Sunday, November 17, 2013

Late Autumn Images from the British Isles

I am sharing with you some more photographs which I took during these last days of autumn. Next week winter is supposed to arrive with freezing temperatures and possibly some snow ...

(click to enlarge)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Revisiting Pishwanton

- the Centre for Goethean Science and Art at Pishwanton Wood, East Lothian, Scotland

A week ago I spent a few days up north in Scotland, re-connecting threads from the distant past, when Ephrat and myself were living in Haddington east of Edinburgh (1991 -1994). One of the reasons was to visit the Pishwanton project. As an example of a site for the practice of alternative ecological and artistic methods of working with the land and educating people for a more sustainable future it is of particular relevance for me as part of my PhD research project. I had myself been involved with this piece of land, having been part of the first landscape study sessions in 1992 with biologist Margaret Colquhoun and architect Christopher Day. But I was still amazed and moved when I saw that one of my drawings from 20 years ago features on the new Pishwanton Wood leaflet:

the latest Pishwanton Project leaflet

Margaret Colquhoun, my long-time friend and colleague, has been instrumental in creating the vision for this project and she is also running it on a day-to-day basis.

Margaret with Toffy, the dog, in the Pishwanton jeep
In the leaflet Margaret outlines her vision for Pishwanton and the aims of the project:

Pishwanton Wood is “a place for learning in living in harmony with the land,'on the edge' of landscape, of life, of science, art and of cultural practice”.
The project is dedicated to the study and practice of Goethean Science with a strong emphasis on education, therapy and the development of new organs of perception.

view from the herb garden
towards the craft building
"At Pishwanton people explore both the inner and outer journey of discovering life and landscape, through the activities of perceiving, reflecting, and doing. This way of working with both one's inner and outer nature simultaneously, and of raising to consciousness the processes of perceiving and reflecting as a precursor to doing provides a meditative path of spiritual development ...”

Pishwanton Wood, 60 acres of semi-neglected land, a microcosm comprising a diverse mix of Lowland Scottish habitats, was purchased by the Life Science Trust in 1996. The site bears evidence of a long history of human involvement, including an Iron-age burial mount.

up-to-date map of Pishwanton Wood

the 'snake path' leading towards
the animal barn
I was very moved to see how the place has evolved. It no longer feels neglected, everywhere one experiences the caring hand of human beings. Many trees have been planted, invasive vegetation in previously impenetrable areas has been thinned, paths have been created, an orchard with fruit trees has been planted, a large herb garden has been laid out in the inner 'heart space' of the site, beautiful willow fences have been constructed to separate the meadows where cows, sheep and goats are grazing from the garden , and, last but not least, a number of carefully planned, ecologically designed buildings have been erected. All these transformative activities stem from the same source: a profound dedication to the land, the study of landscape, of materials and processes through the methods of Goethean Science, the application of Goethean Science to 'Consensus Design' (a community design method developed by Christopher Day), and many, many hours of work dedicated by volunteers from many countries.

"Insights are transformed into creative action, which may unfold in a variety of ways from medicine making to garden design, poetry, art or building an eco-building in the landscape.”

building the barn
creating willow fences
for newly planted trees

Pishwanton Wood is

 is open to the public as a community wood and serves as:
- an outdoor classroom  
- a research laboratory 
- a place for 'creative play' 
- a case-study for landscape restoration 
- a home for the development of interactive communities of plants, animals and human beings 
- a show-case for illustrating a sustainable way of living for the future 
- a base for the practice of educational and therapeutic small-scale agriculture

Margaret and David
A variety of different groups of people have visited Pishwanton for different lengths of time and grades of involvement. These includes people who are searching for an in-depth study and the application of Goethean Science, volunteers of a variety of ages, often people at a turning point in their lives, searching for new orientation and meaning, students of the Schumacher College MSc program, art and architecture students interested in ecology and consensus design, local people with disabilities working in Pishwanton on a weekly basis, high school students from the UK and abroad on voluntary work placement as well as casual visitors.

the new Goethean Science building
inside the science building

In Spring 2013 the Goethean Science building was inaugurated. It comprises a generously designed teaching space, a small kitchen, a toilet and facilities for the processing of herbs. As all the other buildings on site it was designed by Christopher Day, following an intensive on-site community design process. A number of further buildings have gone through the design process and received planning permission. This includes a large building with community kitchen and dining-room and a caretaker flat (the 'seed-building') as well as chalets for on-site accommodation of visitors and course participants. The first chalet is scheduled to be built in 2014.

sketch by Christopher Day of the planned 'seed-building'

I am adding here a few photographic impressions of Pishwanton Wood, taken on a crisp November Day with beautiful Eastern Scottish autumn light (click to enlarge):

And, to conclude the report of my visit to Pishwanton Wood, a short video clip. It includes scenes from the video "A beautiful day in Pishwanton" by Helmut Kohn and Gisela Kress.

for further information - the Pishwanton Wood website:

New "experimental drawings", mono-prints and etchings

Since the last post about drawing I have created some more works in response to input by a variety of different tutors in the "Experimental Drawing" class. For the following series of drawings the assignment was to choose an object and draw it once as a 'unique', singular object and then, in another drawing, to explore the possibilities of repetition or multiplication of the object. I chose a small clay sculpture of a tower in the form of a pyramid. In my mind this turned into a mixture between skyscraper, tower of Babel and the leaning tower of Pisa ...

Three drawings - charcoal

In another assignment the tutor introduced the idea of the Haiku, the minimalist Japanese form of poetry, where a series of simple images from nature are juxtaposed with each other, without creating a story-line, leaving a kind of interval between them for the imagination to create the connection. The tutor had brought some autumnal branches and suggested to utilize this poetic principle for creating a series of drawings. 

Three drawings - charcoal

In my series of drawings I gradually moved from a representational, three-dimensional representation to something more abstract and two-dimensional, playing with three distinct elements: lines, tonal surfaces and concentrated, small patches. I also became interested in an additional effect which I discovered accidentally when I tore off a piece of cello-tape, and with it a layer of the paper. I then rubbed charcoal into this 'wound' which created interestingly textured patches.


I am adding here a series of mono-prints which I produced in the print workshop at Oxford Brookes University. I quite enjoyed the freedom of the mono-print technique, which is like a kind of shorthand process exploiting the incalculable surprises which inevitably come with this technique.


And finally, here are some small new etchings - no great message either, just playing around with the materials and techniques and enjoying myself ...