I went back to Cumbria last week but forgot to write the blog. I know I am making a fuss, but I feel like I’ve been inundated with admin since getting the Cultural Olympiad commission. Its all to be expected but it was a bit distracting and I felt a bit derailed. So I went back to Cumbria just to get away from all the emails and forms to fill and remind myself of what I am doing.
This time I stayed with Celia Washington. I met her last year through my trip to Nepal. I googled “art Kathmandu” and found the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre which Celia runs. She is a British painter and print-maker who went there to do a residency at the University and ended up establishing Nepal’s first contemporary arts centre as a catalyst for artists in Nepal and inviting foreign artists to do residencies at their studios in the wonderful old palace and gardens at Patan Museum. They also have a very good library of art books, mainly donated by the Tate. I had no idea she came from Cumbria until I got an email asking me to take part in a sponsored dog walk in Cumbria in aid of the KCAC. There are lots of Cumbria/Nepal connections because of the mountain climbing community. But Celia was based in London until last year when family circumstances drew her back to Cumbria. She now lives half in Kathmandu and half in Cumbria and invited me to stay at her house near Penrith.
This project has been blessed by many coincidences and chance events and this time it turns out that Celia is an old family friend of Mary Burkett. As director of Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal from the mid 60’s, Mary was responsible for re-discovering much of Schwitters’ work from Cumbrian attics. She curated the first exhibition in England after his death and wrote the catalogue. Celia took me to meet her which made my day. I was so bowled over to meet this extraordinary woman who lives in a medieval keep with more recent Elizabethan additions that I forgot to take any photos. It would have seemed rather crass I think. So here is one from the Isel Hall website.
And Mary was delighted to meet me. I showed her some unedited footage of the Norway trip – the Schwittershytte in Molde and the Djupvasshytte and the landscapes. “Why has no-one told me about you?” she asked. I hope to go back and visit her again after Christmas. Her home is amazing and full of artefacts from all over the world. I may be back in Cumbria in the spring for editing, which will be brilliant to be on the spot.
The next day was glorious sunshine all day and I felt great and got to do some more fell-walking in Schwitters country. I parked the car on the edge of Loughrigg Fell and walked along to the tarn and then up to the summit. It was like Victoria station in rush hour up there on the peak, it was such a glorious day. But I managed to get some high shots of the lakes, Elterwater, Rydal, Windermere – a long panoramic tracking shot with the wind gag in vision all the way! It’s a bit Cumbria Tourist Board so here it is as it may not end up in the film. I’ve bought a new professional camera and it is lovely and makes great pictures but the really interesting ones are all done on the tiny cameras when things go a little wrong or I forget to switch it off! Some of the recordings I have here are unusable because of traffic, wind or aeroplanes. I worked as a sound assistant on Mamma Mia the film - so we have lots of sound effects of wind, trees, forests and birds that will be recycled. I’m sure Mr Schwitters would have approved of that.
On my last day in Cumbria, I get an invitation to have dinner that evening with the current director of Abbot Hall and Richard Long, the walking artist who’s work I love. His show at Abbot Hall is opening that night. But I can’t make the dinner invitation as I have to drive to Yorkshire that evening – and I’m exhausted from walking the previous day. Shame. (But actually there were about 40 people there so it would have been exhausting.)
The last day is spent in Newcastle at a meeting about the concert at the Sage (which is actually across the river in Gateshead) and then back to the Hatton Gallery to discuss the installation and how big a space I need to be constructed for the show. (Calling in at the Baltic on route to check out the Turner Prize show which I thought was great.) Its nice to be in such a vibrant city. I am always completely torn about living in the city or the countryside. I am getting older though and not sure I can cope with Notting Hill much longer. My health is definitely better in Cumbria that’s for sure.
(I’m sorting out my shelves and throwing stuff away. I’ve just found some still photos - black and white - I took in the Lake District when I was about 21. They are exactly the same as what I am doing now. Abstract reflections, dead tree shapes, textures, water surfaces, explorations in abstract form. Don’t know why I spent all those years at art school!)