Celebrating years of preparation, a summer of creative activities and experiences and above all the three diverse artists who made the Heartland project so successful. Saturday 16th of September, Carding Mill Valley hosted the Heartland Finale, alongside the collaborative partnership who made it all possible.
The Shropshire Hills Heartland Celebration hosted a variety of events throughout the day, appealing to all the family. Starting the day with a guided walk and talk with sight specific land artist, Tony Plant, giving an insight into the inspirations for his final land interventions. This included taking a peek into Tony’s way of working, in the form of his vibrant and impressive sketchbooks, filled to the brim with organic, flowing and colourful landscape impressions. Tony takes inspiration for the line and form of his drawings and paintings through first hand exploration of the landscape, tracing the paths, peaks and movement of Carding Mill Valley via foot and paint brush. During his walk and talk visitors got to observe the complex and creative mind that has made Tony Plant the world-renowned artist that he is, by following his journey through the Shropshire Hills landscape to where his initial inspiration began.
The talk began outside Carding Mill Valley café, after which visitors took multiple stops at places of significance, not only to the project but sights of specific interesting to the initial ideas within Tony’s work. The first stop of the talk took place on New Pool Hollow, on route to the reservoir, show casing original drawings and sketches. In listening to Tony speak about his work it enabled you to be drawn into his way of thinking and visualize the initial process of creating his 2D works. Tony explains:
“I sit up on the cliff tops, wherever I happen to be and I kind of go through things:
Shapes and lines, marks and balance, movements that might be happening, shapes resurging, horizons, river path, pathway, layers…
they are not all from any one place, like people, no one lives in one place for ever, they are always moving and changing and things change anyway…
So I am not interesting in representing the landscape, I am more interested in trying to take shapes that already exist in there and emphasising them through changing the scale of them. I take these things and I layer them up and you start noticing patterns…”
As quoted above Tony discusses the motion he goes through when putting pen to paper, what he is representing in his abstract impressions of the land he is looking at. A key idea and central point of his 3D work took the form of a tree located on the hill side.
“In this landscape, one of the first shapes that I wanted to keep hold of were the shadows under the trees. Because in the winter there was nothing on the trees, there are completely bare, they all had a small clearing underneath them, where things stopped growing.
I’m interested in those edges, I’m interested in cross over and intersections, of whether it’s a path or a hard or a soft thing, a light or shadow, anything that is a natural barrier, cross over, an intersection or meeting point…my eye is drawn to those things.
These trees being on a slop at certain times of day have an almost perfect circular shadow underneath, and once you see it you can’t not see it. It is almost as if they have been plugged into the landscape, they all do it and they all have it…
So those kinds of natural accruing shapes.”
As the walk progressed we took a detour, showing where it all began for Tony. Involving the very rare fossils which can be located to the left of the reservoir, encaged for their protections on the hill side. The fossils are originally believed to be rain drops formed on intertidal mud flats, due to the circular patterned formations however, they have now been rediscovered as the Ediacaran fossils of the Long Mynd. Dating 550 million years old, they have been identified as colonies of bacteria, otherwise known as Darwin’s lost fossils. For more information, follow the link below.
To complete the guided walk element of the talk we finished at the ridge on the pipe track directly opposite Tony’s landscape intervention. It is from this exact spot that you can see the full scale and impact of the final 3D land art that has been created, as a result of all of the months of research and 2D art work. Vast circles fill the hill side and create beautiful colour contrasting forms directly into the bracken. The forms are the outcome of small teams of volunteers clearing the dead and over populating bracken, to reveal the natural landscape, allowing new growth to repopulate the circles. Not only has Tony Plants public art commission being visually stimulating to a diverse audience, but has also been an exercise in biodiversity and landscape conservation. In clearing this immense patch of bracken, a very invasive and overbearing plant, it allows for new and otherwise over shadowed plants, insects and wildlife to repopulate the area. Hopefully with continued clearing this will became an educational focal point within the rich landscape of the Long Mynd.
Tony has had an amazing impact on the Shropshire hills during the Heartland project, through his fantastic way of working to contrasting scale, from handheld miniature wooden canvas to large scale landscape interventions. Taking inspiration from the smallest of details within an expansive landscape, in the form of fossilized bacteria and having the ability to abstract these details and explode them into a momentous scale directly into the landscape. Tony has been able to engage the public on many levels, by taking directly with walkers, bikers and families, just to name a few, while painting from cliff tops. To stopping wowed school groups in their tracks are they stumble upon his land art on the hill as they summit the opposing ridge. Tony’s work has posed many questions, many moments of silence, but above all created many new memories for the visitors of Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd.
To be continued… Part 2 – Mary Keith Heartland Celebration Performance