My first couple of days were spent mostly indoors, in part, due to storm Babet, but also in part overwhelmed by the beauty and magic of the landscape I had just arrived in and, despite my plans, feeling like I didn’t know where to begin now that I was actually here! I sat at my laptop doing ‘research on the area’, which didn’t get me very far…
On my second day, the storm still hitting, I headed out into the dusk and walked along the estuary bed at low tide. I walked up to the base of Barmouth Bridge, the wind howling through the structure. I stepped through, and felt an overwhelming sense of stepping through a threshold, into a different space. The illuminated pools of water and sand blowing across the surface of the estuary created an otherworldly feeling - there was no one to be seen, only lights twinkling in the distance, and no ones foot steps but mine.
This walk changed my approach and during my walks and cycle rides, I began observing the layers of historical infrastructure and engineering. I thought about the concept of maintenance in a landscape as ancient, vast and wild as the Mawddach Estuary, and how these layers of infrastructure are slowly but surely being permeated and reclaimed by the environment.
The days that followed were immensely freeing and inspiring. I tend to get bogged down by the sense that my artwork has to be functional in some way. Whilst at Mawddach, I felt able to play and experiment purely for the pleasure and intrigue of it. I gathered materials from the landscape- sheep’s wool, reeds, bailer twine, silt, grasses - and set to in the studio. I don’t usually work on paper, but being surrounded by such beautiful artworks, it was hard not to be inspired to do so, and I began painting and mark making with silt and DIY inks. Working with craft and textile led processes, I then began to make purposefully delicate structures and grids, inspired by what I had been observing, to explore different scales of permanence and permeability.
I spent my second week working outside, something I’ve never done before but dreamed of often. In collaboration with the landscape, I invited the elemental shifts - the tides, the weather, the light - to interact with my work. I became really attached to a little cove to the west of the crescent and spent each day ankle and wrist deep in silt. I started with a subtle act of repair on a Victorian slate wall, then I tracked the movement of streams with slate and silt ‘drawings’, allowed the steady creep of the tide to wash over grids and compositions, and floated delicate pieces out to sea with the wind and tide. Photography became really important during this process, capturing moments of transition, and being the only record of the work - everything I made during my stay was left to melt back into the landscape, or deconstructed and given back to it.
I felt completely absorbed by the environment during these days, my senses beginning to attune to it’s many languages. I’ve only just scratched the surface of this way of working, and I’m excited to see how and where it develops.
Thank you Scarlett and Jake for the wonderfully freeing opportunity to play on the shores of the Mawddach!