“An oily slick on the ocean witnessed by the Moon”
Pollution series – “Water” Woven 2023 97 x 67cms
Read More About "Pollution Earth"
“Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment. These harmful materials are called pollutants. They can be natural, volcanic ash, or created by human activity, such as rubbish or run off produced by factories. There are seven areas of pollution Air, Water, Soil, Noise, Radio- Active, Light and Thermal Pollutants. These damage the quality of the air, water, and land.”
I am starting this series of woven tapestries on the theme of “Pollution” with water. I will go on to explore the following other areas including, Air, Land, Noise and Light. I referred to my sketch books which date back to the 1970’s for the design, my water colour paintings, and the written notes of many primary experiences. This as the result of travels abroad including countries such as Africa, India, Nepal, Namibia and the United States of America. I witnessed pollution on a minor and grand scale, saw the resulting immediate and long lasting effects. Such was the effect on me that I have undertaken to create this series.
Being brought up in the industrial landscape of Radcliffe, a factory town to the north of Manchester I experienced many forms of pollution. Smoke and grit from the factory chimneys, smog and seasonal fogs, drains and streams emanating from the mills with the colours of the rainbow and billowing clouds of foam. Water attracted me for it had movement, it was an unknown realm and just what was living beneath the surface? As I grew older I became more aware of my environment and the surrounding landscapes.
Just opposite from where we lived was a textile factory and into which a stream of workers would enter and exit according to a loud hooter. When the machines were working at times the ground around shook and vibrated. But what fascinated me more was what was happening at the back where a drain emerged and ran into a small gulley. The waste from the mill ran thickly and discoloured the water, it trickled over and around stones and other debris as it gradually made its way to who knows where. Using a stick, I would probe the shallows disturbing the sediment on the bottom.
There would be an uprising of every colour imaginable, all the colours of the rainbow and more and a sweet sickly smell. What was polluting this drain I never found out nor its ultimate destination. During the week days when the mill chimneys spewed out smuts and grit at the start of the day I could feel the grit on the pavements beneath my shoes. On another occasion I walked down into the town and approaching the bridge over the river Irwell the air was thick with what looked like snowflakes.
But this was a summers day in July and the strong breeze was whipping up the foam which was on the surface of the river. I continued to the bus station and the pungent smell of gas from the towns gas works added to the experience. Smog was problem and I vividly recall lines of oil lamps being lit in the centre of the road to help the traffic along its way. No doubt they also added to the smog! The winter snows created further opportunities, for after an overnight fall and the early start-up of the mill chimneys a grey smutty surface was laid over all the snow. It was great fun to walk on when the grey covering gave way to the pristine underlayer of white. These events took place nearly seventy years ago but I remember them clearly.
My tapestry designs contain the curved and curving line and undulating contours, these explore the erosion in nature and are redolent of past, present, and future time. For me the “curve” represents movement and therefore the passing of time. This fluidity encompasses all my weaving, it has echoes of plasticity, of smoothness and endless flexibility.
The liquidity of these shapes, whether in contrast or harmony offer me much in exploring my concepts and themes. Looking back through my many sketch books I note a plethora of ideas yet many containing a similarity of form and shape. Whether they stem from any of the basic elements in nature, earth, air, fire and water, or a combination of cause and effect, of reaction and result they aid my thoughts.
In this first piece I have chosen that of an oil spill on the surface of the ocean. Having experienced oil or similar around boats in harbours and alongside docks I noted how the movements of tidal flows causes the never ending trails of surface pollution in a myriad of colours. My source starts from the far horizon and gradually moves towards the viewer. It is night, for only the Moon is watching events, she is the observer, the spectator, and the eye witness to the event.
The dark ocean moves according to both wind and tide and as time passes the colours of pollution are highlighted on the gentle wave crests, colours mingle, they disperse, diffuse and scatter. There is no real beginning and end to these flows, it is ongoing, from an unknown source its effects influence everything. Harmony and contrasts of colours invade the whole tapestry as a reaction to these alien substances. The visual effects are clear to see but what about the invisible consequences?
The Moon on her nightly lonely wanderings is our witness, she gazes down and high lights the scene. She herself is not immune for the sky betwixt, the air is polluted and discolours her appearance. Shades of pollution colour her demeanour as she enters the theatre to play a leading role in our drama. Her influence on the tides, their surges, flows, and waves is profound. These effect constant change, of weather patterns, high and low tide marks. This twice daily rise and fall has a cleansing effect on beaches and shore lines.
Although the underlying design for this piece can be seen in the numerous associated water colour paintings there is not one which I chose to follow in terms of both shapes, forms, and colour palette. Gradually over a number years I have moved from an accurate representation of the completed cartoon to a more spontaneous, uninhibited approach. In this piece I determined to move along this “pathway of exploration” by deciding to create my ideas in the context of the “night time and the Moon”.
All my sketches and paintings to this point have investigated the theme during the day light hours. This total transition of my colour palette and the freedom to experiment with colour combinations has been challenging yet liberating. I used the structure , shapes, and configuration from a composite of a number sketches. From my yarn store I chose my colours with strong contrasts, which echo the colours of oil pollution and discarded waste, the dark waters of the ocean and that of night and the brightness of the Moon. By merging and blending using my “lozenge shapes” I can create the colour and tonal combinations I seek.
I find that I must work on the loom every day, whether for an hour, sometimes more and occasionally less, for me to remember where I finished the previous session. This is important, especially when weaving my curving elements for I weave by mathematical sequencing and not the shape marks on the warps. As the weaving progresses the warp marks move slightly and for the curve to be smooth requires gradual regular steppings.
My selection of colours, weave patterns and progress varies according to the differing light qualities, my own demeanour and enthusiasm. I store my yarns in baskets where colours are mixed and I can see differing combinations. Not having a colour cartoon to follow makes for the creative process to be on going, I am no longer just a “mechanical” weaver of a tapestry design. Another interesting aspect of my colour selection is that I paint with the transparency of water colours yet weave with the opaque colour of weaving yarn. To make a colour choice has created many problems. With the freer approach these obstacles are easier to control. I am constantly thinking, adapting, and modifying.
I have more “freedom” and it makes for a more enjoyable but challenging, a demanding and stimulating way of working.