, under the din of the squabbling gannets. Unforgettable.13631487_10153848783017476_760253169356710020_n

As this was my second trip I felt I was able to hit the ground running. I knew what to expect and what I wanted to do.  This year, the tutors had a more ‘hands on’ approach, in that the day started with warm up drawing exercises and finished with evening talks from the tutors. This was a really positive development that opened a whole new element to the course, without detracting from the democratic and non-prescriptive atmosphere that made the seabird course so iconic in the first place. The dynamic of a residential course, where everyone is in the same boat, is a wonderful thing to behold and experience, and I look forward to the next time I can come. The SWLA has a bursary – see here….Go if you can!IMG_2596