When we were approached by the popular BBC1 TV programme ‘Countryfile’ we were slightly concerned if it was what we wanted, about how we might come over and how the programme may represent us. But as ‘Counrtyfile’ is watched by an average 5.5 million viewers, we felt that even if a small percentage were to decide to take a more pro-active interest in valuing the countryside, adding to their visual appreciation of the landscape, it would be worth it.
Our idea, following initial discussions with the Director Mark Scott and Researcher Leila Finikarides, we hoped to engage the Presenter Ellie Harrison, getting her involved in practical activities rather than simply observing.
Our exercises and processes are often designed to slow down or to re-programme the act of viewing and to confront some of the common expectations about the creative activity. Certainly something a little out of the ordinary for most people (including TV presenters) and so we were slightly concerned to get a positive response from Ellie.
‘Drawing without looking’ is a standard art school method to encourage the viewer to look and see rather than glance; to make links between hand and eye and to extend concentration on the subject rather than the resulting drawing. Contradicting the usual way of working and desire for perfection, the drawing itself is never expected to be a masterwork and is secondary to the process of looking.
Pinhole photography again contradicts the expectation that images should be taken quickly and result in sharp images. A large format camera breaks the photographer’s ability to work without considering the final result. Using film rather than digital media gives the whole process an air of mystery and slight unpredictability.
The images that we asked Ellie to make were slightly different from the norm. Breaking from the tradition of landscape photographs we wanted her to experience another form of image making. Taken on her mobile, they were of the compass points; North, East, South and West – quite randomly composed. We then brought them together as a composite, sometimes duplicating and enhancing each image, combining the four images to make one.
‘Slow Walking‘ is our mindful way of bringing the artist into the present – helping them to tune into the landscape; it’s sights, sounds and smells. In common with so many, artists also share the urge to complete things rapidly. In some cases this works in their favour. However, by slowing down our most basic form of motion, we confront ourselves in a new way, experiencing our footsteps on uneven soil, listening to the grass, sensing the wind, feeling our breath.
Finally, the use of non-standard ways of working provokes the artist into working differently. In the case of ‘Long charcoal’ – drawing with a 6 foot length of bamboo with a piece of charcoal taped to the end – we are denied the ability to include detail – marks may become uncontrollable and spontaneous – the drawing gives however an atmosphere and suggestion of subject, rather than specifying it.
We hope you were able to view the programme and enjoyed the content. We had hoped to be able to emphasise our wish to help extend people’s (artists and non-artists) appreciation of the visual and aesthetic value of landscape to our general well-being but in such a short section, we realise condensing this would have presented considerable production difficulties for the programme’s format.
If you missed the programme, it’s available for a short while on the BBC iPlayer
Some of the work created on the Countryfile walk is contained here in a gallery yet to be completed
and you can see some of the work produced by Richard Keating with this amazing ‘Drawing Machine’