Northumberland National Park is home to some of the most remote, uninterrupted, and unpopulated areas of land in the UK. It is a threshold space, a geographical and psychological borderland with a completely unique identity; it is a place of unquestionable beauty. My time in the park was largely spent alone, a sort of solitary release. The vast expanse of the landscape offers a rare opportunity, a time for silent introspection, a feeling of weight and weightlessness, perhaps a glimpse of your own mortality. It is something to do with space, the distant horizon and the big skies; you cannot help but ponder scale, your own existence and the connection you have to what is around you right now. The land seems to whisper to you…
The work I produced during my time in, on and with Northumberland National Park grew from a temporary symbiosis, from a relationship that began more like an infection –– my own body as the foreign agent. Negotiating a relationship with the landscape takes time, and as certain systems and processes start to become clear, latent internal conflict becomes visible. It seems there are endless contradictions, a push and pull of opposites: timelessness and dynamism, natural order and the order imposed by man, to name a few. However, these opposites are held in perfect equilibrium, a balance between wilderness and control, an understanding that has developed through years of co-existence. Preservation of this delicate balance is explored in the works Chimera and Transhumation.
There is a profound relationship between the landscape and the body that transcends a singular definition. A hybrid of mythological, philosophical, scientific and spiritual connections must be considered. As my time in the park passed some of these connections were consolidated into a visual language of shared sets –– bone and rock, layers that settle, cycles that blend together through time becoming part of a unified and balanced system. I explored the parks archaeological history as a way to communicate these connections, using traces of the body as source material. Though intact examples of human remains are rarely found in the park due to acidic soils I was able to work with archaeologists to examine human bones excavated from similar burial sites in the UK. Bones often ravaged by disease causing premature death or physical deformity, bones respectfully returned to the Earth which once provided life, completing a cycle. Working with scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology and the Centre for Life, further traces of the body were collected. I was able to study time-lapse footage of human and animal cell cycles, in essence, existence expressed in its most universal terms. A highly ordered symmetry of process shared by all living organisms within the park, an order that represents everything we endlessly struggle to control and are helplessly at the mercy of.
I would like to thank: Dr William Earnshaw and the Earnshaw Research Group at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology (Edinburgh) and Professor Charlotte Roberts (Durham University) for their contribution. I would also like to acknowledge The Centre for Life (Newcastle upon Tyne), The Institute of Design Innovation (Middlesbrough), and the Northumberland National Park Authority for their support.