With a nod to Hallowe’en, this is an image adapted from a painting called ‘Nymphs Dancing to Pan’s Flute’ by Joseph Tomanek. I am always a little disturbed by the bad reputation witches get and wanted to show them more as free, nature-loving spirits than any kind of malevolent group. The only witches I’ve ever met and spoken to, were one Winter Solstice at Stonehenge when we were standing next to a group of ladies wearing purple and sky-blue robes, welcoming the sunrise like the rest of us. At one point, a little girl came up to one of the ladies and asked, “Mummy, what kind of witch are we?” The lady replied, “We’re traditional Pagan witches darling,” and watched happily as the little girl ran off to play with her friends.
View From Cadman Bridge
I have previously shown an image of Cadman Bridge in Sheffield, built sometime in the Victorian era. My family name is Cadman and I am descended from a long line of Sheffield’s so called ‘Little Masters’ – workers who often had their own little workshops dotted about the city, producing items using the steel for which Sheffield is rightly famous. My family were largely scissor makers. This scene interested me on a recent visit as we stood on the bridge and looked at the mix of old and new industries – the old brick work in the foreground and the new, gleaming concrete and steel of the factories in the background. There is a certain romance and beauty in the shapes and patterns created by these buildings. Perhaps it’s because that’s what I was brought up with.
Last summer, we spent a week on the east coast of Yorkshire, England. For most of the time, the weather was warm and reasonably sunny (about as sunny as it gets on the east coast of Yorkshire!) but on one particular morning, the sea fret was so thick that we couldn’t actually see the shoreline from our position on the beach. It was warm, however, and our little boy was digging happily in the sand but there was a stillness rarely found on a beach at the height of summer. Every so often, figures would come out of the mist, walking towards us as they came back from the water’s edge. It was a moment I had to try and capture.
Magpie Mine – Derbyshire
During a recent visit to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, England, we went to the Mining Museum. I’m not usually a fan of museums, but there is something very personal and quite intimate about many of the items exhibited there. Amongst all the machinery on display, there are things such as old leather shoes and clay pipes found in the long-since deserted mine shafts. These items just feel like they have a story to tell and they look quite poignant in their glass cases. One of the displays tells the story of the events at the nearby Magpie Mine, where there were many disputes, one of which even ended with three miners being murdered down in the mine and a curse apparently being put upon the mine by the dead men’s relatives. We decided to visit the site, which is one of the best preserved lead mines in the country. There is certainly a slightly eerie atmosphere at the site, and it is that atmosphere that I tried to capture in my print. I decided to have a go at a collagraph print (as well as a lino print) to see if it would be better at conveying the correct ‘feeling’. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to do a collagraph print, so, after watching a few videos on YouTube, I gave it a go. Whilst technically the images didn’t really ‘work’ as they do in the tutorials I watched, the two prints (seen below) did have an atmosphere that I was really happy with. The final image (top) was created by loading both prints into a drawing software programme on my iPad, before combining and tweaking them into one image I was happy with. Is that cheating? I don’t think so, though I will be struggling with it mentally for a few weeks yet! The lino print is still being made. All the time we were at the mine, and whilst I was making the image, I have had the song ‘The Mountain’ by Steve Earle going around in my head. The last verse in particular is appropriate:
There’s a hole in this mountain, it’s dark and it’s deep, And God only knows all the secrets it keeps. There’s a chill in the air only miners can feel, And there’s ghosts in the tunnels, the company sealed.
Despite being possibly the absolute epitome of a ‘landlubber’ (I feel seasick when I’m on a peddlo!) and being born and bred in as land-locked a place as you can imagine (Sheffield, England), there is something about the figureheads found on the front of old ships, that fascinates me. There seems to be a certain mythology associated with them, and apparently the ship’s crew used to take extremely good care of them, feeling that they embodied the spirit of a ship. The image that I came up with, actually started life as a figure that I ‘saw’ being made by the branches of an oak tree, that I knew I wanted to do something with. The recent visit to Whitby gave me the idea to do something more in keeping with maritime mythology than a woodland figure, and the position of the ‘figure’ in the tree lent itself to being placed as a ship’s figurehead. I wanted to keep it simple to keep me sane whilst planning and working on a multi-block, multi-colour print at the same time.
Continuing on from the last post, I have recently completed two more prints inspired by my most recent visit to Whitby on the east coast of Yorkshire. The first (above) is the ‘classic’ view of the Abbey, seen from the road leading up to the site, and including the small expanse of water in front of it. My original photograph was taken in the early evening during March.
The second image (below) is of the feature known as ‘Black Nab’, seen from the beach at Saltwick Bay, just around the headland from the Abbey. There is a legend, known as ‘The Submerged Bells’, which tells of how, during the reformation instigated by Henry VIII, his men took the bells from the Abbey and put them aboard a ship harboured at Tate Hill Pier, ready to take to London. The local people begged them not to take the bells from such a Holy site, but to no avail. So it was that on a beautifully clear, warm Summer evening, the ship set sail on a perfectly still sea, only to sink without warning, straight to the bottom of the ocean as it neared Black nab. It is clear then, that the locals got their way, and the bells were never taken from the Holy site. It is said that if you sail close to the Nab, or listen on windy nights, the tolling of the submerged bells can be heard to this day. My image attempts to capture the essence of the legend.
Over the years, I have taken children to Whitby many times and have always considered it to be a very special place, with a charm all its own. We have often tramped up and down (and sometimes up and down again!) the 199 Steps to the Abbey and St Mary’s Church. The image I will forever hold in my mind, is of the terracotta-coloured roof tiles on the higgledy-piggledy rooftops pictured here. I intentionally left out the harbour and the rest of the town that can be seen in the distance from this view point on the aforementioned steps. It is worth mentioning that at the top of the steps, in the graveyard of St Mary’s, is Caedmon’s Cross, a memorial to the so-called ‘Father of English Sacred Song’ and with Cadman being my surname, I’ve always had a certain affinity with the area.
This is a simple one colour print from a photograph that I took two weeks ago, standing on Tate Hill Pier, looking up towards St Mary’s Church.
CP Studio Exhibition
My most recent commission was working with a group of 6 other artists, providing pieces based around the vast collection of artefacts held by the Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham. ‘CP Studio’ was set up by artist Paul Evans, and features five ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ – along the Iines of the so-called ‘cabinets’ (though they were often actually whole rooms) which generally housed “rarities and curious objects from natural history”, started around the 1500s and continuing in popularity until the early 1800s.
As a group, we visited the museum a few times and had a number of ‘Ideas Jams’ before going away to work on our interpretations of the theme. I played with the idea of scale and weight, producing the pieces seen above, based on fossils, Neolithic finds and a Green Man mask. All the pieces were made to look like stone using Modroc and stone-effect spray paint. A phrase used as the title of a film made by artist Neath Champion-Shorr was “False Narratives” and it was this that largely informed my work – trying to keep the viewer guessing about whether the objects were real or false. Two of the pieces give the game away (if you know how to read Oghams) with inscriptions actually stating ‘This is fake’. It was such a pleasure for me, not only to work with other artists for a change, but also to move completely away from printing for a while, and get back to sculpture.
The exhibition is housed in the Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham and runs until the middle of May.
Orkney 3 – Stromness
Although it was the ancient sites on Orkney that we initially went to see (along with the Northern Lights, of course) one of my abiding memories of the visit, was the first Saturday we were there and went to see the town of Stromness. We were genuinely shocked that in the week before Christmas, we were walking down the main High Street in town, on a Saturday lunch time and saw just three other people. Two of them were ladies, standing outside the church gates, giving out sweets to children who may be passing – I’m sure there had been others, but we had the only child on the street at the time! Looking down (or up?) the street, I took this as a photograph, knowing that it would make a good, single colour print. It is such a pretty town with cobbled streets and little alleyways and ginnels (or is that just a Sheffield/North of England word?) but has a very definite ‘arty’ feel to the place with a couple of beautiful galleries and an annual folk festival. We are longing to go back there sometime, and as soon as possible.
Orkney 2 – The Stones of Stennes
This is the second image from our trip to Orkney – the magnificent Stones of Stennes. As with at The Ring of Brodgar, we were completely on our own whenever we visited the stones, again, even at the Solstice. They are in such a beautiful setting, which I’m not sure I’ve managed to capture here, but it acts as a vivid reminder to me.