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memories of mountains

Thinking on journeys past and future...

I miss the mountains. I'm hoping to get to Snowdonia to see them at the end of this week, but despite being cautiously optimistic about getting away, I can't get fired up about going just yet in case a new round of restrictions comes in and we're prohibited from visiting. So I've been reminiscing a lot about previous trips out into the hills, and have started a period of R&D in the studio this week looking at how I convey my experience of landscape journeys through my visual art. I'm fortunate to have some Arts Council funding for this research, and it's about time I cracked on with it. I'm at the earliest of early stages at the moment, but I'm going to share my progress as much as possible, so keep your eyes out on social media for work-in-progress posts if you're interested.


I was originally meant to be going out to Wales to hike the Snowdonia Way in June, and to make work on that experience, but that obviously wasn't to be this year. So instead I'm spending time looking back at previous journeys taken and using those memories to formulate a plan and develop a way of working that explores autobiography and landscape journeys. So this week I sat down and plotted all the routes I have a clear memory of, and started to think about why those wanderings have so much power for me. I've ended up with just over 100 routes. I've started thinking about the different elements of landscape traversal that contribute to my experience. One of the integral elements for me is the 'data' - distances, heights, prominence, names of places and the etymology of those name etc. It helps me understand the space I'm as I'm walking, and it's a huge part of the planning for a journey, which is also an important part of the experience for me. And visually I like the shapes created by the lines of routes trodden, and the undulations of elevation charts. So I figured I'd chuck together a couple of these most basic visual elements in a little print, mainly to get me printing and to give me something to work on whilst I think further about journeys taken -cutting lino is the best activity for getting the mind mulling on things! That's what you see above - it's a little piece of about 9cm x 5cm to test out some multi-block printing, and working at a smaller scale as I'm prone to working on large pieces! Got to get out of my comfort zone!


The route is one of my all-time favourites, up one of my favourite mountains - Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa). I did this route on 2nd September 2010 - it was my lovely missus' 30th birthday. We started from the Pen Y Pass carpark at 6.15am, and had the mountain to ourselves for the majority of the ascent, only meeting a fella and his daughter near the top of the switchbacks near the summit. It was so quiet at the top we were able to find a spot to sit and soak in the views in relative silence. We stayed up there for a long time until the crowds started forming, and then beat a retreat down the Pyg track. I remember blistering heat beating down and bouncing up from the paved pathway, melty rice-crispy squares, burning soles and aching legs. And the huge rocky steps back to Pen Y Pass that seemed like they were never going to end!


When I think back on this day out, I realise it's when my love for the outdoors was rekindled, after losing it in my teens and twenties in favour of other pursuits. It was the beginning of a relationship with landscape that has grown exponentially over the last 10 years. It's a personal disappointment that this year has turned out the way it has, as I had just got to grips with a plan of action for developing a practice that speaks to this passion. But in the grand scheme of things this is small fry, and I'm grateful for the memories of past yomps to keep me sane whilst my wanderings are limited at present. And the most wonderful thing about the mountains is that they're not going anywhere! They'll be there ready to welcome me back whenever I'm able to go see them again.


Until next time,

P.S. For those interested in printy things: - the piece was printed with black and red water-based ink, and a tiny bit of Caligo Safe-Wash Pthalo Green oil-based ink for the triangle. Printed on Shoji paper (48gsm). The lettering was done with a tool I've only just got (this was it's first outing) - a Shiny S-200 DIY Printing Kit. Am pretty impressed with it for the price (£15). Will make adding text to my work a bit easier if I don't have to cut tiny letters by hand every time!


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© 2017 Alex J Gardner. All images belong to Alex J Gardner.