I’ve been printing short randomised parts from my notebook onto small mixed-media photos and watercolour paintings, to make pieces of work in response to walking through the winter months at the mountain at dusk.
In order to do it, I’ve been working on improving my screen printing skills, and finding a good way to set up so that I can print accuately, and very clearly, but with slight faintness, and disappearing out in places. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve managed to make it work using small screens on a board on the kitchen table, although I still can’t exactly say how to make the images disappear at the edges. I am starting to suspect that it partly has to do with putting packing underneath, and partly has to do with using old pots of ink, and letting the screen dry out a little, not something that is normally advised.
I went out again to the mountain this evening. I realised that the pure consistency of showing up there, day after day, is in itself valuable, and worth at least as much as anything else that I do.
Although the grasses, reeds and thorn trees are still sparse and dry after the cold, there has been a gradual change, a lifting of the winter. There is a smell of spring and of soil. Today I lay down on a mossy hummock and listened to the birds in the thickets.
I am fascinated by the photos that I take as the light is falling away and things are disappearing, and I sent off today for many of my mountain photos of the last few months to be printed, to try to use them with the small drawings and paintings that I am making.
These ones seem like too much sweetness, but this is pretty close to what I saw – apart from some strange effects of the camera, and apart from the way that the sky goes right over and all the way around…
I’ve brought my mountain notebook in from the pocket of the car door, trying to make sense of the evening visits I’ve been making, maybe trying to find a pattern. I’m going to sort through, put the entries next to the photos and videos that I’ve made, see if anything starts to emerge.
On Wednesday evening I videoed a grimy sunset. It lasted longer than I expected. I balanced my phone on top of a stone at the centre of the bronze age burial circle close to the trig point, and which seemed to face into the sunset. All around me was sky and air and Westerly wind, too much of it that evening. I cowered behind the stone and forced myself to watch the sun slip right down to nothing, and meanwhile the wind numbed my exposed fingers to the bones.
I wrote quite a bit in my notebook back in the car, including that I saw
“clouds pillowing and piled up high, salmon and gold, south leaning. Distances disappearing out to smeary grey. Dirty sun set over the sea, slipping into fog.”
This evening it was warmer, soft rain came after the sunset. I wrote in my notebook
“The sea a shell bright line, pink and soft. Light filling the hollows of the land… Afterwards a soft rain, not cold. Two ravens on the wires.”
I went to the same stone circle, this time with a compass app installed on my phone (it didn’t seem very convincing). I found that the central stone, and also a large single standing stone further down are both aligned roughly the same, one ‘facing’ and one ‘pointing’ towards Caldey Island, just South of West.
(Or the first stone could be facing North of East, but the second stone is far below the brow of the hill, and in a shallow West-facing valley; so if its facing anywhere, it can only be to the South West).
I’d like to guess that the two stones are aligned the same, and for a reason, possibly to point to Caldey, or maybe to align with the direction of the sunset at the winter solstice, which I think might be that way. But I’ll have to get a better compass and consult with an astronomer, or otherwise wait at least eleven months to check, since I did not do it this year. I can at least say that there was no sunset this year at the solstice, only grey misty cloud and according to my mountain notebook:
“grey-white noise, indistinctness. All quiet and softened in, retreating.”
I have been thinking that I’ll draw the sky. Somehow. Or maybe not draw, but at least work with. Start from a feeling of immersion. My main problem : that drawing immersion in sky is a crazy and difficult job, and I don’t know how.
I made an earth drawing instead today – from a video of the mountain. I’d taken the video last night on the way home, just after what would have been sunset, but since it was a cloudy and gloomy evening there was no colour, little light. The drawing needs more work – for me to approach closer to the feeling of last night, and to the evidence of the video. I need to make it fuzzier, less distinct; have less contrast, less interest, less resemblance.
The video is strange and obscure, technically dreadful. I think that what interests me so much about it is just that, its poor quality. I’ve found the outside boundary of the technology, and then crossed over it. The light levels have gone down beyond my camera’s processing capacity – it’s having a breakdown, it can’t find this in its programming, its changing its mind every half a second – what is air and what is objects, what is the appropriate focal distance, what is the space of the mountain? Things recede and return, in and out of focus, all is flattened and fuzzy. Our eyes break down at that light level too, we can’t trust what we see. But we’re better adapted than our phones – we still perceive and still keep some clarity; still retain something of three-dimensionality, the volume of the space, enough to navigate through it.
To return to my idea of drawing immersion in sky, my drawing is a drawing of a place that, because of its shape, is basically all round sky. So I think I can call it an atomosphere drawing, if not a sky drawing.
Arriving at Mynydd Llangyndeyrn at quarter past four, and walking the short way up, past the stone circle and the trig point, circling back round. A clear sky and cold today. These photos taken using my mobile phone, near the top. Walking down in the darkening.
It is possible too, in the middle of all manner of things, to look outward or upward, for no particular reason, and to notice that the sky is momentarily on fire – and to be immersed in beauty, and for the heart to be much lighter.