Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Magick Without Tears

It’s time to return to the subject of the occult, a topic I dealt with all too briefly first time.

Particularly, I want to talk about the concept of Ley Lines. Leys are an idea with a wonderfully strange intellectual history. By the time they reach the milieu within which I am conducting business they have gone from archaeological theory to new age belief system to psychogeographic metaphor, via Atlantis, Glastonbury and other places between. Although when talking about the occult and psychogeography it might at first seem that we should be looking at the secondary evolutions of Leys (into great, world-encompassing mystic energy currents; more on that in a bit), but actually in many ways the use of Leys by figures such as Iain Sinclair signals a return to the origins of the concept.

The theory of Leys first finds expression in a frankly quite charming little book called The Old Straight Track, written (and illustrated) by travelling salesman, photographic pioneer, naturalist and amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins. ‘Ley’ was a neologism that he developed from the philological component of his ideas, and his theory (put very simply) was this: that the stone age peoples of Great Britain travelled around and organised themselves based around a network of straight pathways, marked by stones, arrangements of trees and notches cut out of the tops of hills and ridges. Watkins developed this theory during his career as a travelling salesman, from prolonged personal contact with the landscape of his native Herefordshire. It seems he first came up with the idea in a flash of inspiration, when reading a map and noticing chance alignments between church towers, standing stones and notches in the skyline. He went on to develop his idea painstakingly, trying to work out the position and purpose of various leys, and marshalling a body of evidence to support his ideas from various sources; place names, intricate maps, photographs. The Old Straight Track is obviously the culmination of several years of diligent and careful work, a fascinating record of one man’s obsession.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Maps for the first section

Are finally finished, and only a day late too! Unfortunately, Bayimg appears to be going through one of it's temporary blips, so I'll have to use up some of my precious Blogger storage space. Images after the cut.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A slow week.

Posts to this blog have been rather sparse over the last week. Partly that is to do with other drains on my time; mostly it is to do with the kind of work I have been doing for the book, much of which is tedious and unspectacular. I have set myself a small task list for the week, which I have mostly accomplished. By close of play tomorrow, ideally, I will have:-

  • Organised all the files for the project on my computer, and made multiple back-ups (this is done)
  • Finished the excel spreadsheet laying out the book and laid out the skeleton of the book in Adobe Indesign (this is done)
  • Have all the primary photography for the first section completed (this is almost done)
  • Have 10% of the book in a completed or almost completed state (this will amount to 37 pages, and will probably be done)
 The last part has been hampered a little by my choice of what to tackle. Mostly this week, apart from doing the above tasks and chipping away more at some of the written portions of the book, I have been at work on the final versions of the maps that will accompany each of the walks in the first section. I hope to have all of these finished by this time tomorrow; I should have realised from the time it took me to create the large Isle of Wight map that these would be time consuming, but the results will, I think, be pleasing. I have also been working on a number of other images, much helped by the fact that I have made provisional choices for base photographs for all of the first walk. One image is complete so far:

Overall, I am feeling much less anxious about the final deadline than I was this time last week.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Digital image making in the field

I recieved a significant equipment upgrade recently, and now have a laptop that will actually run photoshop. This has allowed me to do something I've wanted to try for a while; take my graphics tablet away from my desk and actually sketch some scenes from like. I was out on the first walk today, taking supplementary photographs, and I took the laptop along as well and made a couple of images, more as an experiment than anything else (the photographic basis of the majority of the images in Vectis is fairly locked down). The results of my first little foray are below.

Blog illustration

A little aside now on that picture from the Romanticism post below. I took the rather unusual step of making an illustration to fit a blog post. I was in a rut with other things creatively at the time, and that seemed to be what I needed to do; it won't happen too often (any further ballooning of the huge amount of work I still have to do for this project is to be definitely avoided). Actually, I made three different possible illustrations, all along a similiar theme. The one I chose was a bit of an experiment that I might take further at some point in the future. It is not, as it might first appear, either a doctored photograph or a hyperrealistic drawing, but a combination of digital painting and digital collage; it's actually made from about ten different photographs of trees and wooded areas, mixed together and overpainted. I came at the idea whilst trying to assemble a reference image to draw from, and I think it's quite effective. A more rigorous approach, carefully cutting out sections of trees and limbs and foliage and layering them up, might be something to try another time. Below the jump are the other two, unselected, Romanticism pictures; a treated photograph with some text and a straight up fantasy woodland nightscape digital painting, which was great fun to do but doesn't have that much relevance to the issue at hand, although it might be interesting in light of the next post.


 It's a dirty word to some people, 'Romanticism'. It conjures all sorts of bad images; airy, shallow, irrational, wooly thinking, schmalzy. It can even carry dangerous political connotations; a reek of nationalism hangs over it. Deep England, and all the problems that entails. Much of this, I feel, has to do with a lack of general understanding about what Romanticism actually entails. It doesn't have anything to do with Romans, and it doesn't have anything to do with love...

"Romanticism has very little to do with things popularly thought of as "romantic," although love may occasionally be the subject of Romantic art. Rather, it is an international artistic and philosophical movement that redefined the fundamental ways in which people in Western cultures thought about themselves and about their world." - source

Thursday, 11 October 2012

An image from the first walk, Autumn

Today's been one of those days that frustate you when you're engaged on a creative endeavour, when nothing seems to click and everything is a frustrating dead end. I was hoping to have a new blog post on Romanticism and some more solid progress on the book itself, but alas, nothing has really come together. Unfortunately, I'm going to be away all weekend, starting tomorrow afternoon, so this will probably be the last opportunity for a blog post for a few days. With that in mind, here are a couple of images to be going away with, after the jump.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Record of Tutorial: 8/10/2012

This blog is, as I have mentioned before, a piece of work that I plan to submit as part of my MA in Fine Art; if I am to make it a complete submission there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled. One of these is to discuss and reflect upon tutorials. I have been going back and forth as to whether to add these to the blog, and have finally made my decision. I have backdated this post to the time when I wrote it.

Although my course continued technically unbroken over summer, there has not been much face-to-face contact with my supervisor, Prof. Stephanie James. This tutorial was really not much more than a catch-up session. We talked mainly about this blog, and about how the general structure of the project was progressing. Overall, the feedback was positive. Steph suggested that I look in to broadening the online presence of the project, finding a way to display the raw photographs online through a picture sharing service such as Pinterest or Flickr. We also discussed the possibility of putting elements of the project in to action locally; we talked about the possibility of taking people on the walks as guided tours, and about the possibily of selling prints and books through local art galleries. Overall, the feedback was very positive. The second year will be more hands-off, especially with this blog in place. The tutorial left me feeling very confident as to the direction in which this unit is heading, though I still worry a little about timing.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Hidden in Plain Sight: Occultism

It is impossible to get too far in to the matter of modern psychogeography without dealing with what we might call the occult, or the esoteric. More or less directly, many psychogeographers (particularly the London school) have tapped in to a variety of concepts common to various traditions of western mysticism; hermeticism, alchemy and gnosticism, via modern occultism. Particularly important (as they are, framed differently, in much modern art practice) are ideas of symbolism and correspondence. Alchemists believe that an object can be manipulated through its reflection or image; hermeticists believe in the direct correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm ('as above, so below') and gnostics believe that the reality we perceive is simply a deceptive projection, a curtain pulled across our eyes. In occult psychogeographic writing, the landscape and the individual become reflections of each other; the landscape becomes the medium through which wider social forces shape the individual, and vice versa. It also becomes the point of interaction between the real past, the past-as-myth and various conceptions of the present. Place here is not simply the banal reality of physical geography, but an imaginative (and imagined) space. The very use of occult language (as opposed to what can often be equivalent artistic jargon) is employed deliberately, to create an air of mysticism. The landscape, whether urban or rural, is a place of secrets and a battleground for interpretations. The occult psychogeographers employ their mystical methods in order to reinforce their own interpretation, without necessarily seeking to make any claims towards truth.

Some possible page layouts.

Playing around with Lorem Ipsum, showing four possible layout ideas. The way I've been planning things out at the moment I've been keeping text and image basically separated on to different pages (except where images contain textual elements), but it's not beyond the bounds of possibility to put some images in-line.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oliver Rackham - 'The History of the Countryside'

For the past week or so my attention, when I have the time to read, has been turned to the rather fascinationg 'The History of the Countryside' by Oliver Rackham. Rackham is a landscape archaeologist, who writes on the subject of the history of the use of the British landscape with considerable vigour and authority, and, when he touches on the subject of conservation, not a little genuine pathos;

"There are four kinds of loss...there is the loss of beauty, especially that exquisite beauty of the small and complex and unexpected, of frog-orchids or sundews or dragonflies. There is the loss of freedom, of high-ways and open spaces...There is the loss of historic vegetation, most of which once gone is lost forever...I am specially concerned with the loss of meaning. The landscape is a record of our roots and the growth of our civilization. Each individual historic wood, heath, etc. is uniquely different from every other, and each has something to tell us."

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A map and a picture

Not much to show, still putting together the page by page plan of the contents. I realised I would need a good map of the island, almost before anything else, so I put this together, which took a lot longer than I expected: