Friday, 3 May 2013

Presencing Place - and a Dotterel

Monday, took my trusty bike to Oxford on the train. 

Cycled up High Street and up Headington hill to the Oxford Brookes campus where Jo Thomas has an exhibition in The Glass Tank.

The exhibition documents Jo's PhD research into 'presencing place' and a  series of 45 individual performative actions in the landscape that she terms 'gestures'. She has adopted ways of engaging with places and developing her understanding of them. Rather than imposing herself to shape a place she investigates how to be in that place and let it provide its own answers: connecting with the  wonder of places we normally hurry past in our busy lives. The 'gestures' are all about stopping to see how amazing and exciting even the most unpromising places can be if we stop to look and know how it is, to look and understand and celebrate it. 

A walk to watch the sunset in the water meadows south of Reading with local people and friends revealed a place with an energy of its own, an incredibly active and vibrant environment constantly being passed by commuters and heavy traffic on the A33. Jo's work comprises a series of expressions of her enquiry into the world, concentrating on Being, Deepening,Connecting and Crystallising with places and their people. It is a very good exhibition, with each of the 45 gestures documented with one photograph and a short descriptive/reflective text. My own art practice includes some similar ideas but I tend to work out my relationship with the landscape through making drawings and prints

Later, I had the chance to get out to one the wilder parts of Berkshire - up on the Ridgeway as it follows the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs at West Ilsley. 

A female Dotterel had been present in a field on the Berkshire side of the border for four days. It had stopped off for a rest on its way up the Country to it's breeding grounds in the uplands. 
Armed with my spotting scope and hand-held camera, I got a record shot (poor quality, heavily enlarged and cropped). This is the first Dotterel I have seen since the mid seventies!
The landscape of The Downs always delights me. Even the graceful curves of the cooling towers on Didcot Power Station echo the contours of the Downs. 

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