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Colour Walking – CMYK

Four colour isolation walks around my neighbourhood, blue, pink, yellow and black, or, at a push, cyan, magenta, yellow and key. I feel very aware of my urban environment at the moment and these colour collections reflet that.   Several surprises.  The first being just how much more in the moment I felt walking whilst searching for colours.  Most of the time when I walk I am focussed on getting somewhere –  it is a very different experience being more present, taking notice and enjoying my surroundings.  Second surprise was how hard it was to find some colours.  I had to really hunt for pinks, but when they were found they were well worth the effort – the pink princess pony is a real favourite.  Other colours were plentiful but lacking in variety – so much of the yellow I found was gorse/road marking bright, I think 90% of the cars in my area are black, and a good 70% of the front doors some variety of blue.

Colour Walk – Walking South

May 9th

Walking South, taking a photograph facing West every five minutes – a journey through Bristol housing stock. What amazed me was just how suddenly urban Bristol stopped, and rural greenness began. There was no slow transition, one moment you are in a housing estate, the next on a lane enclosed on both sides with impenetrable green hedges.

Walking with a kitchen timer clipped to my belt slicing the walk into five minute segments. Odd looks from the few people I met.

My mobile phone getting hotter and hotter in my pocket as I track my walk on an App.  Half way through the battery gives out, meaning I have to plug it into a battery pack. Now my pocket is extremely hot and very heavy.

Constant swapping between glasses and sunglasses to read the map, read the compass, look at camera controls etc.  I forget if my glasses are on my head, clipped into my T-shirt or in a pocket.

Camera swinging round my neck.

Colour Walking 2

May 4th

A circular walk beginning and ending at my house.  Learning from my first experiment, this time I had rules.  I took two photos every two minutes, the first a close up of the most colourful thing near me, the second a wider view of something nearby.  Not too restrictive, and it gave me more of a structure than on my previous walk.  The first colour grid shows the colours resulting from computer manipulation of the photos, the second are the colours I feel best represent each photo.  As a lover of the muted colour palette, I think the computer has made the better choices.

Colour Walking

Today should have been the first day of my residency in Tarset, Northumberland.  As part of VARC‘s (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) two-year programme ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art, I was due to be partnered with Unison Colour, makers of hand-made artists’ pastels.

With all that is going on in the World, a postponed residency is a little thing, but I am still deeply disappointed.  I was looking forward to the coming month as a great challenge, both personally and professionally.  The colours of Northumberland were calling, filled with the promise of a new outlook providing new ideas.  I was both excited and trepidatious about the challenge of living on my own for a month.

With the Covid 19 lock down, Bristol has become a new, quieter place.  The death of a friend has taken away the motivation to make or create.

With the start of May, I have decided to reframe the ideas I was going to explore in Tarset, to see how I can approach them in Bristol.  The starting points of my explorations in Northumberland were to be walking and colour. My basic plan is to go for walks through Bristol, photographing colour as I go.  I will then use these photographs to create a colour representation of the walks, and to create a colour palette of Bristol. 

May 1st

Today I used my 30 minute walk to my studio as a test walk.  This first attempt has taught me that I need parameters.  Just walking and taking random photographs didn’t feel satisfying.  Too much choice ended in paralysis.  I need some rules.

I found myself having an internal argument  about the type of photographs I wanted to take – is it enough to record colour, or does each photograph need to be beautiful? 

The first image shows the grid composed of a tiny close up section of each photo, with the simplified colour version underneath.  The third image uses the whole photo, again with the simplified colours underneath. I think I prefer the second experiment, but I am not sure about the mixture of depths.  Would an image composed of all flat surfaces be more pleasing, or just dull?  

The next grid needs to be composed of more images to give me more pixels.

Centrespace Open Studio

Thank you to everyone who visited me in studio 27 during our open studio event this weekend. It was lovely to see so many of you, both those I knew, and those I didn’t. I had many a fantastic conversation (my favourite being about spittoons on underground trains, I kid you not) and received fabulous and encouraging feedback about my work. The challenge now is to try and keep my studio tidy for more than a day – it is such a treat to be able to see the floor, and not to be in danger of tripping over at every step.

Bristol – Colour of Place

42 sand and crushed rock samples displayed in a stand made from reclaimed wood. All the samples were collected during August this year, many of them from the building site at Temple Gate.

This piece is going to be on display in Centrespace Gallery from 12-16 October as part of the Centrespace Open Studios. Please come along and say ‘hello’, I will be in studio 27 on Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Eastbourne – Colour of Place

Subtle colours collected on my walk from Eastbourne Pier to Holywell.

The bottom of this flask is filled with chalk that was collected as either small rounded chalk pebbles, or chunks of chalk that had broken off much larger boulders. I crushed the pieces in a pestle and mortar to make the powdered chalk. Some pieces crumbled almost instantly, others put up an almighty fight.

From left to right – Eastbourne sand from the middle of the beach, and then near the shore line, different coloured chalks from the cliffs, and shell sand from just past Holywell.

Eastbourne

I was in Eastbourne last weekend for the Ink Paper + Print Fair at the Towner Gallery. It was so funny, I have an almost non-existent visual memory, but as soon as I sat on the pebbles of Eastbourne, it was like saying hello to old friends. Many moon ago I did my degree at Brighton and spent an inordinate amount of time sitting on the beach sorting through the pebbles. And here they were again in all their mixed colours and flinty wonder, so different from the smooth banded grey rocks I have got used to in the West.

Before driving back to Bristol on the Monday morning, I treated myself to a walk west along the beach as far as the cliffs at Holywell. The colours changed as I walked, the oranges disapearing, being replaced by greys, which in their turn were out numbered by white. The pebbles underfoot eventually becoming dinosaur eggs of rounded chalk which hardly made a sound as you walked over them.  The white cliffs were multi-tonal, beautiful to look at. 

Bristol Colour

Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

My sand collection, started in Australia last year (Collecting Colour) continues to grow whenever I visit the great outdoors, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that I could add to my collection whilst I was in the city.  I have been reading ‘Origins’ by Lewis Dartnell and the following sentence made me think – ‘the story of civilisation is the story of humanity digging up the fabric of the planet beneath our feet and piling it up to build our cities.   Everyday my walk to my studio takes me through the building works of Temple Gate – a huge road improvement scheme that had meant for the last two years you are never quite sure which way you will end up going to get past Temple Meads and into the city.

As I wander past in my morning or late afternoon daydream, I have seen constantly changing piles of sand, aggregate, concrete etc. as great holes and trenches  have been dug , had mysterious things happen within their depths, and then been filled in again .  But because these sands were building materials, they didn’t fit with my idea of collecting colours specific to place.  Reading the text by Dartnell made me realise that these imported sand would become the colours of Bristol.

Eurovia site, Temple Gate, Bristol

So, on a slightly soggy Tuesday at the end of August, I could be found in the company of Becky, the site Quantity Surveyor, in full fluorescent gear, searching the site for sand.  We found 24 different sands (including a lovely soft grey that Becky went out of her way to track down for me, remembering that it had been one of the first sands to be delivered to site), gravels, and rock fragments that I was able to crush into powder.  I am amazed at the variety, if asked beforehand I think I would have expected to find just one or two different types of sand on building site.

Emily Ketteringham in fluorescent jacket and hard hat
Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

As well as adding to my test tube collection, I had enough to make this tower of sand – I feel a trip to Alum bay in the Isle of Wight might be needed…

Measuring tube filled with layers of sand from Temple Gate, Bristol

Thank you very much to all at Eurovia for letting me visit the site.

Collecting Colour in Australia

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham
119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

I had been to Western Australia before in 2011, and the thing that really stuck in my mind was the colour. When we were preparing to visit again in 2018, I wanted a way of physically bringing that memory back with me. I had just finished my MA design project ‘Shifting Sands‘ where friends had been collecting sand from around the UK for me to turn into concrete pebbles. As a result, I had a house full of left over pots of sand – the perfect inspiration for a holiday project to collect colour.

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I started being restrained and collecting only one sample a day. That went out of the window on the day we found this extrodinary place by the side of the road. I think I collected 10 colours in under an hour.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I have samples from places that are contradictory – such as this iron mine
that was wondrous and horrendous at the same time.

My favourite is dark metallic sand collected with a magnet from a perfect circle
of sand around the top of an ant hole found behind Dales camp site in Karijini
National Park. Just steps away, in one of the most beautiful, magical place I
have places I have ever been to, we saw this graffiti – you do have to wonder.

Every time I look at this collection, I am back in Australia.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham

119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018