arts+culture creative thought and new ideas
[no1: prototype theory]
The theory is simple: promote the arts scene.
The question is, how? News, features, reviews, interviews all undertaken with an independent ethos, some by journalists, some by artists and some by interested third parties. We want to explore all media and reflect the depth and diversity of talent – and hit gold in the process. So we needed something to be printed. But to get a reasonable price per copy we’d have to print thousands – which would be good when we approach advertisers, but not so good in terms of waste and actual readership. And we weren’t keen to motor all over the place leaving boxes of mags to be picked up, or not, and discarded. It would be easier and cheaper to do everything on the internet, but some people don’t like the internet, or don’t have a connection, or can’t read on screen. And why should they? Instead we’ve opted for a print on demand magazine – you want one, you order one. It isn’t free because there’s a cost involved, and for that we think you should pay. You want free info, read the online mag, or catch us out and about as we cover what’s going on (we don’t believe in relying on copying and pasting press releases and calling it our own). Oh, and we’re a social enterprise, put simply we think we should put something back into the community. That might be as straightforward as commissioning work at proper rates, or it might be something else. Any ideas, get in touch. One thing we’re sure of is that there’s loads of exciting talent and fresh ideas out there and not enough people know about it. In short, that’s what is [arts+culture] contents
(in order of appearance)
David Chatton-Barker’s intro; Claire Horrocks talks to George Lazenbleep; Rachel Hartland, stage manager at the Exeter Northcott; Roger Thomas answers questions; the low-down on Gallery 86 from Andrew Vaccari; Vicky Smith assesses access to art; David’s pages; Peter Randall-Page; Donna-Maries Hughes; Catherine Forshall ; Chris Chapman and Kate King tell the Dartmoor story
Exeter artist in residence David Chatton-Barker: Birds Orphans and Fools/ Etcetera
I have a great pleasure taking on the role of guest editor for this issue (thanks to Lee Morgan)! It has come at the right time as I have quite a few things I wish to talk about and this has given me the room to do it. The job of designing the front cover has also been a great honour. I came to Exeter from Manchester just over three years to undertake an art degree at the newly relocated University of Plymouth. I’m not sure why I chose Exeter or even the south west for that matter. I suppose it represented exciting uncharted territory for me. Since I first arrived here in Exeter I have been unable to define it as a city for it seems to exist somewhere between a city and a town in my head and that isn’t just down to its size. Coming from a place where everything was happening, to a city where not a lot seemed to be has had a big effect on me. I have had to search especially hard in order to find the art and events that excite me, which has made it so much more important when I do discover them. Living as a practising artist is very hard anywhere but it seems especially so here in Exeter. My intention is to remain here and try my best to encour-
age more things to happen. Exeter has endless potential and inspiration. With the rest of the world offering up more possibilities and more money, it’s very difficult to keep good artists living in Exeter and the south west in general. My section will commend and applaud the young artists, shop owners and organisers who believe in Exeter as a truly important city for art and culture as a whole. After all I am talking about the oldest city in the country. A city filled with endless memories. My job for this issue is simple and that is to make as many people aware of some truly important things happening in Exeter that you may or may not already be aware of. My pages within the pages of this issue are designed as small guide packed with just some of the exciting things taking place in Exeter. I would like to thank my girlfriend and creative partner Rose for her invaluable support and artistic input into this issue, without her help it wouldn’t have turned out half as good. Enjoy! David Chatton Barker (artist)
Circuit George Lazenbleep has been wowing audiences with his control of the electronic frequencies. Claire Horrocks speaks to him about his artistry with circuitry The sounds that surge out of George Lazenbleep’s studio on a normal day can be anything from beats, bass, and beeps to the manipulated squeak of an occasional Furby. George Lazenbleep – formally known as Ben Goldstone – sees himself as an ‘artist, musician, performer, engineer, teacher, student’ and, as he explains, ‘they are all intrinsically linked and impossible to separate’. He says: ‘I approach them all with DIY ethic and an open mind.’ Yet this vast collection of vocations is ‘intrinsically’ linked by the root of
Ben’s success, and that’s the playful art of circuit bending. As Ben clearly describes: ‘The nature of Circuit Bending starts with the recycling of the electronic junk that gets thrown away.’ He adds: ‘The items get re-engineered in to playful audio and video generators. Open them up, randomly short circuit them, put them back together, then play them.’ Ben has cracked open and ‘massaged’ the circuit board of many a machine. ‘I’ve always taken stuff apart or let
batteries run down to make strange noises,’ he says. He points out his favourite piece was a child’s drum toy titled Le boite diabolique. ‘It was re-housed in a wooden box with bits of circuit sticking out that you touch to make a sound,’ he describes. Making the whole process sound indisputably simple Ben admits: ‘I’ve had few shocks, which is why you should never modify anything plugged into the mains’. He adds: ‘I’ve lost a few good machines, an inevitable risk, but I’ve gained more.’
George Lazenbleep sees himself as an artist, musician, performer, engineer, teacher and student
With an intense engineering degree from Southampton, Ben is no stranger to the guts of electronics. (‘They’d be very upset if they new what I was doing.’) Yet, with recently receiving the digital media bursary award Ben’s achievements are escalating in media arts world. ‘It enabled me to set up a studio in the media centre,’ he explains. ‘With their support, contacts and a bit of money I’ve been able to take what I do a bit more seriously and reach a wider audience’. Ben kicked off the Bursary
Screening as part of the Exeter Phoenix’s Two Short Nights festival in December. His unique audio visual performance stood out from the other entrances for its live and spontaneous qualities. It was the kind of opportunity that allows Ben to reach new audiences. His work has also taken him to an international level when he performed at the Bent festival in New York in 2006. He admits however: ‘Performances are intense for everyone involved. Some are better than others. I’ve got used to, and people
come to expect, some of my gear to break on stage.’ Describing the NYC Bent festival he recalls: ‘It was quite heart breaking to travel all the way there to end up kneeing in front of table of broken toys thinking what on earth do I do now. People seemed to enjoy the spectacle though.’ In the more familiar areas of Exeter Ben’s work buzzes proudly. He runs many circuit bending workshops and joins forces with other artists who produce similar work. ‘I’d really like to do some large scale pieces where people accidentally influence the machine as the machines secretly influence the people.’ Ben started 2008 in Georgia, where he and his soldering iron worked on some new bits of kit and meeting up with other artists. But the international artist returned to Devon in February for more gigs and to pass his electrical knowledge on to others as he leads a number of workshops across Exeter. George Lazenbleep’s ‘crazed creations’ was experienced at a Vibraphonic special in March where George lead a free workshop giving everyone and anyone the chance to ‘create wild and wonderful sound generators.’ For the thinkers out there, George also offered the chance to build a Fun Box at the Exeter Phoenix. ‘It’s less free style than circuit bending,’ he explains. As his blog spot enlightens, ‘we will follow a plan, build our machines, then experiment with them to find the inner beast/beat.’ If the desire to get your fingers on some creatively modified party machines is getting the better of you then George has left a ‘tiny exhibition’ in his place at the Exeter Phoenix Media centre for all to play with. •
To take part or to find out more about George Lazenbleep’s workshops and gigs visit www.haha-fresh.blogspot.com
Behind the scenes Rachel Hartland, stage manager at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, talks about what’s involved in her role I first worked at the Northcott in 1996 having worked at Birmingham Rep and The Swan in Worcester as an ASM (assistant stage manager), apart from spending 10 months at Oldham Coliseum and three months at Derby Playhouse (last year during the Northcott refurbishment), I have worked here ever since. My first show at the Northcott was Single Spies by Alan Bennett and I was ASM on the Book. The Book is basically the show’s Bible. Everything that happens on stage is recorded in this copy of the script, including all the moves that the actors make, the positions of the scenery and furniture and all the technical instructions or cues. If you go to see a show and the lights go down at the start, chances are there is someone backstage who has just said to the lighting operator “LX Q1 Go”. I suppose it’s a bit like conducting an orchestra, making sure that each element happens at exactly the right moment. As a stage manager it is my responsibility during the rehearsal period to source all the props and furniture required for the show ensuring that they satisfy the designer, that they do the job that the director needs them to do and that the actors can work with them. We also make sure that the acting company know when and where they need to be for rehearsals and other calls. I also make sure that what is happening in rehearsals is relayed to the technical departments so that they can action anything that has been requested. I also help actors who are staying away from home with local information, from good places to visit on an afternoon off to arranging doctor’s appointments and recommending restaurants. The show goes through a huge transformation between the final session in the rehearsal room and the first performance during a period known as ‘the production/ tech week’. This is when all elements of the show come together for the first time. The actors are often bombarded with new things and it is the stage management team that try to make this transition as smooth as possible at the same time as trying to stay on schedule. Each production varies as dramatically back stage as it does on. Some are quiet, requiring little more than setting up before hand, starting them off and being on hand for
The refurbished Exeter Northcott
problems, but others can be so busy that you go from one task, or cue to another and don’t get to catch your breath until the end. Some of these cues are as obvious to the audience as big scene changes, but many are unseen; handing an actor a tray, helping with a quick costume change, firing a gun, cooking food to be eaten onstage, operating a snow bag that makes snow fall onstage. My first cue as a professional ASM had me crawling under some staging and on a precise cue I had to pull a 10-metre diameter piece of black silk that was laying on a giant pit of white sand through a letterbox sized hole, generally pulling a fair pile of sand with it! So it could be anything!
Apart from the variety I also enjoy the problem solving as the audience generally only experience one performance of any given show and it is my responsibility to get it as the creative team intended from the start to the end without the audience being aware that anything has gone wrong. Over the last 12 years the work of the Exeter Northcott has expanded dramatically with the development of the Participation and Education Department. We now run two very successful participation companies; Northcott Young Company (NYC) for 13-21 year olds (which will be celebrating it’s 10th anniversary next year) and the Northcott Community Company (NCC) for over 21’s. For example, I stage managed the NYC/NCC production Goodnight Mister Tom. The only difference for the technical departments between this show and a Northcott Theatre production with a cast of professional actors is that Goodnight Mister Tom rehearsed for 12 weeks as opposed to the usual four. It also has 41 cast members, seven musicians and 10 NYC/NCC members working on the show backstage. The sheer number of people involved alone adds a new challenge to my job but it’s great! The professional theatre world is fairly nomadic, you work with people intensively for eight weeks and then at the end of the run of the show you never meet them again, whereas with NYC/NCC members, we get to know them really well and enjoy watching individuals skills and confidence develop, be that a 13 year old who wants to be an actor or a
75 year old who fancies having a go – it’s brilliant watching people get so much out of being involved in theatre. It’s sometimes easy to lose touch of what theatre is about when you’re so busy producing it, but working on these community productions is a real reminder of what theatre is capable of; from community and society development to just telling a story. The most crucial element to theatre though is most definitely passion and the Exeter Northcott has it in abundance and with the continued support of the people of Devon and our stakeholders, Exeter Northcott will become an important part of far more people’s lives whether as an audience member or as a participant. •
ertson sent me images from his ranch in Oklahoma. In the case of sporting clubs, I also work for rugby’s Scarlets and Glamorgan CCC, so they can send me archive images. I also work with the Diocese of Exeter, creating images of the local churches, this I can do by travelling and photographing.
questions to the artist: Roger Thomas celebrity portrait painter 1. Why portraits? Even before I went to college I was drawing portraits of celebrities such as Michael Parkinson and Prince Charles, these obviously impressed my college head at the interview because at the time I had no other artistic qualifications. In college, I specialised in technical illustration, which allowed me to learn process and accuracy. A lot of the technical processes I learnt then are now use in my portraits. 2. Do you approach them, or they approach you? This charity-celebrity idea formulated at a Russell Watson concert in Manchester when he called out of the audience Kirsty, a young girl in a wheelchair, who at the time was raising funds for her local hospice, she has raised millions. I looked up at the two of them and wondered how I could create a triangle: a singer, a charity and an artist. On the drive home I formulated an idea. 3. What do you look for in a subject? Because it is me doing the approaching, I must look for an iconic image with a good fan base. The charity must also be ethically sound. As regards the painting, I have been told to remove certain age lines, but I keep them as true to the original as possible as I believe it would remove the essence of their personality. 4. How do you begin each painting? I web search for the correct image, and ask the celeb themselves to give me their favourite image. Russell, in fact, sent his while mid-tour in Australia, from his hotel room, and Hollywood star Dale Rob-
5. How do you establish a rapport with the sitter? By accepting my commission, it confirms that the celebrity is enthused by the project. Lucie Silvas (pop star) even rang me at 11 o’clock in the night, because she was so excited. I email the artists regularly during the process, which can take over a year. Ultimately the finished portrait will be presented to the subject so it is important that the subject likes the image from start to finish. Sometimes I have to deal with their agents such as my Aled Jones and Hayley Westenra portraits. This can delay things immensely. 6. What’s the reaction to your pictures? So far it’s been several WOWS and LOVE IT, obviously each portrait is liked or loathed as it is in the eye of the beholder, our charity website – www. artygraphics.co.uk – has most of the portraits displayed. 7. What scale do you paint? Almost lifesize at A3, with a small action image in the background to reinforce who and what the celebrity is. 8. Are you like a barman? Do people open their hearts to you? All the celebrities are overworked normal people, but some have time to create a relationship with me, and some even exchange wedding anniversary and Christmas wishes. 9. An individual portrait might tell us something about the subject, but do a collection of them tell us something about the world? I have learnt that celebrity is brief, I am working with two Hollywood big names – Tippi Hedren and Dale Robertson – but you have be over 40 to have even heard of them, even with hundreds of films between them! My recent London exhibition was interesting, it was at the Royal Commonwealth Centre near Trafalgar Square, and I had to explain to the organiser who over half the celebrities were. 10. How long have you been painting – and how much of that have you been focusing on portraits? I have been painting for over 40 years, but it is only in the last seven years that this project has taken over my life. 11. What’s your back ground? As a technical illustrator I was made a diploma member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, and gained a City and Guilds of London in Technical Illustration. I am now a member of the SAA, I have illustrated over 1,000 illustrations in local, national and international newspapers and magazines, illustrated over 11 books, and am a published poet. I get a thrill starting a new portrait, especially in the unusual medium of watercolour, I believe it gives me a better facility for greater detail and facial feature construction. •
Gallery 86 Andrew Vaccari at work
Andrew Vaccari talks about Gallery 86, Crediton, how it came into being and the artists involved in its creation It’s all about having the nerve. I mean if you were going to open a gallery in Crediton, as a commercial concern, then you wouldn’t bother opening the front door. Anyway, making money is not what it’s about. The reasons for taking on the building was to provide artists, and in return the gallery goers, with
a venue that filled the gap between Exeter and North Devon while providing the co-operative founders, that’s Debbie Manson, Isabel Merrick, Paul Vaccari and myself, Andrew Vaccari, with a place to sell direct to the public. We would be happy to reach a break even stage and may do in the near
future, but I think the exposure we are getting is something for the long term and keeps us afloat, mentally. There are other reasons we could not have imagined at the time of setting it all up and they are the fun of seeing exhibitions going up, crowds gathering and the atmosphere that people create in an exhibition space, a direct result of the work on show. Working as a co-operative is a sensitive business. We could have sat down before we went into the venture and decided on things like the gallery’s artistic direction or whether to have control over how much artists sell their work for. Would of this helped
1. join 2. subscribe 3. advertise 4. buy 5. create
not necessarily in that order
get the gallery off the ground? I think we would have still been floundering amongst all the other business considerations you are supposed to iron out and would of probably ended up not wishing to enter into such a deal with each other. We jumped in, knowing we were giving ourselves extra financial commitments, knowing we had different views and at the same time believing it had to be done. Three of the most exciting elements have been the venueâ€™s evolution, the sharpening of our skills at running the place and how we communicate with each other. Sure, it hasnâ€™t been easy at times, resolving disagreements takes a lot of maturity and I think we have it. A year on and we are seven members strong, thatâ€™s the above fore mentioned, with the addition of Sarah Hoskins, Tim Salter and Jane Rock. We are looking for a further three artists/craftspeople to join us, one of which should be a jeweller. The mediums covered by us all are ceramics, oils, acrylics, mixed media and papier mache with applications such as domestic ware pottery, ceramic sculpture, acrylic popular art, portraiture, abstract painting and papier mache art (pulpture), functional design and architectural decor. This contemporary gallery/ studio and exhibition space is quite simply a hive of creativity. Both Paul and I have a graphic design and advertising background. We are primarily concerned with stimulating our audiences with decorative and obscure entertaining images for domestic living spaces and the work place. I sometimes like to wander into the expressive and observational area with papier mache but I like it to be a natural urge with an original outcome. Debbie Manson is a consistent maker of domestic stone ware and raku fired pots and sculptural wall mounted tiles. There is something of the alchemist about her often enjoying and needing to be outdoors, next to a fire, conducting the raku processes that require a very high level of control. Debbie has a close connection with the earth and she
what they see. In particular, Jane is interested in the way the human form, when viewed from unusual angles, can become difficult to read. She wants to lead the viewer into the image and into their own interpretation. The gallery is accessible to everyone by the fact that we are crafts’ people and not the art intellectual types that dominate and turn off a large proportion of the population from the enjoyment of creating and the created. On the whole our work points towards beauty as we feel a great importance to remind ourselves, that’s our audience as well, that we can delight in our lives and not get bogged down in the negative mainstream media agenda. Sarah and I now have studio space at the gallery and we hope in the future other members will look at working from the premises. Engaging the public with our work processes adds great value to the co-operative and to the space itself, giving all visitors, that is, the buyers and non buyers a worthwhile experience. •
Sarah Hoskins at Gallery 86
Gallery 86 Artist Co-operative, 86 High Street, Crediton, EX17 3LB. 01363 777736. gallery86@live. co.uk, www.gallery86.co.uk Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays.
reflects this bond honestly in what she produces. Isabel Merrick is as prolific as they come; her ideas are generated from the ongoing research of visual stimulation. Isabel enjoys the element of play and discovery, working intuitively and always being conscious of the temptation to get too rigid with the formulae. “It’s a bit like having to always go back to the beginning,” she says. “Often my favourite pieces of work are the first I do in a series.” Sarah Hoskins’ paintings have a dream-like sense of narrative in which the universal themes of love, desire, family unity and discord are never far away. There is a strong autobiographical note in her work as its origins often lie in her personal history and
immediate surroundings. She has a growing number of collectors and has a fantastic eye for the portrait. Tim Salter’s main focus has been reflections on natural forms and landscapes. “Our interactions with and within them and subsequently the fragile balance that we do, or try to, hold together,” says Tim. Both his painting and printmaking (etching & collagraphs) are mainly abstract and explore his interest in colour and texture. Jane Rock, our latest co-operative member, is part of a small group of Exeter women artists who are interested in pushing the boundaries of figurative painting. Line, colour and the reflection of light on skin are critical to the way the group record
The people behind
[arts+culture] are: Mark Barton-Donald (formerly of Devon Artsculture)
Lee Morgan (former editor of Art in Devon and part of the People’s Republic of South Devon and D+CFilm) With an awful lot of help from the contributors and this month’s artist in residence David Chatton-Barker. If you’d like to submit anything, or feel you’ve got a good story, get in touch. We are currently on the look out for more artists in residence and want to push the creativity and vision of whoever that might be, almost to the limit. If you’re an artist, a cultural commentator, or you just have an interesting penneth-worth to spare, get in touch: email@example.com or call 07886526874
An image from Vicky Smith’s film Flux
Back to school
Exeter filmmaker Vicky Smith revisits college or her assessment of the Artists Access to Art College scheme From October 2006 to May 2007, I participated in a national scheme, Artists Access to Art Colleges. The scheme offers artists a place at a local art school. This gives the artist access to resources while students have access to a professional artist’s working practice. I was offered a place at Plymouth College of Art and Design, the college nearest to me involved in the scheme.
I was attracted to the AA2A scheme for several reasons: I had recently moved to Devon and wanted to develop contacts in the arts and education sector; opportunities for showing and generating feedback for work are always valuable, particularly in an academic context; I work with the increasingly obsolete form of 16mm film and was pleased that lecturer/film-makers Kayla Parker
and Tony Hill have maintained a film culture and film technology at PCAD. Finally, I was drawn to the scheme because of its possibilities for mutual exchange. In the early 90s I was Workshop organiser at the London Filmmakers Co-op. The Workshop ran alongside Cinema and Distribution to form a ‘home’ for autonomous moving image artists’ practice. Many
female film-makers were working with experimental film forms and sharing ideas around practice. There has been much lamentation over this lost skill-sharing culture. I envisioned my AA2A place at PCAD as twofold: enthusiast of film practice able to demonstrate the thrill of working with celluloid and role model for emerging female moving image artists. The desire to enable women in the film industry (currently provided for by Devon collective Blind Ditch) is shared by Joy Elliot, a video installation artist on this year’s AA2A at PCAD. Joy shares my background in the independent film sector, ‘… organising training workshops for women in Exeter in the 80s South West regional Women’s’ Film TV and Video Network, a campaigning organisation funded by C4 to raise awareness of the under-representation of women in technical areas of film and TV’. I approached PCAD with my intended project, Hair in the Gate. The aim of the work was to use actual hair to explore relations to the maternal body, ageing, loss and self–preservation.
Hair would also feature in its industrial sense as a flaw in the image of ‘proper’ film-making, a dramatisation of the tension between intention and accident. The film would fore-ground a modernist truth to the frame, alongside the matter of the body as a formless impostor in the orifice of the machine – a metaphor for female artists’ provocative and seemingly random use of mess and imperfection in image production. The time spent at PCAD was valuable in several ways. I enjoyed access to 16mm camera equipment and the library was an inspiration with material on a wide range of artists. I found Dave Hotchkiss, (PCAD AA2A facilitator) to be supportive and sympathetic to my ideas. However, I found it difficult to edit using the 16mm machine because it had been placed in the computer edit room, and darkness is required for film editing. The PCAD/Viewpoint Gallery exhibition officer organised a show of work made on the scheme as-well as giving participants an opportunity to give a lecture/presentation of their work to staff and students. This provided a good sense of closure and
a chance to see what other AA2A artists had made during their time. By this time, I had completed a version of Hair in the Gate which went on to screen in the Jewish Museum, Vienna, in an exhibition celebrating the work of psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich. I confess that before starting the AA2A scheme, I had a notion that most of the fellow artists would be under 30. I don’t know how representative the PCAD AA2A participants are of the national make up but we were mostly over 30. Joy explains the popularity of the scheme for older artists: ‘It’s been great to have space to develop my ideas. It also provides a context for art not based on financial outcomes. I’ve had access to resources in a creative environment with excellent support from technicians and library staff, using professional editing facilities normally not accessible to me.’ Joy and I were fortunate to benefit from the collective heyday of the 80s and we must be representative of many artists who seek not just access to equipment but a desire for community and context. A demand is proven for initiatives such as AA2A for artists at all stages of their careers. •
5th - 14th September 2008
Being asked to create top-notch art in a your new home village while exploring ‘local distinctiveness’ might seem like being stuck between a rock and a hard place (tee hee). But sculptor Peter Randall-Page carried it off and Chris Chapman’s photographic documentation of the project was on show at the Burton Art Gallery, Bideford before touring schools. Lee Morgan finds out more
Man of stone There’s a measured, evolving pace to Peter Randall-Page’s sculptures, so what is it that makes them feel so ‘now’? The exhibition of Granite Song, which is on at the Burton Gallery, Bideford, is photographer Chris Chapman’s record of work that was completed in 1999. There was no fanfare to the pieces, which found themselves nestled in Peter’s community in and around Drewsteignton. No pomp or ceremony other than the graft of making them and getting them in place. And it seems fitting that the exhibition is a celebration of the how well the work has fitted in with village life. The Granite Song commission came through the environmental charity Common Ground, who were looking to produce a project on local distinc-
tiveness, and for the artist to work within their own community. The project began in the early 1990s and culminated in the publication of Chris’s photographic record in 1999 – it wasn’t a quick process - and in a way the pace reflected the relationships that were being formed. Trust was gained, ideas discussed, walls built and stones split. “I was building up a kind of trust. People didn’t know necessarily what I was about. I hadn’t been in the village very long and although they might have liked the things I’d done before they were keen to make sure, as was I, that I didn’t put something in the landscape which would spoil people’s experience,” said Peter. There were six elements to the project: Secret Place; Granite Song; Waterstone; Passage; Burrow Stone
and Village Garden. Five were sculptures and one was a renovation of public space. Each piece has its own story and its own uniqueness which complements the surroundings. Secret Place nestles within a wall, like a shrine, Granite Song is a hatched and opened stone, Waterstone seems like a natural spring, Passage marks the entrance on a path to nowhere and Burrow Stone is almost like a hieroglyph that has burrowed itself into a wall (it’s also near Burrow Farm). There were no labels to the pieces, no explanatory signs, they are like wayside shrines in Southern Europe where every field has its own god. Signage would kill the magic. The show at the Burton is part of the Devon Rock programme and will offer educational material about the project itself and the use of work-
ing with nature and communities for inspiration. “It’s not that direct, but I get a lot of nourishment from living here. I love this 3D landscape, and the village with its nooks and crannies, and I get a lot of nourishment from the community. And I love the idea that good quality doesn’t need to be metropolitan.” And in a quote that could easily reflect a community, the siting of the work or the work itself: “There is an assumption that space is a passive receptacle for form - that space is the determining factor and things only fit in certain ways.” It’s a statement that could sum up Peter’s approach to sculpture. A piece which had the imposed regular spherical forms of ping pong balls attached to it was almost completed in the workshop.
“Mathematicians get a lot of pleasure in understanding how things fit together. Science and art are two impulses from the same place. They are an attempt to make sense of the world and the universe and understand how things come to be as they are.” There are rules to his work, selfimposed and restricting. On another work in progress, he’s marking up a boulder in chalk and charcoal for sculpting, making sure that the continuous lines meet up correctly.
“It’s very akin to improvised music,” he said. “And you need to know what the material will do.” One of his rules is not to change the overall shape of the stone. And in a sense, the essence of the rationalising of the eroded boulder is doomed. The elements of order are imposed and create their own rules, and their own patterns start to emerge. But they are not exact. Then again, nature’s own patterns are not exact. It is a striving for order and understanding that is the quest, and people throughout history have always had an emotional response to form and have loved a walking line. “All the boulders here are through man’s intervention,” he said looking around his workshop. But it’s been a timeless journey, and the journey continues. •
Voices for opera Donna-Marie Hughes adores singing. Lee Morgan talks to her about her voice, her career and Rigoletto ‘Singing is the closest thing to touching your soul,’ says Donna-Marie Hughes. She’s sipping tea in the Grande Hotel, Torquay. It’s an ideal setting to hear about the strength of New Devon Opera in the south west. The art form often seems down but never out and it’s always had that edge of sexy glamour, from Maria Callas right up to Katherine Jenkins. Combine that with the deliciously emotional melodrama of the stories and wonderful technical precision then you’re surely onto a winner. Donna-Marie has a part in New Devon Opera’s summer production of Rigoletto, which takes place throughout the county at the end of July. Bay lights twinkle above the dark waves crashing outside as she explains that it’s only a small part. ‘I’m the Countess Ceprano,’ she says. ‘I only have two lines in the first half.’ But it’s no small feat for a homegrown singer to land a part with the exacting professional opera company,
which aims to be the south west’s resident touring opera company by 2009. And it’s a feather in the cap of the artiste who has been developing her voice through years of performing and lessons. For three years Donna was the ‘classical’ singer at Babbacombe Theatre performing 100 shows between February and October, but she had always been musically minded – singing, playing the piano and doing the odd bit of tap. It was when she hooked up with singing teacher Isabel Morrow that Donna’s voice grew into what has been described as ‘rather heavy lyric soprano’. After nine years studying with Isabel two years ago Donna moved to Alison Kettlewell, in Honiton. ‘It was scary after so long with Isabel, but she couldn’t do it any more and a friend recommended Alison,’ says Donna. The change proved beneficial, and the new teacher propelled
Donna’s voice ‘to the next level’. ‘Different teachers have different ways. Alison had a new technique and I was using my body in a completely different way. In a way, I suppose I fought it, but after a year I could see totally where she was coming from. ‘It’s like driving a car for the first time. To begin with there are so many things that you need to think about. It’s the same with singing – great singers just do it automatically. ‘Italian is a beautiful language to sing, with all its vowel sounds. In English all the consonants get in the way. With my first singing teacher I built up my repertoire, now I’m ironing out the edges, improving my quality and learning tricks – trills and runs – it’s hard work but great.’ During that time Donna has been singing throughout the county, performing in Macbeth with Opera South West, at Noss Mayo, compering an evening of singing at the Dartmouth festival, leading the Torbay
District Funeral Service and singing throughout Torbay and at the Torquay Christmas lights switch on. As well as her own cabaret repertoire and appearances at weddings. ‘At weddings, when it’s just you and the organist, the acoustics work with you, and a breath can last for ages. I love it,’ says Donna. With experience as a character actor, you’d think the acting aspect of the operatic performance would be the easy bit. ‘It’s difficult to act and sing. Performing all those times in Babbacombe certainly helped. It’s important to feel comfortable in front of an audience and to lose yourself in the role,’ she says. As part of New Devon Opera’s approach to raising standards, its patron, the ‘compelling’ and ‘charismatic’ tenor and conductor José Cura, who is ‘known for his intense and original interpretations of his characters’, according to Wikipedia, took part in a masterclass project with 15 singers over eight days in April and May last. The project also included a repetiteur seminar run by Anthony Legge, director of opera at the Royal Academy of Music and conductor Alex Ingram. Donna also took part as a repetiteur. ‘Your voice always grows and develops,’ she says. ‘To think José Cura was walking around hearing me sing - if only he could hear me now.’ That being fixed in the present is an element of Donna’s approach to her musical career. ‘All I’ve ever done is to focus 100 per cent on the now. To be as good as I can be now. The rest should happen
naturally,’ she says. And it’s an approach that seems to be working, especially for someone who just wants to perform, and who feels the ‘tingle’ of singing from the tips of her fingers to her toes. ‘Singing is a mind, body and soul experience,’ she says and is convincing. •
Flights of fancy fishes
Born in Scotland in 1958 Catherine Forshall studied art under Simi in Florence for two years and has spent most of her working life in France and Spain before moving to Devon in 2005. While she still paints landscapes and still lifes, her passion going, back to her childhood days, is the sea and this now forms the majority of her work. Steve Ballard, the owner of the Eyestorm gallery, on Exeter Quay talks about his discovery of Catherine’s
work. “The first piece that I showed at the gallery was Flight of Fishes and the impact and interest was immediate. We decided quickly to create a Limited Edition from this piece and again the response has been amazing with a quarter of the 45 edition being sold ahead of the prints being completed,” he says. Catherine has had exhibitions in Paris, New York and London. A selection of her work, including Flight of Fishes, can now be viewed at the Eyestorm gallery.
Images: Left and right, Houndtor and Haytor by Naciketa Datta under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License 1999-2008. Centre, Sunset over Dartmoor by Herby used CC-BY-3.0 Creative Commons
The Dartmoor story Chris Chapman and Kate King are working on a film telling the story of the history of Dartmoor, give that it’s quite old, this is a fairly hefty task. Lee Morgan spoke to them to find out more There’s a film of David Alford playing the bones – rattling out an upbeat percussion to Mark Bazeley’s melodoen. It’s a clip which was filmed through the making of Chris Chapman and Kate King’s The Story of Dartmoor, and might not even make it into the final edit, but it highlights that Dartmoor is not just about the landscape and it’s not just about the people. It’s about both of these elements working together, shaping each other. Chris has spent years documenting the environs of Dartmoor, and teaming up with Kate to make a documentary on its history seemed like the logical, if giant, next step. It would be easy to skirt over the subject, paying tribute to the breadth of the story, but Chris and Kate, who both live on the moor, are looking to include the depth of the story as well.
The object is to tell Dartmoor’s tale and be both entertaining and educational. The film opens with geologist Dr Kevin Page talking to camera. “It’s a beautiful day on Dartmoor,” he says, “and four hundred million years ago it was also beautiful day, but although its hard to believe now there were no rocks – this was once a warm tropical sea.” He goes on to explain the formation of the moor, which is fundamental to its usage and appearance, and is central to man’s relationship with it, through agriculture and industry – tin and clay mining. The longevity and depth of that involvement is paid out by Dartmoor being one of the most concentrated sites of archeological interest in Western Europe. But the moor is not a museum. It is a living, breathing environment where generations have earned their living.
And part of the project is to record this. “It’s a big thing,” said Chris. “We care a great deal about this place. Its been important not to skim the surface. We set out on this project knowing it would require a lot of effort and take a long time, but we think the result will be worth it.” The debate about the landscape is ongoing, and the film doesn’t look too far into the future but rather highlights the past of the landscape and the people, posing the question of sustainability. Alice Oswald’s poem Dart, with lines read by Alice Oswald herself, will be woven into the film. “This is a real coup and we are extremely pleased,” said Kate. As a history goes, the moor holds some surprises. In 2004 a previously unrecorded stone row, lying fallen or perhaps never erected, was found on
Cut Hill – one of the highest regions of the moor. Plymouth University Geography Department investigated further with a GPS linked probe and found another stone floating in the peat. Pollen analysis around this stone indicated a date of approx 3300 BC, placing Cut Hill stone row on a par with the earliest building phase of Stonehenge. The film follows the seasons, as does life on the moor – stallion selection, lambing or even Widecombe Fair are events which mark out the time. Other events are more impromptu. “It helps to keep your ear to the ground and know as many people as possible,” said Chris. Even in 2008 there’s always something new to be discovered and it helps for the artists to be members of the community. Being ‘immersed in the reality of here’ has been key, and word of mouth has been the real way of discovering new events.
And a soundtrack from established moor musicians has been a bonus. The film has been made with the music of Nigel Shaw of Seventh Wave Music, also based on Dartmoor. “We’ve been very fortunate to have access to music written on the moor,” said Chris. It’s all part of belonging to the culture of the area. Knowing where to go is vital for a filmmaker – with hours of trekking and waiting for the right shot, surrounded by the movement and stillness of the moor. And the music is important for its empathy to the environment. It’s been a labour of love and has been a challenge on a tight budget. “People can be forgiving if the content is good, and you maintain your integrity,” said Chris. And for the renowned photographer this project has seen the best photography he’s done. “I’ve learned so much over the course of this film,” he said. Even with the incredible network of contacts, the research and planning of the film has been considerable. The film on the history of Dartmoor and followed on from the short films Chris and Kate made on the subject of small schools in Devon. But condensing the story of generations has been a task in itself, let alone following up the
new ideas and opportunities that the making of the film has unearthed. “The Dartmoor film has taken its own trajectory and other films have grown out of it as a response to what people have said. It’s been an embryonic project that could lead to other things, like a film on the history of tin mining, or the quarrying industry or even more of the landscape and its people,” said Kate. As part of the project, students from South Devon College have shadowed the team to pick up techniques and watch the film develop. One of the students, Amanda Cornish, who joined the team through an initiative by Devon Artsculture, has followed the filmmaking intently. “Amanda has been with us since the beginning,” said Chris, “and she’s been really clued up and energetic. It’s wonderful to work with someone who’s grown up in the digital age.” And the changing ages, the varying approaches and the rhythm of life on the moor is what the film is trying to capture. In the blurb it says: ‘the 12-month assignment will tell the story of Dartmoor from its geological beginnings, revealing its rich archaeological heritage, the development of its resources, its farming, future and potential for sustainability’. Integral to The Story of Dartmoor is the story of communities and the story of people. • To find out more about The Story of Dartmoor, which is due to be released around Christmas with running time of around an hour, visit the website (http://www.chrischapmanphotography.com/)
creative thought and new ideas Next issue
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