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Walk, Touch, Connect, Remember

by James on March 31st, 2017

Badger MeToday is my final day at Hawkwood College, as I come to the end of my residency here. I have taken photographs to document the objects that I’ve made, and I now I need to write to start drawing it all together in my mind.

It will take time to make sense of all that I have touched, heard, made, thought and felt here. I thought I would come and respond to the woods and garden by making things, but its not been that simple. As I have made time for myself to really be here, and given myself the space to explore and follow whatever pops up for me, my physical exploration of the land has drawn out feelings and memories that I hadn’t expected.

Roe Deer on spy cam

When people ask what I do, I say I work with people and places, and I do, but it’s more than that. Places and people don’t exist in isolation. Places connect with people, and people sense, respond to and remember places. Places bring up memories and enable access to thoughts and feelings that were buried or stored away.

Badger Boy

The Badgers and their clay mounds, along the edge of wooded hills, have connected with the hills and woods of my childhood, and given me a chance to remember my Dad, with whom I explored them as I child. From here at Hawkwood to Wotton Under Edge where I lived as a child (and then visited regularly when my parents split up) is about 10 miles.

Walking bundle - black doll

Doll bundle collage

My sister tells me we would come to Stroud to the swimming pool and walk around the lake in Stratford Park, so I walked there yesterday (about a mile away). I remember coming to the Berni Inn with my Dad, brother and sister, on the weekends that we would stay with him, and I spent some time this week wandering around Stroud to track it down too.

Concertina Sketcbook

The pathways and animal tracks that I’ve followed across the land here, have interwoven with the threads of memory and emotion that run through my heart and my mind. The time I planned to use to re-energise my individual arts practice after focusing for so long on participatory work, has led to me exploring what Fatherhood and Parenting means to me. What was special to me about time spent with my Dad, and what does that mean for me now, with my own son?

Me and My Dad

In the work that I’ve made, I have layered photographs taken here, and some of my Son and my Dad, with text recording what I see, hear, think and feel as I sit in the woods or by the ponds. I have taken photos of the badgers here at night and begun to layer them with images of myself. I have made a basket for a badger jaw bone, and drawn/painted with the clay from the Badgers’ setts.

Woodland Image with Badger Basket

In my artwork the body of the Badger and my boyhood or adult body join to become one, the past and the present meet at the point of making, as they meet through my walking.

Badger and my mask

The time and space that I have been given here, the welcome and support, the food prepared with care, and the horseshoe of woodland cradling the house at Hawkwood, has held me whilst I have surrendered to the moment, following the paths that my body and emotions have instinctively taken me on.

Tea time at Hawkwood

Practically speaking I will now seek out opportunities to exhibit this work, and extend the new ways of making that I have developed, into my daily practice as an artist. On a personal level, this time has enabled me to reconnect with the half of my childhood that I spent with my Dad, and the first landscape that I ever walked in, as a young child.

Me making in woods at Hawkwood

(See here for further information on Artist Residencies at Hawkwood, supported by the F W Reckitt Arts Trust)

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