Time, space and existence have shaped our beliefs and perception of the physical world. First primates and then early man built platforms to sleep on, but within the last century science has taken us to previously unimagined realms. My perception of space and the physical world evolved during an Arts/Science project on Quantum theory and the work of theoretical physicist David Bohm. This gave me a sense of the interconnectedness of the physical world.
In trying to understand artistic drive I asked anthropologist Jane Goodall if during her studies of chimpanzees she had ever noticed unprompted signs of ‘artist engagement’; she replied yes, but only in captivity. These thoughts form the backbone of my work at Welham Studios: `sense of place` is a primary concern.
I am first and foremost a land artist. I was bought up in an architectural hands-on milieu in the Far East where my father was working as an architect on large building projects and infrastructure. I saw how ideas become reality, and the complexity of the process of transformation. My primary obsession is how we exist on earth and, specifically, how we shape it. I am looking for a balanced union between the two, a balance between spirit and matter.
Time and the elements shape our landscape. The shapes of my structures are informed by my observations of this interaction and how best to ground them. I make experiments recreating the effects of, for example, rain or thawing ice. By filming these and using time-lapse photography I create a vocabulary of forms to use.
Time also shapes our thinking about a specific place; we consider its layers of history, its psychology and its social structures, and must respond to these accordingly.
Two earlier projects, together with this studio work, demonstrate the progression of my thoughts culminating in the Cubis project at Bruton.
Welham Studios resulted from work developing an environmentally sensitive scheme of housing that both respected the tribal traditions of the Swinomish Nation and responded to the landscape of Fidalgo Island in Washington State. We devised module units based on forms of triangulation; these could be adapted to create houses of differing sizes or community facilities. The studio started the company Landhouse to promulgate this philosophy.
Ferrum House represents work in an urban environment, and is the prototype for the flexible sustainable modular systems used at Cubis.
Cubis in Bruton arose from the community’s decision that while new housing was needed, it wanted housing that would respond to the subtle variety of an English medieval town, rather than generic cookie-cutter repetitions. The project started with extensive research, meticulously recording the fabric and ecology of the place, so that the finished development of 68 houses would sit lightly on the townscape and have its own identity.
Art should be integral to the existence of a project and part of its process, not something superimposed at a later date. In striving to create the best possible co-existence of place and object, (rather than being driven by economics and politics,) we reach a greater connectivity and understanding of the world around us.