Well, it’s been a year! Leaving out the politics and concentrating on the art (which is hard to do), 2017 has been my most prolific year as an artist since completing my MA in 2005. Here are the highlights:
The Missing Paintings:
I had been talking to the Towner Art Gallery for a while about the notion of “sonifying the collection” – finding ways to respond to their extensive holdings of Sussex landscape paintings in sound. In the end, what I proposed was a diptych of landscape “sound paintings” entitled ‘Barcombe Fields’ and ‘Lane at Alciston’ after titles of missing watercolours originally painted by Eric Ravilious. These headphone-based works were made by returning to the site of the original paintings almost 90 years later and creating an immersive, binaural soundscape which focuses on the rural soundmarks of the area (bird song, animals, wind etc) whilst acknowledging the inevitable rupture of 21st century life into the bucolic and the pastoral. This approach invites the listener to consider collective notions of how we both view and more importantly hear the countryside and how the passage of time has shaped the soundscape of the Sussex countryside. They were exhibited as part of Ravilious & Co : The Pattern of Friendship.
The works became part of the permanent collection at Towner Art Gallery after the close of the exhibition.
Sensing Culture (Lewes Castle):
Image of a binaural dummy recording head at the top of the South Tower
This ambitious project started in mid 2016 and came to fruition in the late summer and early autumn of 2017. It encompassed two separate and interlinking pieces of work. The first was a geo-locative audio guide, created in partnership with Josh Kopecek at Echoes, using multiple narrative voices and binaural field recordings to evoke the history of the castle and its associated museum collection. The guide is primarily aimed at blind and partially sighted visitors who would otherwise struggle to find their way around the site unaided. We very much wanted to push the boundary of the form of the audio guide, whilst serving our target audience i.e. everything we produced had to be fully accessible. The guide also had to function well for a general audience and the thousands of foreign visitors to the castle each year. I am very proud of what we achieved and the app is now live on the iOS and Android app stores from your mobile device. Just search for Lewes Castle…
Image of listeners at the launch
The second part of the project was the creation of a permanent sound installation entitled ‘Singing the Castle to life’, a four channel sonic love poem to the South Downs. Again, the work had a practical purpose, to offer an experience in sound of the stunning panoramic views from the top of the South Tower (the highest point on the site) for those unable to climb the steep and many stairs. The installation utilises historic quotation, original text, binaural field recordings and ambient musical textures to create a multi-layered, multi speaker evocation of landscape that focuses on the land itself and some of the famous built landmarks that sit within it. The work can be found in the Gun Garden on the ground level of the castle site.
Made in Korea:
This year long project was a collaboration with ceramist Kay Aplin, as part of our long standing partnership exploring the various links between sound and ceramic practice. Made in Korea began in autumn 2016 with Kay making a 3 week research trip to Korea to meet with some of the artists she was planning to work with and to soak up Korean ceramic culture. Whilst she was there I asked to her record the sounds of artists working in their studios – the small scrapings, bangings and machine sounds that make up up the soundscape of a ceramic artists studio life. These sounds became a central component in a four channel sound installation exhibited at British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) in autumn 2017 a year later.
The project continued with two ceramics exhibitions at The Ceramic House and Sladmore Contemporary in London and an international residency programme in which two Korean ceramic artists Kyung Won Baek and Jin Kim came to the UK to make new work for BCB (‘Shadow Workers’).
The results of the international residency programme and Kay’s installation inspired by Korea roof tiles were exhibited at BCB together with my sound installation ‘Handmade / Automation’ featuring the repetitive sounds of Korean artists in their studios and recordings made of the robotic production line at the Johnson Tiles factory in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of the Potteries industry in the UK.
Image showing detail of Kay Aplin’s ‘Pavilion’ and film maker Nicki Lang on the day of the opening at BCB
We also created a unique geo-locative sound walk with commissioned works from 6 UK and Korean sound artists (including myself) entitled ‘Celadonaphonic’ with the sounds discoverable on an audio trail embedded on the Echoes app. Go to the app store on your iOS or Android device and search for echoes.xyz and then download the Celadonaphonic audio tour inside the app.
The project culminated in a joint trip with Kay to Korea to open an exhibition of work at Seoul Art Space Mullae featuring a smaller version of the installation created for BCB, a new version of the Celadonaphonic sound walk and a series of live performances as part of Mullae Resonance Festival.