By Kathy Beckett our 2016 John Muir Artist in Residence.
No. 1 | Mapping Landscapes
The sea carries a comforting texture in it’s breeze. Volcanic rock spews dramatically from the still waves, giving a sense of peace. Bright lichens, twisted nets stacked up on the shore and pollen covered buds hint at what’s to come…
In excitement, all are holding a kind of contained energy that looks forward to it’s bursting.
Gazing over press copy, proposals, and notes from conversations, I map in detail my understanding of the John Muir Artist Residency commission. ‘Garden Lane’, the project I’ll be undertaking during this residency, has a diverse set of components all of which in these early stages, I am hoping I can make space for. Its focus is to connect the local community with the development of potential environmental arts pieces that might be installed at The Ridge’s Backlands Regeneration project.
I begin this work with these lines of enquiry:
What are the needs of the project partners and the local residents?
What is already happening in the area and on site?
How can people feel connected to the art works which might be installed ?
How do I balance nourishing my own creative practice, while facilitating others to explore theirs?
The questions hold me in curiosity while I draw, seemingly meaninglessly. They play a balancing act, a dance in constant negotiation that I’ll continue to be moved through as my practice grows.
The project is just a little more spacious than my last, meaning I can sink into the requirements alongside artistically connecting with the physical and metaphorical landscape on my own terms before public engagement begins.
Roaming the coastline for glimpses of fascinating geology I enjoy the rich Dunbar red and undulating patterns which have formed from the Earth. A mile takes two hours as I photograph in detail.
I spend my first days mixing time outside in exploration full of awe, alongside re-arranging programme structures and emails back in forth in planning. I actively try not to form too many of my own ideas for what ‘Garden Lane’ might become before I meet more local people and, instead focus on developing a visual language that stems from my connection to the natural surroundings.
Enthusiastic conversations with Gardeners at the Backlands invite me to indulgently scribble sketches on to paper and I promise myself that I am not attached to these ideas.
I sit under a balcony on East Beach sheltering from the misted drops, looking out into a dreich scene and contemplate my learnings. I can see clarity emerge slowly and I trust that soon I’ll know how to respond and be able to create a clear plan for public engagement to help collect ideas from and, generate a sensitivity to the people here.
The first activity will be on 23rd April in celebration of John Muir’s birthday for which I’m currently renovating a bicycle trailer, passed on from a friend. It will house a collection of plants to stimulate conversation and collect some initial ideas for ‘Garden Lane’. Cycling between the High Street and East Beach with this traveling plant menagerie, I hope to start to learn from the people of Dunbar how art can play a part in the Backlands regeneration project.
All images copyright of Kathy Beckett 2016