24/07/07 ART BLOG by TED BARLOW

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Having never been to the islands before, I didn’t know quite what to expect.  I’d heard that the Isles have their own sub-tropical climate, but the storm we came over in, on Friday 13th, didn’t do much to keep my optimism afloat!  The following day, though, brought gladly received heat and light.  I went off with the St. Agnes posse, who were doing the geo-physical survey of the cricket pitch, where reputedly, the bodies of the drowned sailors of the 1707 disaster were buried.  I conversed with several local people, including an 85 year-old, who has lived on St. Agnes all his life.  He told me of the day mark, built 5 years ago, and how it aligns with the lighthouse to inform seafarers of the deepest channel.  Other locals said that the lighthouse was built in the 1600’s (though no-one knew quite when).  It was fuelled with coal and most unreliable, the flame often going out.  I wondered if this was a contributing factor to the ships that went down in 1707(?) and made several sketches of it.  The geo-physics was not the most visually inspiring activity to observe, though the concepts involved may be useful in working things up during the summer. 

St. Agnes Lighthouse- mixed media drawing

Sunday 15th saw my first visit to Samson, what a place, 19 medieval house ruins and tons of history.  Charlie gave some of us a guided tour and I spent most of the day absorbing the atmosphere.  The next few days saw me working on drawings at Bryher and being involved in the workshops at St. Mary’s school.  Both days were productive and fulfilling, weather still good.  The children at St. Mary’s were eager to participate, polite and produced some great artwork.  Weds, Thurs and Friday saw me back at Samson, Ian offered to teach me archaeological drawing and I jumped at the chance to learn new ways of producing visual language.  I did elevation drawing for two days, which I thought might be tedious, but turned out to be quite enjoyable.  Although this took a lot of precious time from my other work, it was well worth the effort.  The drawing looked impressive, though not anything like my natural style.  I am working out ways to incorporate it into my drawings (and future paintings).
 
Friday and Sunday I spent on Samson.  I’ve been particularly drawn to the house ruins.  I’ve found that each day I spend there, I respond to a different building.  It’s not deliberate, it’s like a conversation that you can’t, or don’t want to, get out of.  The most prominent buildings are houses N, P and C.  House P sits on the horizon of South Hill and can be seen from everywhere (I viewed her from Bryher this morning).  House N is also a prominent feature on South Hill and to me is the most beautiful.  N has a romantic charm that can be captured from many viewpoints.  N and P, we have to look up to, both for their physical location and their impressive dominance within the landscape.  They are like eternal spirits, looking down upon us.  The reality is, of course, that they’re just as vulnerable to the erosion processes that age and weather all things, stone or flesh. 

Conversation with N

I realize now, how important the archaeological surveys and recordings are, not just to gather information but to generate the awareness that helps to maintain such structures/spirits of the past.  House C is a very different matter and is viewed from above, resting peacefully in the saddle at the bottom of South Hill.  My conversations with C have been briefer but equally as rewarding.  Of course the other house I’ve interacted with is house O, who taught me elevation drawing. 

Elevation O

 Yesterday saw the worst weather yet and a force 8 gale saw some very worried campers.  Jacqui organized us into rescue posses and we spent the morning helping folks resurrect or take down their tents.  We fared remarkably well with only the loss of 2 tents!  The rain was relentless and most of us spent the day in the pub. 

Today?  Great weather again, everyone dried out.  A large team went to Samson to continue work there.  Myself, Jacqui, Edwina, kitchen crew and kids at camp on Bryher, doing’ the things we do!
 

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