Christmas, it’s finally over, the purists among you will know that the season of Christmas runs right through to Candlemas on 2nd February. These days most people are glad to pack Christmas away at New Year whilst the more faithful among us can just about hang on the twelve days until Epiphany. This year however I was rather pleased to capitalise on the Orthodox Christmas which fell on 7th January. It was the day of the assessment of my off-site art project.
This past semester I have been part of a small group from Wolverhampton Art School tasked with the project of creating a pop-up art exhibition at Shoal Hill on Cannock Chase. An off-site project means working away from the studio and creating art in response to the allotted location. I chose to be part of a group that would be thinking about Land Art. Land Art is an artistic discipline where art is created in a landscape using the resources that are found there or by creating art that is inspired by the context. If you google Richard Long or Andy Goldsworthy two UK land artists, you will find some stunning images.
When discussing this notion on a late September sunny day, making art on Cannock Chase sounds idyllic and one or two visits there in the autumn sunshine to gain inspiration sealed it. However, like all good ideas there comes a day of reckoning and reality! The prospect of creating something aesthetic on a bleak January afternoon was daunting.
I had the idea of creating a Labyrinth that I would then walk and offer as a piece of ‘Performance Art’. Yes, art is much more than paining these days. Labyrinths have held an appeal for me for a while now, but to really get the experience of a Labyrinth you must walk it and not just look at it. The idea is that one enters the Labyrinth walk with an open mind allowing oneself to become aware of the inner world whilst walking in the outdoors though Labyrinths can be indoors too. The most famous Labyrinth is the one at Chartres Cathedral in France, a medieval Labyrinth that historically formed the beginning or the end of a pilgrimage.
So, armed with sacks of grit which had a golden hue (more seasonal references) a broom, a shovel and two volunteer artist technicians, I made my way to my chosen site. All the best artists have technical assistance, some even content themselves with having the idea and then watching while their assistants do all the work. It wasn’t altogether like that in my case, though I was glad of some help from my assistant! John is a student colleague and a very fine artist himself.
The performance piece would be me walking the labyrinth while my student colleagues and tutors looked on. But would it be enough to just walk it? Did it need more to make it a performance? Well, I thought, I could sing something as I walked. But what would I sing? Enter January 7th – the Orthodox Christmas Day – I could sing a carol!
After all the anxiety and back straining work – pouring gravel is harder than I thought – walking my labyrinth on Cannock Chase while singing the carol ‘God’s Surprise’ was quite exhilarating.
I’ll let you know what my tutors thought of it!