OF TRUTH OF WATER
The Blue Gallery, Brantwood, East of Lake, Coniston, LA21 8AD.
March to September 2024
The works in the show speak of specific encounters and accumulations of experience in the steep Brantwood gardens, lakeside, Coppermines Valley and White Lady Falls between 2019 and 2023. Indigenous earths are integrated with watercolour, gouache and acrylic paint. Water shapes this land of lakes and is the vehicle that transports and contains the ingredients of each work in this exhibition.
‘The spirit of Ruskin, keen observer, fluent watercolourist, brush and pen in hand accompanied my explorations. Without the raindrop there is no waterfall, the White Lady only appears after rain.’
I acknowledge the generosity of The Brantwood Trust in supporting the research and this opportunity to exhibit within Brantwood itself.
notes from Brantwood
John Ruskin (1819-1900) social reformer, writer, artist, evolutionary scientist, geologist… was a prolific shaper and manager of words as well as land, society, institution, image and idea. Over the final 28 years of his life, he curated his home and the steep land (brant = old norse for steep) East of Lake at Coniston Water where rooms and gardens were shaped and studded with stories and enthusiasms. According to Ruskin’s father, his son had been an artist from childhood, but a geologist from infancy. At the age of twelve he had already begun a mineralogical dictionary- and when he died at the age of 81 he left behind him 39 volumes of collected writings, thousands of drawings and watercolours and an enduring legacy. His voracious curiosity populated displays of personal treasures, objects gathered through his cultural associations and predilections. Brantwood is both a registered museum and a home of a remarkable man.
A fine watercolourist, keen traveller and observer of things seen, recorded and imagined. He employs the process of drawing as a means of working things out, understanding and analysis. I recognise this in my own investigations into the world; it is not until I stop and draw in a place (I refer to drawing in the wider sense here) that I begin to ‘see’ a little more acutely. Assumptions are challenged and there is a call to attention.
notes from Brantwood
Ruskin’s Seat, a wide solid slate ‘throne’ sits in the woodland gardens. It is now clothed with the patina of this wet place as are all the other residents of the damp woodland. The seat has almost cast off its functionality and has been adopted and speckled by the woodland community.
I first sat in that seat it in 2013- and looked out from the fixed point suggested by Ruskin’s orientation of the structure.
I returned to sit in that seat in Autumn 2019 as artist in residence at the invitation of The Brantwood Trust. As I stood up this time, the invitation was to identify my own ‘sit-spots’. Water insisted on being the determining influence on my work over that time. Daily rain fuelled White Lady Falls and caused the white veins of the Old Man of Coniston to swell and glisten pale against the dark flanks.
notes from Brantwood
I returned in February 2023. The conversation continued with the land. Some paintings and poems returned with me to their site and were developed.
I build on the narrative and develop my relationship with the site and its ‘lakeland’ nature each time I return.
This time I was based across the water from the Brantwood Jetty in the Coppermines valley. The weather was frequently bright with burnt orange bracken spreading like rashes over swathes of land. It shone like copper.
WHITE LADY FALLS
The amount of water in, on and over ground and air… was considerable. The bright threads of white water running down the fells across Lake Coniston became my indicators of rainfall. The rising level of lake water over the duration of my stay was calibrated by the slowly disappearing wooden structure of the jetty where the steamer stopped by.
This is of course a district of lakes.
I acknowledge the generosity of The Brantwood Trust for their support.