An Hour to Sing – A Journey of Following by Kym Martindale and Caroline Blythe, is a collaboration featuring drawing and writing, published in Edition Three of Elementum Journal.
Caroline Blythe, a recent BA(Hons) Drawing graduate of Falmouth School of Art, and Dr. Kym Martindale, Senior Lecturer in Falmouth’s School of Writing and Journalism have, over the last three years, been collaborating on a project that has sought to explore and respond to Edward Thomas’s In Pursuit of Spring, an account of a bicycle ride from Guildford to Somerset in 1913.
Between 2012 and 2017, poet and cyclist Kym Martindale began the pursuit of Edward Thomas, riding and writing parts of Thomas’s journey from Winchester to the Quantocks in Somerset. In 2014, Caroline Blythe joined in, equipped with OS maps, and a copy of In Pursuit of Spring, and set off to explore and discover the landscape and locations described in poetry and prose by Martindale and Thomas.
For practical reasons both Kym and Caroline split Thomas’ journey into three distinct areas, visiting these when time allowed, following Thomas on bicycle, foot and at times by car. They recorded snippets of time and place – observing and notating the landscape as they travelled. The result is a collection of poems by Dr Kym Martindale and drawings by Caroline Blythe recently published in Edition Three of Elementum Journal.
We talked with Caroline and Kym to find out more…
Caroline says, “It has been an absolute pleasure to discover and explore both the countryside in the south of England, described so beautifully by Edward Thomas, and also respond to and work with Kym’s wonderful poems, while at the same time recording my own visual observations. As I travelled through the locations described by Edward Thomas and Kym, capturing fleeting moments in sketchbooks, I kept thanking them for introducing me to these beautiful and interesting places. It was a privilege to experience the landscape through their eyes as well as observe for myself. It was a fascinating process. Perhaps the most exciting visual outcomes from this project evolved through this collaborative working process which led to the creation and compiling of palimpsests – an interleaving of tracings of drawings.”
Kym adds, “This research project combined two great passions of mine, poetry and cycling. In Pursuit of Spring describes a landscape on the brink of change, but it is the cradle too of so much of Thomas’s poetry, and an index to the man himself. The poems and drawings are ‘re/tracings’ of journeys made by Thomas, then myself, then Caroline, through a landscape that is constantly changing economically, politically, and aesthetically. And about halfway through the project, we suddenly realised that although we each travelled alone, we were also together in the journey we were making. I am sorry in some measure, that we have arrived.”
Elementum, founded by Falmouth MA graduate Jay Armstrong, is a biannual publication of new writing and visual arts that explores the natural world and our role within it. Through folklore, literature, poetry, science and specially commissioned art and photography, Elementum quietly brings the reader back to what really matters by nurturing our connection to the natural world and the myths that surround it. The theme of the third edition is ‘roots’ and explores our origins and what sustains us.
BA(Hons) Drawing and BA(Hons) Fine Art students recently returned from a study visit together to the Venice Biennale, and responded by creating a student-led pop-up exhibition in the attic of Falmouth Campus’s Belmont Studios. Work included drawing, painting, print, photography, sculpture and installation.
The visit gave students from the two courses an opportunity to spend time with those on a different course at Falmouth, and the group fit much into their time. 2017 graduate Abbie Hunt, who was supported by Falmouth School of Art and the British Council to undertake a British Council Venice Fellowship, had been in touch with the students to make recommendations based on her experience of working at the Biennale for a month. And exhibiting in this year’s Diaspora Pavilion were Falmouth Visiting Professor of Fine Art, Hew Locke and fellow Falmouth alumna Libita Clayton.
BA(Hons) Fine Art student Richard Christensen provided his response to some of the highlights, and some great images of the visit:
‘Our arrival in Venice was inauspicious, late on Monday evening with a biting wind which made for an uncomfortable ride in the vaporetto to San Marco. The wind continued into Tuesday, together with plenty of rain, and found its way into the exhibition spaces of the Arsenale, where there were few warm spots for retreat. But by Wednesday the wind had gone, and for the rest of our stay the city was pleasantly autumnal.
Much of the Arsenale site consists of a long series of halls which must once have been the dockyard workshops. The exhibitions here were organised into loosely defined themes (‘the Common’, ‘the Earth’, etc)…the openness of the themed pavilions created both variety and dynamism, with a multitude of thought-provoking and visually arresting works in all media.
The British pavilion had a painting-sculptural installation by Phyllida Barlow called ‘folly’. Energetic, exuberant, more than filling its space and spilling outside the building, it was certainly not lacking in ambition.
An area of undoubted strength at the Biennale was the consistently high standard of video art. Video is now clearly in an age of maturity, with professional production values and themes which speak to their audiences with clarity. Several works at Venice are operating at the boundary with cinema in terms of the scope of their ambition and their technical standards.
Although there was little live performance art at the Biennale, the one piece which I saw was remarkable for its power and intensity. The German pavilion was an almost empty space apart from a raised glass floor and glass panels separating some of the rooms. The audience, on entering the building, hardly knew what to expect. The four performers, initially positioned around the main exhibition hall, moved together and then separated in successive bursts of energy and slow deliberation, in a loosely structured narrative of encounters and separations.
At times there was intimacy, at others the threat of violence. Even though much of the performance took place in and among the audience, at no time was there any interaction with it. And despite the intensity of the piece the expressions of the performers were impassive throughout – indeed, this impassivity was what gave it much of its power. And at the end, when the four performers disappeared, their wordless drama, maintained over an hour and a quarter, left the audience exhausted by what they had seen and experienced.
Two and a half days in Venice could never provide much more than a taster of what the Biennale had to offer. I could easily have spent a whole week or more there taking in the art. And as for the city… I’m sure I could devote a whole year there just to exploring its endless maze of alleyways and canals.’
The Venice study visit is one of a number of optional overseas trips offered to undergraduate students of Falmouth School of Art during their studies. BA(Hons) Drawing have also in recent years visited Amsterdam, and BA(Hons) Fine Art have previously visited Berlin.
Beth Pinner graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art in 2017. Toward the end of her studies, she applied for and was awarded the Groundwork Field Trip Residency; a five-day field trip visiting granite quarries in the south west as part of a team of academics and artists, led by Dr. David Paton. The residency was part of the Groundwork project and Beth’s place was funded by Falmouth School of Art. Beth shares her experience of the residency…
‘The opportunity to take part in David Paton’s field trip, ‘Tracing Granite – In search of a White Cross’, arose when I was completing my studies of Fine Art at Falmouth University earlier this year.
My art practice had developed alongside an interest and very basic knowledge on geology in Cornwall. Heavily influenced by the surrounding coastal landscape, I became fascinated by the dramatic textures and formations found in the open rock faces where the land met the sea. I was fixated on the notion of an entirely wild landscape, sculpted by nature, and made sculpture and print work surrounding these themes.
It was this (slightly obsessive) interest in rock that led me to gain a place on the 4-day residential field trip, alongside geologists, stone masons, archeologists, artists, writers – an eclectic mix of people from across the country who met, mostly for the first time, at a National Trust bunk house near Helston. With the bunk house as base for the next three nights we undertook a tour of granite quarries across Cornwall, moving to a second bunk house for the final two nights to extend the reach of the trip. Over the duration, our group fluctuated in size as people joined at various stages and quarries to share their own accounts of living and working with granite. Hearing their stories gave a more personal sense of place and insight into how granite in the south west has shaped and influenced individuals lives for generations.
Out of the eight that we visited, only two of the quarries were still in use. The six others were disused and at various stages of reclaim by nature, some so far overwhelmed that, to someone with little knowledge of quarrying like myself, any previous narrative of human interference was hard to comprehend at first. There weren’t any clear differences between the man-made rock face and the naturally formed rock face that I thought I might see. On reflection, however, the quarried sites have become increasingly obvious as man-made. If these rock faces were at the coast one wouldn’t think twice about them being naturally sculpted, but here, in land, they felt out of place, and purposeful.
Having never visited a granite quarry (or any quarry) before becoming involved with this trip, I had no idea what to expect from the four days. Everybody’s enthusiasm to share knowledge fueled a want to learn more, and I have come away feeling truly inspired. Not only by the awe-inspiring places that we visited, but by all of the people that have been involved.
At the time of applying back in June, I hadn’t imagined how helpful this opportunity would prove to be in re-inspiring a desire to move forward with an art practice after university, and by connecting me to some amazing people who I now look forward to working with more in the near future. There are some great things to come from ‘Tracing Granite – In search of a white cross’ and I for one can’t wait to see them all unfold.’
Katie Sims graduated from BA(Hons) Fine Art at Falmouth in 2010. Since then she has pursued her art, enjoyed competition and exhibition success and had a spell teaching. She reflects on her time at Falmouth, and talks to us about her life as a professional artist…
Describe your life since graduating back in 2010…
Things kicked off for me when I was selected for Saatchi’s New Sensations and the Midas Award, two competitions that afforded critical exposure and led to further opportunities to show and collaborate with curators and galleries. The Midas Award provided tremendous professional support during that daunting first year with the prize at that time including a solo exhibition, materials grant and yearlong mentorship programme through Falmouth University. None of this would have happened had I not entered those, proving it’s worth putting yourself forward for things.
That led me to establish a working relationship with Hoxton Art Gallery (2011-13). At the time, Hoxton was a new venture and I made work for their launch show. We grew together; things went well and they asked me to be one of their represented artists. We were a good fit and shared a similar ethos so I accepted. The gallery acted as my agents, taking care of all sales, promoting my work, providing exhibiting opportunities and inclusion in key art fairs and events whilst I was able to concentrate solely on painting. For that privilege I promised exclusivity to them, and they would take a commission on all sales. One of the highlights was my solo show, Opening Gambit. I spent 9 months working toward this exhibition and to see the work in situ and how the public responded was moving. It completed the whole cycle for me.
One of the biggest challenges has been trying to create freely whilst feeling the pressure of deadlines and accountability.
I started teaching art to sixth form students in 2013 in order to have more social contact and a regular income alongside painting. Three years later, with a PGCE now done and a ton of experience and newfound knowledge about my work, and myself, I’m shifting the emphasis back to painting. My experience of teaching was brilliant, but I struggled to balance both careers with equal intensity. I still want to teach though; perhaps as an artist that delivers workshops in schools. I loved working with my students.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new body of paintings to exhibit. I’ve also been archiving my work and recently launched a new website – www.katiesims.co.uk. Revisiting ten years worth of work has been cathartic and essential, allowing me to notice which pictures resonate most with me now. For example, I made a painting whilst at Falmouth called Fleeting Agony, the first picture that was discovered through the process of painting. It remains a monument to what I’m trying to do now – taking on my historic influences, memories and experiences as they affect me now. Trying to fix the quiddity of that impression rather than objective reality.
What is a typical day for you?
Studio, studio, studio. I need to be here and cut off from life outside in order to focus. Large parts of my day are spent thinking rather than physically painting. When I do pluck up the courage, I have a window of a few hours to get something down. It’s always been that way, even as a student. The process itself is full of risk and I’ve watched many paintings close down from overworking or overthinking them, but sometimes you have to sacrifice things in order to potentially realise something greater. I’m always learning and each painting proposes a new challenge, leading me on to the next. As I’ve matured I’ve learnt creative down time and play is as important as production, otherwise you burn out. You need to keep nourishing yourself as an artist to remain fresh and engaged. I love to walk and go off exploring new places. These trips feed my work and keep the days varied.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to kit out a van and create a portable studio to travel around Spain. I’ve returned to the country each year since winning The Ford Award in 2012 (a travel bursary to study at the Prado in Madrid) – it’s my second home. As time goes on there is something about the landscape, the people, and the light that is of interest and speaks directly to me. I have a collection of drawings, some from life, some from memory which I intend to re-familiarise myself with and work into paintings too.
Why did you choose to study at Falmouth?
I needed a supportive environment where I could really focus on exploring my ideas with fewer distractions. Falmouth instantly felt right. As students we were spoilt – top facilities, resources and tutors available to us. Such accessibility and personal relationships with staff are rare to come by. It’s what makes it unique. I knew I would be a person here and not a statistic.
What is your favourite memory from studying at Falmouth?
There are so many, and the most precious for me seem to be in the everyday stuff. I remember walking the tree-lined passage to the Falmouth Campus at Woodlane from my home in Falmouth each day. The light present in my studio building, the buzz surrounding the campus, everyone doing something different – it was a remarkable, concentrated moment in my life. I look back with fondness. They all stay with me.
How did Falmouth influence your career?
Falmouth gave me the space required to find my own language. Its strength as a university is in encouraging each student to have the confidence to do this. I left with a definite sense of who I am and the type of work I want to make.
I also gained a remarkable set of friends, which continues to stand the test of time. Anyone that studies here is part of something bigger, akin to family. When you meet a former Falmouth student, regardless of age or course, you share an instant connection.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a new Falmouth student, what would it be?
Studying at Falmouth is a brilliant opportunity in a truly inspiring place, make every moment count and experience it to the fullest.
First year students from BA(Hons) Drawing enjoyed a memorable week on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, as guests of Lucy and Robert Dorrien-Smith.
The week started with Hurricane Ophelia and ended with Storm Brian, so air and sea travel was exciting. The students made drawings in the Abbey Gardens, did a project in the Five Islands School and enjoyed the hospitality of Gallery Tresco at the private view of Drawing Show, an exhibition of work by Falmouth BA(Hons) Drawing students who have previously visited the Island. You can view the brochure for Drawing Show online here.
Once again the magic of Scilly was inspirational, and students can’t wait to return.