Fotminne, the neologism devised by Swedish novelist Kerstin Ekman to express ‘foot memory’, guides my work. I create prints, drawings and photographs which reflect both my interest in the marks we leave on the landscape but also the mark the landscape leaves on us. It can be a psychological trace founded in memory, but also a more visceral sense of my feet knowing where they’re going when travelling across familiar territory. I am influenced in my work by the impermanent, evolving landscape drawings of Tracy Hill, as well as the meticulous detail combined with epic scale of printmaker Christiane Baumgartner. I have a particular interest in the ways that text can be used in the visual arts and in the form of the artist’s book.
My focus on walking landscape has shifted a little since becoming very ill with Covid-19. I’ve had to restrict my walks; in the early days of recovery even one step felt like a mile. I have been working of late on images of single footsteps, minute cracks in the mud underfoot, and small, fragmentary patches of landscape. My earlier focus on sedimentary rock and the ways in which coastal landscapes accumulate in layers over time, has evolved into an interest in what lies beneath the single foot-sized piece of ground on which we stand. It’s what the remarkable chronicler of the Cairngorm mountains Nan Shepherd called the ‘accession of interiority’. The writer Paul Kavanagh expressed it powerfully when he said that ‘to know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width. A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields – these are as much as a man can fully experience.’
A parallel focus, one which was fuelled by nightmare visions during my illness, is on what are called beetle galleries. These are the tiny lines drilled by beetle larvae on the inside of the bark of elm trees around my home. I could see the dead trees from my bedroom window and images of the galleries hidden beneath the bark kept playing across my mind. By making plaster casts of the intricate patterns the larvae drill into the bark, I’m simultaneously recording the beetles’ fotminne, my own illness, and memorialising the beautiful elms which the larvae have destroyed.
UNIT 3 PROPOSAL
Inspired by Tracy Hill, I intend to research ways in which I might use conductive ink in my practice. My interest in the haptic and the impermanent, as it relates to landscape and individual footsteps, might be expressed powerfully via this methodology. I am already experimenting with more low-tech ways of using photopolymer plates not as etchings but as sunlight-exposed, relief plates and will pursue this further. My use of hand-ground printing pigments is also something I would like to develop, perhaps combining them with prints, books and images which are designed to decay in, or be altered by, the landscape.