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LAND is the name of a new project that I am working on throughout the whole of 2023. Building on my previous KYST (2018) and ERTHOLMENE (2021) projects, LAND* takes the form of an exploratory journey through space and time.

Just like the KYST project, LAND takes place on the Danish Island of Bornholm and consists of a series of 52 consecutive walking tours, one for each week of the year. Each walk takes place on Friday and begins at dawn and ends at dusk, whatever the weather and however long the day is. I start at the point where I finished the previous week’s walk – painting, drawing, and recording what I experience as I go.

Whereas I followed Bornholm’s coastline for the KYST project, I now venture inland and walk over fields, along paths, and through forests. My route around the island will be roughly clockwise, sometimes meandering into the centre of Bornholm, sometimes coming closer to the coast.

LAND begun on Friday the 6th of January 2023 on the beach at Saltuna, where the Kelse Stream empties into the Baltic Sea. If Bornholm is a gigantic clock face or sundial, then this point is 180 degrees opposite from where I started KYST in Rønne. The Kelse Stream valley is a geological fault line that continues into the centre of the island, and thus represents the perfect path into the heart of Bornholm.

During each journey I move slowly and observe and record my experiences. Each walk is a story of a day, of the changing light and weather and the rising and setting of the sun. The walks together will tell the story of the year, and how I experienced its passing.

Unlike the KYST project, however, I will not be restricting my creative output to the one day. For KYST, everything was completed on the day, in the field, between the sunrise and sunset. For LAND, however, I am allowing myself the luxury of using the rest of the week (from Saturday to Thursday) to try to create an additional studio work based on my sketches, paintings, and memories from the trip. This studio work will take the form of an oil painting – a medium for which I have great respect, but very little experience.

Udsigt over markene, Myreby, 2022

In a sense then, as well as recording my journey around the island through the year, LAND will also document my efforts to develop a new way of working in the studio with a new medium. For an artist such as myself – used to working outside and obsessed with direct and sustained observation – this is something both exciting and concerning. The vibrancy and energy of field work can so easily be extinguished in the studio, and I have always found it difficult, or even impossible, to convey the authenticity of the outdoor experience when divorced from it in time and space. Studio work does, however, present a completely different way of working and the possibilities are infinite. I look forward to documenting my progress and development as the year progresses.

I am fascinated by the process of observation and the way in which the physical act of looking – really looking – creates a deep physiological connection between ourselves and our environment. I am equally fascinated by how we interpret and respond creatively to this process, and the relationship between the objective physical act of observation and the subjective act of interpretation. By removing this subjective act from the time and space where it was created and into the studio – and simultaneously tackling the subject in a new and different medium – I will be creating an exciting set of challenges, problems, and opportunities for myself and my creative output.

Læse å om vinteren, 2021

The concluding walk in the last week of the year (Friday, December the 29th) will take me right back to the beach at Kelse Stream, where I had begun a year earlier. I will have explored a cultivated landscape of fields, hedgerows, and woods, borne witness to the arrival and departure of migratory birds, the flowering and wilting of vegetation, and moved through strata of geological time.

The ‘interactive’ elements of the project will be updated weekly. My meandering path drawing a line around the island will be recorded by my phone’s GPS and uploaded to this map

On my Instagram and my Facebook I will be uploading a few images live on the day. During the week I will write a short blog on this website summarizing the journey and the work I produced on the day, as well as my struggles in the studio. This interactive and social aspect of the project proved to be a very significant element of KYST and I look forward to sharing details of the journey as I go.

The works produced in the field on the day, as well as the 52 weekly studio works, will hopefully be presented in an exhibition or a series of exhibitions, and perhaps another book – but all that lies far in the future. Right now, I am looking forward to beginning another journey around my adopted home and getting to know little-known parts of the island.

*’LAND’ in Danish corresponds to ‘land’ in English, but with some slightly different meanings and idiomatic uses. ‘Landet’ (‘The Land’) is also the old-fashioned name for Bornholm (for Bornholmians).

Ekkodalen, juni 2021

Ben Woodhams, November 2022