In December 2018 I became the letter-cutter for the Dry Stone Wall Maze in Dalby Forest. During the first few months at Dalby running lettering workshops and carving people’s initials I also enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to walk and thoroughly explore the forest, observing all the different sights, sounds and silences, as well as noting all the feelings and emotions that the different forest environments evoked. The forest became a ‘second home’ to me, and a very special source of creative inspiration.
In the following Autumn I was invited to submit proposals to locate a series of artworks around the Forest. This quickly became an opportunity for an extensive exercise in professional development and to actively build upon my ‘walking thoughts’ and ideas for creative exploration.
A major part of my proposals rested upon the desire for all the works to be made in collaboration with practitioners from a diversity of arts practices including music, stained glass, creative writing and photography. One of the aims of this approach was to explore different creative routes and to develop new and engaging ways for work to be seen and experienced. The project gained strong support and funding from Arts Council England and I began engaging potential collaborators.
From the outset, I had been very keen to make this project an opportunity to be creatively adventurous and to cross as many boundaries as possible to extend my practice and aim to achieve exciting and diverse results through a stimulating and broad set of processes.
I had some basic ideas as general guidance about particular subject matter and how artwork might look and feel but I didn’t really want to pre-determine a creative route or visual outcome before linking up with any other artists. I was far more stimulated by how the collaborative research and thinking could determine the method and route of creative practice so that, in the approach, we could all benefit by enjoying as much scope as possible.
The project has 4 distinctly different outcomes. The first, in collaboration with photographer Peter Heaton, presents an exhibition, Residuum – agents of change, which will feature photographs and carvings focussing upon responses to landscape and expansions in creative process.
The second work, in collaboration with stained-glass artist Ann Sotheran, is a sculpture referencing dragonflies and made with a combination of stainless-steel, stained glass and stone. This will be located beside Staindale Lake.
A third work uses the concept of a Maze as a metaphoric reference for entrapment as an artistic starting point. In collaboration with percussionist and composer, Sean Noonan, the portable sculpture in steel and stone will also accompany a separate performance by Sean which examines the serious mental health issues around solitary confinement. The sculptural work is inspired by the sounds and compositional approaches just as much as with the subject matter which Sean brought to the collaboration.
Finally, in stark contrast, another work made with writer Jayne Murphy will provide a quiet, meditative labyrinth space featuring carved stone and words. This will be positioned beside a small babbling stream alongside Grain Slack near High Staindale.