With 2,000 acres of land, Dumfries house isn't short from woodland walks, and I found myself quickly getting into the habit of early morning and evening walks- at dusk!
Even when immersed amongst the trees, mud and sodden leaves, I still felt this disturbance in nature. The sound of the bowing trees in the wind battling against the distant sounds of traffic and maintenance machinery. In such a peaceful and remote place I couldn't help but question why I was picking up on these occurrences rather than simply enjoying the isolation away from metropolitan life.
There was something quite artificial and false about the up-keep of the land- not at all a criticism to the incredible work the restoration team have done, but, an interesting argument towards Richard Horden's ideas of Nature and Architecture in a sort of harmony.
I began looking at the residue of the woodlands, the rotting discarded wood piled high at the sides of man-made tracks, a graveyard of trees overgrown with moss and bitten by December's frost.
Maybe it was my groggy morning get ups putting a slight downer on things (I'm far from an early bird!) but instead I started to look into the architectural creations of the estate for inspiration.
In recent years, the estate has invested in multiple bridges, paths and walk ways for ease of access for the public to enjoy the surrounding areas. Undoubtedly, some of my favourites were those that stuck out like a sore thumb, or morphed into the woodland itself.
The Chinese Bridge- Scottish architect Robert Weir Schultz, 1899
Temple Shelter- Wooden rails made from recycled wood from the land.
Arboretum Woodland Shelter- created by the students of the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.
I began translating these into drawings with acrylic paints and indian ink using my usual tools of masking tape, rulers and pencils for mapping out the 'blueprints' of the compositions, but then using wooden sticks found from the woods to guide the ink across the work. Although, still heavily controlled, the differences in sticks made interesting mark making techniques. Also, utilising the organic natural tones with metallic, fluorescent and iridescent mediums that reflect light and interfere with the grounded perspective.
But also the studio itself began influencing my designs. From my MA I discovered how the performance and processes of my studio activity were intrinsic to the context of my work, and the same was happening here, both in its formal arrangements and lighting conditions.
Ayrshire had some of the most beautiful sunsets I have come across. The early evening sunsets at 4pm made walking around the estate at dusk much more interesting. Nature began to overthrow my appeal to architecture, as my eyes had to slowly adjust to the light and guide me through the low fog and darkening sky. Although the setting of the sun in an unfamiliar place made me feel more isolated and secluded from the world, I never truly feared it. It felt safe.
With the few hours of daylight that
December gave us, my colour palette slightly changed to adapt to the light of the studio also. Fortunately, the super well equipped studios provided came with a brilliant daylight lamp that gave bright white artificial light to the dark evenings.
This was another similar twist on the battles I expressed from nature and architecture, but again the juxtapositions of natural vs. artificial light investigated in my previous works.
The shorter days gave little disruption to my usual working pattern, often working late into the night when my creativity usually spikes!
Although I had made a start with my drawings, it still felt rather static and composed, allowing little discovery through playful experimentation. They were sort of like my ground level foundation plans for something more, I knew now my interests lied between the paradoxes of nature and architecture and now I wanted to explore the residue and restoration of the House and estate itself.