Turner and the Tyne

After Joseph Mallord William Turner
Prudhoe Castle, Northumberland 1828

The etching, from Turner’s own painting and drawings was part of a series,  called Picturesque Views commissioned by publishers and financiers.

‘Although Picturesque Views in England and Wales was not a commercial success, today the series is regarded as one of the finest and as one of the most important made from Turner’s work. Andrew Wilton has described the subjects ‘as modern “history pictures” in which the common man is the hero’ (introduction to Shanes 1979), and certainly it is the relationship of man to the landscape which is the series’ constant theme. Unlike previous engraved series, Turner himself selected the subjects, which fall into a wide range of categories covering almost every aspect of his work as a landscape painter – coastal subjects, urban and industrial views, English pastoral scenes, and views of cathedrals and abbeys. Many of the subjects were adapted from extant sketches or watercolours, although thirteen were based on new material gathered by him on a tour to the Midlands in 1830 undertaken especially for the project. In the variety and richness of its subject matter, and in the breadth and universality of its vision, Picturesque Views in England and Wales surpasses all the other series in which Turner had hitherto been involved. And the engravings are some of the most sophisticated and accomplished ever made after his designs.’

from: Tate website: Online Catalogue entry.




Bywell Woods shoot

Looking for two more of Carmichael’s views of the Tyne – this time around the bend of the river at Bywell.  I subsequently got lost in the woods with the dogs and ended up looking for views from the hillside across to Bywell and the river Tyne.  The light in woods was extraordinary and the strange managed landscape was dark and shadowed, emphasised by the bright autumn sun, low in the sky. A strange aluminium crucifix with the word ‘France’ – an artwork? a memorial? who put that there?



Drawing Machines at Queen’s Hall

Year 12 students work with visiting artist Jenny Purrett to design and make drawing machines inspired by Tanguly and others including Ted Lawrenson


They design drawing machines on the first day and then put them into practice with younger visitors to the Queens Hall Art Gallery in Hexham.

Above: Workshop in progress with older and younger young people interacting with their drawing machines


Jenny demonstrates the spinners


a drawing machine in action


finished works

NEO Terra: first sighting

Exciting exhibition in Lerwick by friend and colleague Julia Barton at the end of a long and dedicated research process into the effects of plastic on  our landscape, seascape and our connection with our environment.   Link below to her blog posts.

The animation looks very interesting……..

cord-island‘The first sighting of the exhibition NEO Terra, an archipelago of  islands  was seen on Saturday at Da Gadderie, Lerwick,  by an inquisitive, thoughtful and appreciative audience. These first shots…’

Source: NEO Terra: first sighting

Nancy Holt – Wistman’s wood

nancy-holt-trailmakers-7_0Nancy Holt Trailmakers (7) 1969
Series of twenty inkjet prints on archival rag paper

Nancy Holt’s expedition with Robert Smithson to the UK in 1969 was seen as private to their development when Holt looked back on the experience in an interview with Tate magazine at the time of her retrospective exhibition at the Haunch of Venison gallery in London in 2012.  The relationship between her land art and her photography is brought together in the works made during this visit, including her beautiful series ‘Trailmakers’ a set of photos recording a route through a landscape.

Nancy Holt in Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, photographed by Robert Smithson 1969

Robert Smithson in Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, photographed by Nancy Holt 1969

This work was co-incidental with a discovery in Wistman’s wood of an archetype of ancient woodland – it led to two fine portraits and her first ‘buried poem’.  The idea of the buried poem, the words unspoken and personal to a particular individual, recorded photographically and left as a thought in our heads, a series of questions – was that poem ever spoken or read? Is it still there – This is very gripping and immediately made me want to go and visit the wood.

‘Nancy Holt
We went to Dartmoor National Park, where I made several works, including the series of photographs Trail Markers. ………….. At one point we reached Wistman’s Wood, an ancient woodland of stunted oaks. I believe the name Wistman originated from the dialect “Wisht”, meaning eerie, haunted or enchanted. (By the way, ‘Holt’ in old English means ‘a wood’.) I remember that the ground was strewn with large rocks covered with many different types of mosses and lichens, out of which arose these strange twisted trees. We were stunned by this place. I did my first Buried Poem #1 (for Robert Smithson) piece there. A site evokes a person, and I bury a poem for that person and later the person a booklet including maps, detailed directions and a list of equipment (such as a compass and shovel) in order to find it. To me, Wistman’s Wood conjured up Bob’s persona in a striking way…’


Wistman’s Wood 1969 – Site of buried poem #1 (for Robert Smithson) by Nancy Holt


Above: Hydra’s head (1974) concrete, water, earth. Niagara River, Lewiston, New York by Nancy Holt

Douglas Fogle writes:

‘….in Hydra’s Head (1974), a site specific installation of of round concrete tubes sunk into the ground and filled with water. Installed into the banks of the Niagara River in Lewiston, New York, this series of three foot deep concrete pools are arranged in the vague shape of the constellation Hydra.  Inspired by the saying of the Seneca Indians of New York that ‘pools of water are the eyes of the earth,’ `Hydra’s Head becomes a kind of geo-camera that reflects the image of the cosmos, as the sun, the moon, and the stars find themselves reflected in the surface of these watery pools which themselves act as a set of primordial optical lenses’

This homage to water as light transmitter and to the cultural position of water in the landscape is a key one.  It does make me want to make something next time I am in the woods, to place water as a reflector into different environments.


Above: From Western Graveyards (1968) by Nancy Holt

In a similar way the western graveyards records the isolation of space in a cultural landscape, the desire of all of us to claim or plot and thereby own or more spiritually, become part of the landscape.


Four film stills from Nancy Holt’s Pine Barrens 1975

I need to watch the moving image work of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson

Nancy Holt
Bob researched in advance some of the places he wanted to explore. At the time we were both interested in the ideas about the Picturesque put forward by the Reverend William Gilpin, as well as Uvedale Price’s Essay on the Picturesque 1794. Price, like Capability Brown, understood how to work with the landscape – to work as nature’s agent.’

The connection with the picturesque is made explicit by Nancy Holt. The picturesque and the modern sensibility is another place to explore.


Fogle, D in Tufnel, B. (2012) Nancy Holt Photoworks London: Haunch of Venison

Grant, S. and Holt, N. (2012) Notes from an ancient island. Tate Etc. Available [online]

Road Trip Darkroom at Featherstone Castle

At a weekend residential at Featherstone Castle I set up an open access Dark room for the adult participants top access and use – calling this a ‘Road Trip Darkroom’

First issue to deal with was making the room dark and creating a reasonably safe workstation to allow some work to be made.

I had deliberately not created a fully formed workshop – lets all do the same thing…but tried to suggest diffrent ideas.  I did point some participants towards ‘making negatives’ out of selotape and sampling textures and paint peeling from the old castle:

Above:Sellotape negatives and other ‘photogram based’ ideas

Above: When participants take over the workshop – making chemigrams with jam and lemon curd….

Processed with Snapseed.
Ghost – made with a paper negative on tracing paper

Featherstone Erosion


At Featherstone castle, the impact of the South Tyne’s erosion was highly visible.  I asked passers by if this was a result of ;last autumn’s floods, the response was that this was a result of long term eating of the banks by a change of river course.  The action was pulling the road to the old prisoner of war camp into the river, wiping history and attacking the simple infrastructure – the cables and the drain covers.   featherstone-erosion-12

featherstone – landscape as a verb

‘As W.J.T Mitchell suggested, we might think instead of landscape not as a noun, but a verb.

I like this, to think of landscape in an active, relational sense, as the result of an over-layering of ways of life and forms of habitation resulting in endlessly shifting, not fixed identities of place.

This way of thinking about landscape encourages more of an affinity with disciplines of human and cultural geography, of archaeology and social anthropology.

And so in this way this particular northern Borders cultural landscape might be thought of as a palimpsest or an archive of traces and deposits of representation, engagements and interactions, all of which produce – or perform – a particular sense of place. A borderland place.’

A quote from a talk given by Ysanne Holt, recorded in RECREATION a blog describing a creative retreat at Featherstone Castle.

The image is a print by William J Miller after a painting by  Edward Swinburne.