The Lady of the Woods

“I pass forth into light – I find myself beneath a weeping birch – most beautiful of forest trees, the Lady of the Woods.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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The common birch – Betula pendula – has always been one of my favourite trees. It is a pioneer tree and 18000 years ago after the last Ice Age, it was this cold tolerant  species that spread across the tundra establishing the earliest forests. Great clouds of fine seeds were blown by the wind and seedlings took hold and colonised the land as the ice retreated.

Birch is the main pioneer species that has established within the disused Mendip Quarries. The inner toughness of Birch is in stark contrast to its delicate twiggy form and its purple twigs contrast with its white bark. The trees have colonised at all levels of the quarry sides – on seemingly impossible tiny ledges where there is the beginnings of soil formation or cracks in the rock where water drains down. They are survivors!

I have started working on my first piece of work for the exhibition at Black Swan Arts in October. It is influenced by this layering of rock/geology and consequent layering of the birch colonising; the visual contrast between purple and white (in winter); the use of birch and hazel (the two pioneers).

Caroline Sharp 30/04/2015

caroline sharp cliffbirch 1caroline sharp birch hanging

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PERICLES vaulted the PERICLINE

Talker to my brother in law – a geologist – yesterday whilst out on a bike ride (interrupted to drop in to their flat)(thanks for the sherry and crisps! That’s what I call ‘a bike ride’!). He said ‘PERICLINE’ was a word. Indeed it is:

The Mendips are an example of anticlinal folds, recognised on geological maps by a concentric outcrop pattern with the oldest rocks at the core. The distinctively shaped variety of anticline that forms each of the Mendip Hills is known as a pericline.

So that’s it: Syncline / Anticline / Pericline

More: BGS

Ralph Hoyte  27/4/15

A TRIPTYCH: SYNCLINE – ANTICLINE – PROCLINE

[Ralph Hoyte posts] I am a Bristol-based poet, writer and producer of GPS-triggered locative media. I deal in the live voice – mine, or multi-voice set-ups, set, er, somewhere, somehow. I write, sometimes, ‘poetry’ (whatever that is), more often, ‘poem-scripts’, often heavily research/historically/cultural-historically-based. I deliver them  live, or through ‘locative media for the smartphone’, or through any other means to hand (such as Raspberry Pi powered sculptures responding to user input through touch or light). I often work closely with Phill Phelps, coder and audio-engineer, on the  technical aspects of such projects.

For step in stone I am working on a triptych of sound interventions which all feed off the same poemscript; SYNCLINE , ANTICLINE, AND PROCLINE.

SYNCLINE

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come in numero 82 your time is up: the different bits of the autonomous megaphone assemblage

The poemscript is recorded (2 or 3 voices, probably my voice and 1 or 2 synthesized voices), placed on an SD card inserted into a mini-mp3 player circuit board, played back through a megaphone (it’s waterproof), whole thing driven by, essentially, a motorbike battery. There are 5 or 6 such autonomous assemblages. They are hung off the edges of the cliffs in ‘The Amphitheatre’. Each unit has a different ‘personality’. The SD card is loaded with poemtext, possibly ambient, and … silence. At any one time you get poemtext, ambient, or silence. Six of these doing that, each with its different personality, creates the soundwalk as you perambulate around the floor of the Amphitheatre (keeping well away from the walls!). I like serendipity. There will also be a nightwalk.

Fairy Cave Quarry - speaker locations general 1

‘The Amphitheatre’ at Fairy Cave Quarryquarry - ampitheatre

 

 

 

 

 

ANTICLINEWestdown map

A GPS-triggered soundwalk for the smartphone:  ‘pools of sound’ are virtually placed along the ‘figure-of-eight’ walk around Westdown Quarry (think that man on the TV add who stumbled across a red circle on the ground: when he stepped into it, he heard music, when he stepped out of it, it stopped. Remove the red circle. That’s it)   You download the app, go to Westdown and turn it on. When your phone encounters a pool of sound you’ll hear the audio for that ‘virtual red circle’ (and, no, it doesn’t need a network signal). Of course, it’s  more elaborate than that ‘red circle’ scenario: you can make the audio in the soundpools do different things; you can also, interestingly, ‘stack-up’ the soundpools, or overlap them. Who knows what happens when you overlayer 3 zones?

PROCLINE

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‘A haptic audio-device’ for the Canal & Rivers Trust

For starters, the word ‘procline’ doesn’t really exist (see, WordPress underlined it in red. It doesn’t exist), and, if it did, it’s not, unlike ‘syncline’ and ‘anticline’, a geological word. Never mind. Maybe I’ll rename them ‘syncline’, ‘synform’ and ‘syntax’. Whatever it’s called, PROCLINE is  going to be a gallery-piece consisting of (probably) a geological specimen drawer thing with 3 drawers. When you pull out Drawer 1,  audio channel 1 is activated; ditto 2, ditto 3. What you hear of the common poemscript depends on how many drawers you’ve pulled out/pushed back in, and in what order. To add another layer of serendipity,we may programme it so  the audio-files associated with each drawer are chosen by the mini-computer driving the whole thing. In the drawers may be … stuff, resonating with the quarries. So it’s visual and tactile and user-directed.

 

Photoshoot at Asham/Westdown

Some of the team at Westdown

We had another photoshoot/research session – this time at Asham/Westdown quarry.   Artists Suzie Gutteridge, Christina White,  Duncan Elliott, Bronwen Bradshaw, Fiona Campbell and Steering Group member Nick Weaver met up with our filmmaker Jack Offord and photographer Duncan Simey to do a recce, film and photograph some of our trial pieces in the quarry setting.  Jack Offord is making our documentary film, so has been interviewing some of us.

It was a valuable exercise in working out logistics.  My work has been progressing slowly and I brought along part of it – already a heavy, awkward load to carry.  In my studio and garden it appears enormous, it filled the back of my truck with bits sticking out beyond the truck tail gate, but once we reached the quarry it seemed to shrink somewhat against the vast backdrop!  So I  plan to add more to this installation.. if I have the time…

It’s always great meeting up with the rest of the team, especially on site.  Ideas and enthusiasm rub off, working relationships and new collaborations are developing and I think a natural resonance between our work is being forged.

Thanks again to Duncan Simey for taking these great images:

Suzie transporting her rocks (and some of Fiona's tentacles)

Christina capturing the long wall Bronwen likes the walls

Another wall or plinth

Moss growing

Carrying the monster Heavy load, long walk - Nick and Fiona carting monster piece

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Bronwen's hand-made sketchbook Bronwen sketching

Suzie setting up rock/felt pieces Suzie's trial felt/rock pieces Suzie's trial felt/rock piece

Crinoid fossils

Nick Weaver with catkins

Setting up for photoshoot (work in progress) My work in progress - sea creature/tumbleweed-inspired

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Christina Christina at work Bronwen's found her site Christina and Bronwen

Loaded back on the truck

For a full range of photoshoot images, check out Duncan Simey’s website:

Fiona Campbell 19/4/15

An abundance of stones

An abundance of stones, this time at Westdown Quarry, means there is always somewhere to put things.

Fiona's Sculpture in Progress takes a rest

Fiona’s sculpture in progress takes a rest

It got quite warm so coats were abandonned

It got quite warm so coats were abandoned…

...cardigans (and a mollusc?)

…a cardigan (and a mollusc?)

...drawing materials

My sketching table

These creatures

These creatures have been here quite a long time,

whereas this one is a lot more recent

whereas this is a lot more recent

This one didn't need a stone

and this one didn’t need (fell off?) a stone.

Is this really going to work?

Is this really going to work?

And finally, Jack takes a break from filming

And finally, Jack takes a break

Bronwen Bradshaw, 17.4.2015

Photoshoot at Fairy Cave

A few of us met at Fairy Cave on Thursday for a photoshoot, equipment test and H&S walkabout with Martin Grass from Fairy Cave committee.  We had a glorious day of sunshine.  This had also brought rock climbers, who were already up rock faces in the quarry, when we arrived.  One of them – Terry Gifford – happened to have supported us via IdeasTap crowd funding, so it was a lovely surprise to meet him there!

Images below of: Tessa Farmer, Christina White, Fiona Campbell, Ralph Hoyte, Phill Phelps (sound engineer), Jack Offord (filmmaker), Martin Grass and Terry Gifford.  Photographs courtesy of Duncan Simey.  For more selection visit: www.wild-landscapes.co.uk

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Fiona and Tessa Tessa Tessa and Christina Fiona, Martin, Ralph, Phill 20150409-130230-I39A7726 20150409-133117-DSCF3950 Terry, Martin, Tessa Ralph Hoyte Fiona Campbell Tessa setting up work for photoshoot 20150409-135549-I39A7786 20150409-135827-I39A7789 Tessa Farmer Tufa Fairies - Tessa Farmer Jack and Tessa 20150409-141710-I39A7810 20150409-141812-I39A7815 Ralph

We discovered that Fairy Cave is not only an area of SSSI for its renowned caves, but is also designated as SAC (a Europe-wide status) for its rare abundance of greater horseshoe bats – most evident in the winter months. Some caves were newly exposed through quarrying, although one was sadly removed.  When standing in parts of Fairy Cave quarry, we are standing in what was a vast ancient cave.

Fiona Campbell  12/4/15

Age of Crinoids

step in stone has been totally absorbing me – not only in my role as curator and manager of the project, but also as a featured artist.

Having always been interested in the way life forms so often repeat themselves throughout the macro and micro natural world, from tiny microbes to nervous and planetary systems, I was interested to recently discover the term ‘convergent evolution’.  This describes the independent evolution of similar features in different species – structures that have a similar form or function.  The ability, over time, of insects, birds, reptiles and some mammals to fly is one example.  David Attenborough’s “Conquest of the Skies” series illustrates this beautifully.

Rugose Coral sketchRugose Coral fossilErnst Haeckel's illustration of Rugose Coral

Delving into the quarries theme for the project, I’ve learnt that the earlier part of the Carboniferous period (Mississipian) has been coined the Age of Crinoids.  Locally, in the Mendips, the most dominant rock is carboniferous limestone, which is full of fossiled skeletons, particularly crinoids (sea lilies) and corals (e.g. rugose).  Both marine creatures, they are from completely different families, yet have strong similarities, as do diatoms (marine micro-organisms). Over 350 million years ago the Mendips were submerged under a warm, swampy sea, the Mendip Hills hadn’t yet formed into a range of mountains – now substantially eroded back –  and animal life comprised mainly of primitive reptiles, giant insects like dragonflies the size of seagulls, and a myriad of sea creatures such as echinoderms and corals.  Crinoids were abundant in thousands of varieties, showing huge morphological diversity.  These fascinating ancient creatures look like exotic plant forms and many varieties still exist today.  They cling to the bottom of the sea bed by long spiny stems, others are unstalked, have tentacle legs or long arms which enable them to drag themeselves along.

Crinoid and Coral sketchesIMG_9949

It’s a strange concept that old seabeds are often now vertical.  Fossils found in limestone rocks exposed in the quarries brings into question our origin, distant past and future.  Captivated, I have been imagining these other worlds.  My step in stone work is inspired by crinoids and other similar forms as visual metaphors of complex primal systems in nature, universal forms which echo others, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Tumbleweed/neuron/crinoid ideaTentacles

Ideas include tumbleweed-like spheres with branching ‘cirri’ (tentacles, tendrils, hairy filaments..) – examples of fractal geometry.

Each time I visit the quarries I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they represent: the geology; how far back time goes; what extraordinary life forms exist now and in the past; how incredibly tenacious nature is; how we are all linked; how insignificant we are as individuals in the greater scheme, yet how we each impact on everything around us…

Quarry at Stoke St. MichaelScarlett Elf Cup fungi

Last week Nick Weaver and I set up a stand for step in stone at Frome Town Council’s AGM.  Having been funded by them we were asked to present our project to attendees.  It was a full house – the energy in Frome seems infectious!  This Wednesday (8th April) I’ll be taking part as a speaker in a public discussion at Wells Museum about Public Art (7.30pm if you’re interested in coming!).  I will be showing our step in stone film and discussing the project.

Fiona Campbell  7/4/15