I have had several projects on the go this week but was determined to draw to a conclusion a response to a walk undertaken earlier in the month. I walk monthly (together, apart at the moment) with an artists walking group, Walking the Land, based in Gloucestershire. Since lockdown we have been walking simultaneously but in our own locations, contemplating shared themes, stimuli and ideas. It is so great to connect with other artists during these estranged months. Last month whilst walking we were thinking of places 'special' to us.
I have not lived anywhere for very long throughout my life and have few long-held associations with particular places, finding it easy to move on and ground myself somewhere new, so I found this quite challenging.
I decided to walk into the local town along the canal which I have done a lot since Covid lockdown last year and it has become a significant part of my life. It provides a green corridor through somewhat 'dodgy' nature into the town, avoiding busy main roads. Over the year I have watched it progress through all four seasons, in turns it has been cold and damp in the autumn, cool and shady in the summer, bright green and bursting with new growth in the spring, frozen and icy in the winter. I have felt it is a place that I have developed some connection to, cycling it, walking it, taking the dog along it and as such have felt somewhat personally affronted when people have treated it with disrespect, magnet fishing ugly remains of shopping trollies out of it and leaving them strewn on the tow path, defacing it with graffitti, lighting bonfires, fly tipping, erecting anti-cyclist gates and posting notices outside canal boats telling me to keep away. It was this aspect of my feeling of protection/ownership of the space I wanted to explore in this piece of work.
First I made a long monoprint that was a fragmented visual walk along the tow path.
This print seemed too idealised a view of the canal, it was the canal at its best, and these weren't the feelings I had had along the walk on this particular instance, I had noticed the junk, the graffitti, the run down industrial buildings, abandoned carpet factories, dye houses and saw mills.
This led to me defacing the original print, it was a point of no return for the piece of work but represented the way the canal landscape is abused by others who feel the need to make their mark on the landscape, cannot just enjoy it for its annonymity, must somehow claim it for their own in a physical way, must overlay their ownership onto a place that is enjoyed by many. This shared 'space' becomes a labelled 'place'.
I think the final result is somewhat obvious and over simplified but was an interesting exercise creating something I enjoyed and then destroying it with the spray paint.