Howard Skempton talks about his working practice.
Howard Skempton talks about his working practice.
Matthew Harris has completed one series of work for Field Notes.
The New Peeces [sic] comprises twelve painted, folded and stitched paper artworks, each around 20x15cms.
Inspired by old maps, in particular ‘The Leeke Survey’ from the Shropshire Archives, these will be displayed horizontally as though looking across a landscape.
The NMC music map allows you to explore the music of Howard Skempton.
Click on the link above and you will be taken to a page which gives you the opportunity to learn how Howard’s work fits in with contemporary music.
You can also listen to some of his beautiful compositions.
Insights into the working process of Matthew Harris
Photo: l-r: Howard Skempton – Matthew Harris (photo by John Ingledew)
Howard comes to the studio and we talk. And we talk and we talk. We talk about all kinds of things but very rarely do we talk about the project, certainly we didn’t at the beginning. Instead we talk around it, dance around the idea of a collaboration by discussing all kinds of things that impact on the way in which we both work. Our discussions have become a search and latterly a discovery of a shared language that cuts across both of our disciplines. We talk about material and process, the physical process of moving material around, of pushing it backwards and forwards until it starts to reveal something of itself. We talk about fragments, of things being complete in themselves but with the potential to be part of something larger; of the intimacy of small scale and the power of limited material and restricted forces. And we talk about composers and music. Feldman, Cage, Cardew, Webern and Skempton to name a few.
I am very lucky; Howard is both very interested in and very knowledgeable about Visual Art. He is also interested in the mechanics of how something is constructed and made, in how the material has been manipulated and explored in order to craft the finished thing. His interest in the making and materiality of something is demonstrated in the beauty of his preliminary sketches but also in the quality of his hand written finished scores that are crafted objects in their own right.
As far as the collaboration goes much has been left un-said. There is I think a sense of trust that through our conversation, shared values and similar approach the combined work will hang together. Not necessarily in an obvious way, we have never sought to try and make something together, but in a way that allows the audience to experience the similarities and draw their own conclusions and responses. As Howard said at the end of one of our meetings “if we needed to talk about the project then obviously something isn’t working”.
The Leeke Survey is an ancient record of the carving and cutting up of land. Laid out on ancient yellowing parchment or paper, the outlined fields are divided into strips, patches and blocks of various shades of yellow. From cool pale lemon to warmer saffron yellows, the fields are spread out, pinned, liked striped cloths in the sun or rugs in a square in Marrakesh seen from the air. Meandering across their surface, pathways and tracks of orange and ochre. Yellow is the predominant colour in this ‘book of fields’ and yellow is the colour that is left as an after image on returning to the studio and the colour that has now seeped and stained its way into the paper and cloth for ‘Field Notes’. Over recent weeks, firstly with paint and ink, and now with dye these yellows have saturated the materials in the studio, spilling over my work- table onto the floors and bouncing their light off the walls and ceiling.
Field Notes began life as a trip for Howard Skempton and I to the Shropshire Archive in Shrewsbury. Following an initial meeting in my studio, where we discussed graphic scores, time, journeys, topography and maps it was suggested that we might begin the project by looking at some ancient maps in Shrewsbury.
The maps that had been laid out were intensely exciting not just visually but in terms of their material and physical presence. Some were paper thin, eggshell like sheets that clung to the table perfectly flat. Others were landscapes of undulating roughly shaped vellum that drifted across the tables. Amongst these ancient horizontal planes of parchment the Leeke Survey sat upright. A book of fields, each page trapping ancient enclosures within a frame of red borders. Fields stretched out like folded and cut cloth. Complex pattern pieces criss-crossed with pathways of ochre, dotted lines and bands of yellow that break and bisect each field into delineated strips and folds.
These fields are fragments, floating free of any surrounding landscape. Ancient outlines trapped and pressed for all time in the pages of a book with names that point to an ancient history of use and ownership.
The New Peeces
The Windmill field
The Alin Hop Lower
Pitt Croft Whip Ha
The 8 Day Math
The 5 Day Math
The Moore Field
Of all the things on show that morning, this is the one that has stayed with me and worked its way into my thoughts and making.