For the past 3 or 4 years I’ve become increasingly interested in the detail of the landscape – in its actual physical components: the stones and rocks, the trees, roots and streams…not just how visually fascinating they are, but in the astonishing biological and physical processes which they’ve been through, and which gives them their individual character. I’m interested in the similarity of form between the tree-roots, the tracks and trails through the mountains and the streams and rivers of the area, and the way these features are represented in graphic form on maps; in fact I’ve come to see some of the 3-dimensional pieces as visualisations of my own walks through the hills and mountains, noticing colours and textures and patterns as I go.

In writing about this recent work in my journal I went back to an essay I’d read a long time ago about Kant’s ideas relating to what he called ‘things in themselves’- in French, les choses mêmes – and it seems to me that somewhere in this line of thought is where the heart of my work lies at the moment: does the ‘thingness’ of a stone, say, include all of its history or is it just what we see in an instantaneous slice in time and space? For me it’s certainly the former. A stone is not only a physical object in the here and now, but a product of ongoing geological processes; in its ‘lifetime’ it has had many different forms, and in the future it will have many more, but it has always been and will always be that stone – simultaneously both phenomenon and noumenon.

Viewed in this way it’s natural to see physical objects in the landscape as a vehicle for ideas relating to time and place and memory. On an entirely personal level I can look at a stone or a large tree-root and think ‘all through my life – at every stage of it – this object has been in its place, changing, moving – and now…….not entirely by chance because I’ve sought it out – we share a moment in time.’

This puts me in mind of what John Berger says in his wonderful book The Shape of a Pocket about artwork being a sort of collaboration between artist and subject – whether it’s a landscape, an object or a person. ‘The collaboration’, says Berger, ‘depends upon the extent to which the subject allows itself to be revealed; this means that the role of the artist in the process is that of receiver rather than creator, and the collaborative relationship between artist and subject is a form of companionship.’  

In the mountains and forests of the Diois I feel this sense of companionship very strongly, surrounded by things I love and respect, things which delight and amaze me.

DF Summer 2012