In May 2021 I spent a month as Artist in residence at Highgreen in Tarset, Northumberland. Living and working in this remote hill farming community had a profound effect on me, both artistically and emotionally. Walking in the most astonishing open landscape was liberating after the claustrophobia of lock down in Bristol.
Walking, both alone, and with members of the community, became a very important part of my time in Tarset. I walked almost every day, collecting colours both physically, in the form of rocks, and on my camera. The soft palette of colours changed over the month, getting gradually greener as it got oh so slightly warmer. I went searching for old one man mines, hunting down interesting sites on old OS maps.
My residency was one of six organised by VARC as part of their multi-partner ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art project. I was partnered with Unison Colour, who hand make soft pastels in the workshops and Coach House at Thorneyburn Old Rectory, five minutes’ drive from Highgreen. Working with Unison was an absolute joy – jars of pigments line the walls like the most colourful sweet shop you could imagine, old drawers are a treasure trove of colour, each pastel is a little work of art in its own right. I was taught how to mix and hand roll the pastels which resulted in pieces such as ‘core samples’ and ‘tussocks’. I was also let loose among the reject boxes which led to my crushing pastels and using them to create prints exploring the colours I found myself surrounded by.
I have written a number of blog posts about my residency which you can read here.
In September all six Artists in residence, plus two associated artists, and two guests artists returned to Tarset for an exhibition celebrating the end of the ENTWINED programme, and VARC’s 21st anniversary. The photos below show my work in the studio at Highgreen as part of the exhibition.
Panoramic photograph by Laurence Ketteringham, all other exhibition photographs by Colin Davison
More images and information about pieces produced during my residency –