Copse Barn, nr Bridport, Dorset, August 2017
We arrived at The Mothership on Sunday afternoon, August 13th after a 4 hour drive from London in our Nissan Micra packed to the rafters. Vincent and Jarvis are nine and six; they are loud and lively and it took them a couple of days to acclimatise to the calm ancient wood setting. It also took myself and Nik the same amount of time (if not more!) to wind down from every day stresses.
We settled in – took a trip to Lidl and stocked up. Nik made arrangement to take the boys fossil hunting in Charmouth -whilst I would embark with drawing at the studio for the following day.
I had been leading up to this time set aside to creative only pursuits for sometime. I exploded onto the page in the same way we exploded out of the car upon arrival. I had some initial ideas about the mother, ice cream, Mary Anning and gravestones and the interconnection of these elements.
Automatic writing exercise to make sense of seemingly disparate elements
My drawing went off the page over the surface area of three pages in total in the end, due to the freedom of space and domesticity put on hold I felt a kind of gifted freedom and was surprised that I was getting instant results.
I work with felt tips so that I am forced to live with creative mistakes and make better of them.
Holding Up The World Triptych (in progress)
It’s ice cream season and my kids do as I did when I was a child. They break off the end of the cone and make a new ice cream with the fragments, a mini version. I realise I cannot watch this practise as I know it means a clean up of some sort will inevitably follow. It has made me realise over time that although you are always the same there are parts of your child hood self that get left behind. Living in the moment is for me one of those. I find spontaneity difficult to manage now that I manage the lives of my children as well as my own.
Holding Up The World (part of triptych)
In this triptych the ice cream is everything in life, (even the tree that can be viewed from the studio window at The Mothership makes an appearance as a giant flake.) The ice cream is life now, in the moment. The centre drawing is the mother struggling with the weight and shape of the cone. At the base of the triptych the mother licks up the ice cream spilt on the floor like a dog, cleaning up the constant mess.
Anna pointed out to me that she had once embarked upon a project about ice cream vans and was situated within St Helens (my home town) for some project work – which I found to be quite an astonishing coincidence. We spoke about the ice cream as sculpture and ice cream men as artists…
Ice Cream Mother
Horses in the fields next to The Mothership
On Tuesday I also started a drawing of the horses we met during a local evening walk on day two of our stay. I kept on going with this drawing during the holiday. Some drawings have a clear ending this was not one of them, even now I think I will add to it (as is often the case). In the top right corner I had originally drawn Nik’s face which I turned into a black moon. The black moon symbolises starting afresh and accepting darkness: as the seed for change requires this at first. The black poles are part witches hats, part unicorn horns, part derived form the piercings as seen in the martyrdom of St Sebastian, the arrow ridden martyr, part bridal gear and part scaffolding. I use the motive of the floating heads as living things that exist inside another being like a type of pregnancy or as the seed as represented by the black moon.
Horses With Interconnected Sticks
Andrea Magnate dated between 527 and 565
On Wednesday I took the boys crabbing at Westbay and on Thursday we went to Weymouth. I was especially interested in the location used for filming of Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan 2017. War stories are stories about conflict and cohesion. Control of enemy soldiers or your own soldiers (perhaps family members) and living in the face of great loss and damage and often death. In the true story of Dunkirk (world war 2) civilian boats were called to collect what soldiers they could from the beaches of Dunkirk. Churchill had made the decision not to send adequate destroyer vessels to collect the stranded men as he was to preserve the British war effort for the protection of the last frontier; the coast line of Britain. In the end 338226 men were rescued whilst waiting for transportation from the over head Nazi bombers. 68, 000 men were killed. Weymouth Old harbour was the setting for the departure of one of the small vessels as seen in the film.
Families are often at war with each other and within close ranks. There can be power battles, control of minors and acts of bravery and comradery. I consider these dynamics when drawing my family by drawing the microcosmic war in every day life.
Weymouth Old Harbour
Nik and I work together to produce music. Nik set to work on Wednesday with songs that were started and creating new works or starting points. Breathing in the fresh surroundings helped him to conjure new melodies and move on with one song which had become stuck whilst in London.
As maybe apparent in the following track we are greatly influenced by folk tradition and DIY/punk aesthetic and ethos:
Nik has recently used electric guitar instead of the banjo and this has provided a new sounding style which is uplifting and melodious. Nik found the atmosphere of The Mothership was very conjucsive to the practise of joyous sounding music: as we felt care free and relaxed whilst here. We are excited with the progression of our musical form and whilst on this residency Nik recorded percussion in woodland setting which we will use in future recordings.
This is a song entitles call of the birds which we completed whilst at The Mothership (we had previously been stuck and shelved it for a number of months): the freedom of the space and time given by Anna and The Mothership enabled this song to allow itself completion during our stay. The lyrics of this song are about birds as seen in the landscapes and faces of women.
Lyrics for Hang Me
In the studio was a book entitled poems of rural life in the Dorset dialect by William Barnes and I used one of the text to create a new lyric entitled hang me – the song is a collage of a verse about a ghostly apparition and a public hanging. I reinvented the text by changing the point of view as told through the person experiencing execution and furthering this embodiment into ghostly physical being.
On Monday I started work on a composition I had imagined before arrival. Of mothers holding down a crocodile.
I took some selfless for reference and arranged these figures with a drawing of an open mouth crock. The reason for this drawing was down to the interest I have in Mary Anning. Jarvis had studied her at school last term and I became quite fascinated with her as an important female icon.
Mary Anning by Jarvis Clifford aged 6, 2017
Mary Anning born in Lyme Regis 1799 and was at the for front of uncovering the new world in the 18th century. Her findings at the time would have appeared against God and everything that has gone before. She was 10 years older than Charles Darwin, and therefore pre-seeded him in shaping the course of scientific research into evolution and also pioneering the belief system of such a thing, (when such a thing was an unnerving and blasphemous thought process for most.) In this respect I have made the mothers into witches as this is probably what some locals thought of her. I have also given them bird like faces which comes from a reference from the poetry collection of The Crow by Ted Hughes, in which an old devious hag shape shifts into a small bird. I have previously written a song about this called call of the bird – see above link to sound cloud. Sometimes I write a poem that turns into a song, sometimes I draw a picture that also becomes a poem.
The Mother Pack And Captured Crocodile
In the Victorian era there was a great interest for curios and equally a desire and price for fossils found, therefore it is understood that Mary was able to make an earn-able trade from fossil hunting. Richard Anning and Mary (Richard was Mary’s brother) discovered the first icythysaurus at Lyme Regis in 1811 and excavated it which took till the following year. At the time of discovery people thought it might have been a crocodile or dolphin or a mixture of the two.
Letter by Mary Anning to Dean Sedgwick
A few days before arriving in Dorset I visited the exhibition Into the Unknown at The Barbican Centre in London, as research for my residency . It was a show mapping the diversity and development of science fiction in Film from the 50’s.
Paleoart story boards for One Million Years BC for Hammer films by Ray Harryhausen
The first exhibits were drawings of dinosaurs mixed up with humans and animals that exist today (therefore a completely fantasy based timeline). I discovered that this genre of art is called Paleoart and I became quite fascinated. Paleoart messes with evolution in a way that evolution messes with religion: a kind of cart blanch to draw what you like where you like when you like! Therefore in these current works I adopt a draw what you like approach once the conceptual starting point has been established.
I also liked the fact that it seemed to relate full circle to the drawing I made prior to coming to the Mothership of a pack of mothers guarding an ice cream van like a pack of wolves guards their kill for food, for survival – as pictured above. The raw meat kill is replaced by modern convenience sugary treats – and mothers acting like primates – exactly how our Neanderthal ancestors would have acted but in this time collage they are protecting a modern food source.
The next day I returned to the subject matter of horses…
A few years ago I saw an exhibition at The Courthauld Gallery in London by the Victorian medium Georgina Houghton who conducted seances and was possessed by the deceased to create automatic drawings –
For Horse Shadows- I worked without an end composition in mind, with continuous rendering – automatic technique, I.e. drawing whatever came next. Although I did not embody the presence of a deceased person I certainly allowed myself freedom of image by letting my subconscious lead the way and occasionally anchoring myself to recognisable shapes.
The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ by Georgina Houghton
Whilst in the studio over the weekend I also spent some time making a pyramid with Jarvis: to house a mummy he had constructed from a charity shop in Bridport. In the spirit of Paleoart I included an Egyptian pyramid into the background and the mystic eye again suggesting presence of the witch.
Pyramid and Egyptian tomb by Jarvis
On this evening we met Anna and her good friend Clare at Bridport Arts Centre and I had the pleasure of discussing my work. This was actually really helpful in solidifying some ideas and moving forward into the second half of our stay.
On Wednesday we went to the Lyme Regis Museum which has a new Mary Anning wing. This was thrilling for myself and Jarvis (unfortunately it does not house the icythysaurus found by Mary and her brother in 1811, this is housed at The Natural History museum in London). Never the less Lyme Regis Museum has a great collection including some other icythysaurus found at Lyme Regis more recently in time. We also looked for fossils at the beach but unfortunately did not find any more icythysaurus or pterodactyl (imagine!) – Mary Anning found at least one pterodactyl in her lifetime!
Architectural fragments at Hooke Park
Hooke park is a truly magical place – The next day I took the boys for a picnic and took as many photographs of them as possible in the dramatic backdrop of dark pine forestry and architectural scatterings. I will most possibly use these photos as reference for years to come. We also visited Mangerton mill on the way back, which I wholey recommend as the sculptural abundance afforded by all the old machinery in the upper floor of the triangular rafters (in fact a bit like an Egyptian tomb!) makes a perfect partner to the outdoor setting of Hooke. In Mangerton everything was of a greyish rustic bronze colour which made statuesque form by light streaming into the dark prism and atmospheric cob webs with the sound of gushing water, just brilliant!
Mangerton Mills Museum
On Friday I took the boys to Tank World, which I had been looking forward to for months! It was a long journey and pretty tiring but worth it. We saw tanks in action and as many tanks as you could ever hope to see! The highlights for me where the tank by Michael Angelo.
Model of tank by Michael Angelo
The model makers miniature worlds – really they were so incredible and detailed, just amazing!!
The room of tiger tanks. These tanks seemed even more intimidating than most others, maybe it was the white room and the size of them? Again the sculptural form – quite breathtaking.
The tank road track display – I hadn’t quite appreciated the influence tanks had on the appearance and mobility of the Daleks of Doctor Who fame.
Finally the world war two trenches, a very detailed and event inspiring creation of conditions encountered by soldiers in this war. The children loved it.
for images of Tank World go to
At the weekend following we had some friends join us -my good friends Kate and Dave and their daughter Winnie. We went to Eype beach and on a short hike to Hooke park to play basket ball at the front of the college and finished with a shared meal with Anna and family – lovely!
On Monday I returned to my drawings. I had an urge to make a self portrait and stick gravestones into my cheek bones as if wafers in ice cream.
Research pose for Self Portrait
How do we wear our histories and futures – I thought my hair should be like a big ice cream cracking open in parts to reveal medieval English churches in its wake. As refered to in the image of automatic writing at the start of this post; I was keen to involve gravestones to represent the recent dead, stegosaurus fins to represent the distant dead and ice cream to celebrate the living and future dead.
St Mary the Virgin Church in Powerstock
I always like to visit the local church when travelling in the UK. They are such resonating places and the St Mary the Virgin Church in Powerstock did not disappoint.
The gravestones are neat in rows and tilt either way because of subsiding earth, The grass was long and wild and all in all lent to a sense of abandonment, of something present, but that of a monument to the past, a reminder of past lives.
Bodies just under our feet. Time passing downwards through strata, measurements of age in geology and fossils.
Self Portrait with extra sprinkles
The last of my drawing’s is taken from photos taken at Hooke park of Vince and Jarvis climbing on the architectural fragments and buildings.
I feel that this triptych goes back to a common theme that reoccurs in my work which is the puppet and puppet master. The yellow hand beckons the child and there is another child climbing up a ladder, maybe through strata, or maybe into the next life? Or perhaps lead into war by a puppet master dictator?!!
This idea of puppet and master relates to my interests in war stories as well as the family. Dictators direct from a distance and control the lives and death of people. The family is controlled or guided by the parents, but often is the case that children control their parent to a greater or lesser extent, the dynamic is very complicated within the family, as is the dynamic of global conflict.
The Hooded Child
In this drawing I feature the hooded children. My children are often hooded so I appropriate these drawings from life. Whilst at The Mothership it became routine to watch some star wars on DVD in the afternoon. In the world of star wars I realised characters often wear hoods Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Princess Leah. The hoodies are most similar to monks robes especially as the main characters wearing robes are Jedi’s which is equivalent to the highest order of holy person in Star Wars aka the Jedi Knight.
Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi
As I am interested in Pagan religion and folk customs I like to include symbolic dress codes such as the witches hat, and the hooded figure, which I hope alludes to religious ambiguity of a cult like nature and pier group mentality.
My drawings are influenced by the stuff of religious wars, family dis-harmony, bonds of love and hate, star wars, world war 2 as well as featuring Paleoart elements and ice cream: very much a melting pot of ideas over years of contemplation. When I first applied to The Mothership residency this year I spoke about how I currently draw my children. Approximately 20 years ago when studying an MA in printmaking at The Royal College I drew myself from photographs as a child. Therefore there is something of a full circle in my development of ideas and linking elements (such as what ice cream is to a child and what ice cream is to an adult). To coin a phrase from star wars the circle is now complete – but really these drawings have only just begun!!
This was the last of the work I made – I was really pleased with our output and research for new work which we both gathered. The Mothership is a really wonderful place and we hope to return at some point in the future, thanks you to Ann and the girls – we loved it!