Finding the Spirit in the Mass was artist David Bomberg’s radical technique. He described it as an attempt not at superficial representation, rather an expression of the inherent and changing energy or living spirit of nature and how one feels in relation to it. This, and the philosophical idea Metempsychosis (where at death the soul transmigrates into a newly born human, animal, plant or mineral) have been the focus of my six month residency in Shining Cliff Woods, a protected ancient wood set along the river Derwent which surrounds the old Johnson & Nephew Wireworks in Ambergate.
Nothing, will be the last forever is a functioning ‘factory’ that relies on a collective of hard working souls, who having foraged for wood, needles, leaves and herbs, process them, using specially made stoves, stills and milling devices, into charcoal, ash, scent, food and tonics. With visitors invited to watch the processing, ingest, smell and scatter the ‘products’.
Nothing, will be the last forever could be read in many ways. As a collaboration, a response to a post-industrial site, a comment on artisanal goods or as a process-led drawing based artwork… However, if we consider it via Metempsychosis, we could see it as helping migrate the woods ‘spirits’ – demonstrating how the end or death is no longer true but rather a simple transformation of form. Or if we use Bomberg’s ideas it’s a lament; a poetic abstracted expression of loss in response to finding the famous ‘Betty Kenny’ Yew ruined and within a pathetic cordon, on a deforested ridge deep within Shining Cliff. Either way, I aimed to encourage deep reflection on our relationships with other living things.
Essential to Nothing, will be the last forever was the foraging of ingredients for stews and breads shared with audiences. This addition reinforced the overarching drawing from with and together concept inherent in my practice. And asked us to consider how drawing up from the ground into something that would nourish could be via food, imagery, conversation and connection.
The exhibition was complimented with further research and works made during my time in Derbyshire. Including the collages, With bliss I imagine this, that reimagine the Peace Huts built in Shining Cliff in the 1930s by the nature-loving-utopian group Gryth Fryd Pioneers. A series of photographs, Time don’t make it better, taken in front of the ‘Betty Kenny Tree’. Two charcoal drawings, I am all these things and nothing at all, made on the site of this one great tree, that also foreground Bomberg’s ideas and aim to provoke a conflicted feeling. Finally, A dream within a dream, a fallen Yew branch from which seven lidded boxes have been skilfully turned. Inspired in part by the potential of Yew, the Rock A Bye Baby nursery rhyme [alleged to originate here] and a search for inner spirits. Ultimately though it’s a work that celebrates rural makers who create beautiful, useful items while being mostly overlooked.
Established in 2019 by Ivan Patrick Smith and Anthony Shepherd, The Wireworks Project, is a fully functioning artist studio and gallery. Designed and built on the ethos of recycling, re-appropriating and reuse, the project aims to provide space and platform for considered artists. We warmly welcomed Kate as the first of many future residents.
Nothing, will be the last forever
is a collaboration with:
Anthony Shephard and Ivan Patrick Smith.
Photo credits Gavin Repton
Patrick Joseph Ryan
Karen, Mia and Eva Smith