Visiting ancient sites of which the west country abounds has become a part of my psyche. Just to sit sketch look listen make notes is an important part of finding my way through the mists of time. Most of our ancient monuments are to be found in open landscapes on hills and plains. Taking time to connect to these places led me to believe how important the night sky was to the people who built them.
at one with the universe and the ancient landscape
I realised that being there, you are in the sky, at one with the universe. This must I think be how they saw themselves a part of a whole. This was an important insight for me in being able to interpret not just the mapping of the sites but also the carvings they left us.I am fortunate in living in the West Country as we have an abundance of such sites for me to visit.
Although locations with stone, carved or otherwise are the exception. To see such things I do have to go further afield. Museums have very limited prehistoric on displays as most deal with a wide-spread of time. The “British” Museum devotes very little space to our ancient past, despite having a vast collection of artefacts. If you want to see ancient artefacts, local dedicated museums are the best places to visit.
In my expeditions, I usually like to spend the whole afternoon and some of the evening there. I start by wandering around the site getting a feel for the layout its position in the landscape; I will walk to and from, around, across, tracing ancient lines. I sit at various points to sketch and take notes. During my time there, I listen to the sounds that surround me, occasionally silence although sometimes I have to shut out the sound of traffic and occasionally wind turbines. This leads me to a perspective of the site.
links in the ancient landscape
I wonder at the links between sites especially here in the West Country. Many of which are on high ground with at least one other ancient site being visible from them. Glastonbury Tor can be seen from many and must have been an important marker if nothing else.
This quote aptly describes what I try to do when visiting these ancient places.
“Once in his life a man . . . ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colours of the dawn and dusk.” (ORR, 2004) Earth in Mind p213
I rarely use the sketches I make on site for final pieces however, they are important in informing my work, as are the notes I make of the sounds. They are my link into this ambiguous world we call the past. Aeriel photography has been an enormous help in understanding and mapping sites. Correlations in the layout of these monuments to the stone carvings and the cosmos are an important part of my work in connecting to the ancient landscape
Here I have looked at burial mounds and cup and ring carvings, marks left on the land and stone by ancient man. I have used mapping in these pieces and the cosmos
Cup and ring marks. Whilst nobody knows for sure what they mean some do look remarkably like mapping.
This kerbstone is to be found at Knowth a great ancient monument in Ireland. k5 is thought by some to represent the moon in its various phases. Many of the stone carvings found at these sites in the Boyne Valley are celestial.
My use of floating motifs stems from being a part of the whole and being in the sky the cosmos. Making connections through time.
These carvings found at Tintagel in Cornwall of labyrinths are of unverifiable age, they are very possibly Bronze age originally. However old they are, I do feel they give us connection.
this is a link to an interesting piece I came across by Kiran Baxter
to see all of the works in this series, click ‘mists of time’
all works are on plaster on board in mixed media