Art Making Art Thinking

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drawing water and drawing tides

Drawing tides

Part of this work is being aware of the tidal ebb and flow of the river. This drawing uses chalk to plot points of tide height  at Helmsdale over the three days of the installation. Because the walls of the Ice house are permanently wet the drawing is continually erased and I have to go back over the marks I have made. The repetition is good, it echoes the orbit of the moon. The chalk is difficult to draw with – it crumbles and breaks in my hands clasp. It slips over the surface of the rocks which are a mixture of granite and, I think, sandstone and limestone. The mortar is nonexistant in some places and the chalk skips and becomes embedded in the crevices or falls to the floor – it begins to form a constellation of white marks on the slabbed uneven floor.

frozen river

Each morning at low tide I clamber down the river bank to a small sandbar and draw water from the River Helmsdale. At this side the water’s depth increases sharply and at the shallow part that I dip the bucket I can see where the change occurs. The shallow water is golden brown flecked with motes of earth – the deep water is purple brown and dark – I sense how fast the current flows here. The sand is marked with otter prints and another which I can’t identify as it is not as clearly defined . .maybe a badger. I turn and trudge back up the bank mentally calculating the distance the water rises at high tide. All this vegetation, bracken, grasses, cornflowers, roses must be under the water sometimes. The ground at the top of the path is at the same level as the top of the stone wall. There are two stones set out from the wall that form a stile down to the road. Back in the Ice house I pour the water from the buckets into washing up bowls which I then put into the freezer. It takes a day for them to become a block. When the river water has frozen it looks almost congealed, there are folds and bumps which look as though I could push my finger into them. The earth particles seem to be pulled into the centre of the block like a collapsed golden sun star.


Kennispecki is an old Norse word meaning, approximately, the power of recognition. . . it’s also linked to kenspeckle from Scandanavian dialect meaning easily seen or recognised. Both relate to the Scottish ken – to know. Each new drawing installation I make reworks part of the previous installation. So there is always a physical link between the works. Kennispecki is knitted from twisted strips of paper cut from the drawings which were part of How long is now?an installation made in 2009 for Sierra Metro in Edinburgh. The gallery is an ex lighthouse testing facility and although the sea cannot be seen there are references to its presence. Knitting is a way of making which crosses time, culture and society. Helmsdale is a part of a network of fishing communities that used Gansey patterns on jumpers to identify drowned fishermen. Each pattern was particular to each town. This piece of work is obviously not a Gansey. It is not closely knitted or fine – it certainly would not keep anyone warm. The knitting needles are made from two pieces of driftwood from the beach along towards Portgower. Sanded and shaped they are awkward to handle and I have to stand to do the knitting. Why do this? I hear you ask. One answer is why make anything that is not of any apparent use? I believe it makes people think and ask questions about the way things are.

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1 Comment

  1. Kennispecki- I was about to ask you what that meant. Same geansaì (Irish spelling) or geansaidh tradition in the West of Ireland, apparently, with Aran sweaters…

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