Monthly Archives: June 2010
The Tedna Ve – Draw Me booth is an installation. Tedna Ve means Draw Me in Cornish Language, this is perhaps a minor item but it is my wish to give others the benefit of knowing about the existence of a complete culture in Cornwall that existed long before English became popularized. The Tedna Ve – Draw Me is also a Booth or if you prefer the term, Kiosk please go ahead and call it the Tedna Ve Kiosk. It is also a Camera Obscura, one that I have constructed specifically for use in portraiture. Almost everyone you talk to knows that the Camera Obscura is Latin for Dark Room – unlike the Cornish for Draw Me, and that it is simply a box with a hole in one end, a small hole that can project an inverted image onto the opposite wall. My installation uses a lens and a mirror to direct the inverted image onto a little easel, thats where You draw Me or visa versa. As an experience drawing a likeness in the Tedna Ve Kiosk is a lot of fun, the artist doing the drawing can see the face of the person they are drawing projected upside down, that way no-one can be influenced by what they know or what they think the person being drawn would “like” to see! Among the squeals of delight that emerge from the installation as the artist struggles to draw the blinking eyes or the constrained smiles of their subjects face there is the knowledge of rudimentary photography and physics, optics and image making in the eye of the artist or hardware of the media.
Camera Obscura’s were seen all over the U.K. in seaside resorts and tourist hotspots, they were mostly diversions or novelties for leisure pastimes, they were set up for looking at the landscape, town-scape or seaside never for as an aide to drafting a portrait. The painted image on the side of the Tedna Ve Installation is a crude copy of John Reskimmer – Cornish Gent by Hans Holbein the younger. Did Holbein come to Cornwall? John Reskimmer was a member of the outer circle of the court of Henry VIII, Tudor king of England, chances are that Reskimmer had to go to Hampton Court than Holbein risking life and limb across Dartmoor in order to get the superb portrait.
Although camera obscura’s were discovered by Hassan ibn Hassan an Arabian Scholar (aka Ibn al Haitam) in 10th century, he wrote about the Suns eclipse and early Chinese interest in Sun Spot activity is widely acknowledged.
Bawning the Thorn on St.Peters Day in the Parade Ground 29th June 2010 Chelsea College of Art London SW1P 4JU (opposite TATE BRITAIN) The Seasons turn through springtides to summer solstice, obscured by these celebrations old Bawning The Thorn on St.Peters Day will also be a time of making likeness’s, of creative interaction and a moment of respite before the heady spring blossom turns to heavy red fruits. Come one come all unless the apples are christened on St.Peters Day the crop will not be good.
Up with fresh garlands in midsummers morn,
Up with red ribbons on Appleton Thorn,
Come lasses and lads to the thorn tree today,
To bawn it and shout as ye bawn it “hurray”
Rather the Draw Me/Tedna Ve Portrature Installation is the focus on the Parade Ground in lieu of an orchard or a tree, where portraits simple and true can be made on paper in the traditional upside down image fashion, come and participate by making a drawing, being in a drawing and marking this special day.
Free but a donation towards the Chelsea College of Arts PgDip exhibition will not be refused
The earliest record for the uses of a Camera Obscura can be found in the work of Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) At around the same time Daniel Barbero, a Venetian recommended the apparatus as an aid to drawing and most importantly; A way to configure perspective which was quite literally a new way of seeing the world and this is reflected in both the history of painting and the history of scenography.
Giovanni Battista della Porta (1538 – 1615) was reputedly taken to court after inviting a crew of dignitaries along to his spacious camera obscura, once seated the guests were to see a troup of actors performing outside the device projected upside down on to an interior wall, the sight caused panic and confusion among the guests who ran for their lives!
Caneletto, Vermeer, Joshua Reynolds and many other painters benifitted or experienced the Camera Obscura, Gerolomo Cardano, an Italian mathematician introduced bi-convex lenses which improved the light bearing qualities we now rely upon in all instruments. The word “Lens” is reputedly referring to the Lentil like shape of a bi-convex glass lens. Some of the first camera’s were enormous structures other versions appeared as Sedan Chairs but going back to Holbeins improbable journey over Dartmoor in a converted Camera Obscura Sedan Chair, it is an interesting if unvalidated idea that the young dashing Hans Holbein who graced the European Royal Courts as though the first celebrity style Pop-Artist, painting the entire Tudor household with an incredibly beautiful line (metal point), got a severe grumble from the ultra traditionalist Albrecht Dürer who accused Holbein of using a Camera Obscura like he was accusing him of some serial killings in the Black Forest.
For at the eye the Pyramidal rayes from the object, receive a decussation, and so strike a second base upon the Retina or hinder coat, the proper organ of vision; wherein the pictures from objects are represented, answerable to the paper, or wall in the dark chamber; after the decussation of the rayes at the hole of the hornycoat, and their refraction upon the Christalline humour, answering the foramen of the window, and the convex or burning-glasses, which refract the rayes that enter it.
The physician and author Sir Thomas Browne; The Garden of Cyrus 1658
The Greenstone is a material once revered by Cornish Craftsmen as the most appropriate type of stone to make Boelmen – Stone Axeheads of a presumed ceremonial purpose although the practical use of such tools is manifest in the discovery of Greenstone Adzes (Kelynack St,Just Aerodrome 1952), another found at Camborne with semi-hollowed lumber. The Greenstone remains both viable and visable in contemporary Cornwall as a “Roadstone” termed Blue Elvan, the hard chippings are set in tarmacadam and link their source at Penlegh Quarry, Green Rocks, Newlyn with the A30 road contributing and extending the distribution of this mysterious material. Penlegh or Penlee as it is commonly written, in this context is “the headland of the Flat Stone”, nearby is Bolegh.
The world is familiar with the name Penlee from the Penlee Disaster during which the lifeboat crew of the Mousehole/Newlyn Penlee Lifeboat were all but destroyed by a particularly cruel set of circumstances that changed the soul of Mousehole Village and of the approach taken by shipping insurance procedures in the face of salvage rights, The best and most effective way of learning more about this is to watch the BBC Documentary The Cruel Sea 2006. A book by Michael Sagar Fenton is available.
Looking eastwards from the Larrigan shore theres the distracting romanticm of St.Michaels Mount bringing an additional iconic visual perfume to bear. As in so much of Cornwalls history, the anglicized identity is often difficult to unravel from mythological, literary supposition and the “lay” of the Brythonic Language which I confess is attractive for its repudiated status by almost everyone but inevitably any conjecture about “meaning” is received with a rage that contradicts the ongoing disinterest in promoting or investigating the Language. St.Michaels Mount, or Carreck Lo(s) as it may have been known is important for the historical references and the historical evidence found in places like the peat content beneath the sands of Long Rock and Marazion Beaches. These samples were identified by carbon fourteen testing to have the pollen of an oak wood that link to the petrified tree stumps also presenting themselves in the sand well beneath the tideline inside the Mounts Bay. Romanticized tales of a wooded valley in which the Greenstone Axes were quarried is rendered superficial by omission of further conjecture, you simply cannot deduct blood from a stone if English Language holds sway over cultural preferences.
Carreck Los crudely translates as Grey Rocks, I’ve heard a few variations on this name, however like the Welsh Brythonic use of Red = Côch to mean loved or dear (yes, as well as Bach) I believe that colour and the meaning of colour was both perceived and alliterated to project quite different meanings, in this context Grey is possibly a sacred thing, Glas Los is grey-blue and hoary or hairy, the nearest connection is shamelessly stereotypical Glastonbury which was certainly noted for its sacred meaning. An unsubstantiatable quagmire but what interests me mostly here is the possible difference in colour perception and interpretation then, when Cornish was evolving and now when our reliance upon another language to convey our cultural detail is, as they say now, unfit for purpose, our cultural characteristics – if the difference between English and Cornish language is a worthy gauge are too contrary to be translated verbatim.
It is unfortunate that so much myth has been embedded into the assumed legalities of St.Michaels Mount/ Carreck Loe because I think they eclipse some of the more interesting ideas about this astonishingly beautiful little island, the buildings are spectacular for their “architectural” drama but I hold the view that Cornwalls architectural tradition or if you like Heritage, is more closely aligned to Spatial Dynamics than building styles and techniques, our urban beginings are based upon the skills of the mason , the quarrymen and a landscape that insisted upon an Adophe Appia scenographic sensibility towards the “Horizontal” over the dizzying daring gambles of vertically biased Architecture. Contrarily I refute the coy recidivist dabblings of the National Trust and the prettification of granite cottages. Our earliest techniques used the sheltering landscape balanced against an economically based proximity to the sea. The sea has always been the sole conveyor of cultural interchange in Cornwall. Our links with Wales, East Coast Eire and Brittany are quite realistically “written in stone” via the Tramore Scillonian entrance cyst burial chambers found to be identically patterned layouts in Brittany, Scilly and Tramore,Waterford Co.
The Cornish link with stone and mineral is old enough to be considered a trait even though it is more closely associated with the extraction of minerals rather than the development of their potential use. The cultural attributes of Cornwall have remained internalized and generally have received little or no support or encouragement from English Government or Royalty, the language remains untended. This by no means amounts to a “poor culture” or Arte Povera, except that skills like net making, sail making, black smithing, smelting they all were spin offs and potent stimulus of further developments Cornish seaman ship provided and continues to provide an informed shipwright industry creating the Scillonian Pilot Gig and the Cornish Lugger to name two widely recognized forms that receive acknowledgment globally.
The characteristics were always present, particularly through the indigenous language, the applied nonsense about pirates and smuggling sits very uncomfortably with a nation of the most enthusiastic methodist and authority fearing people whose ethos was working to the point that any cultural expression would be exclusively found in items connected to or about work and the bible. The artists of the “colonies” Newlyn and St.Ives were actually “colonized” by incoming artists using paint and photography, the indigenous art was to be found in the stone antiquities, the drystone walls, the wooden lugger, the caulking of carvel boats, construction of crab traps, kelp burning techniques, the basic materials of flax, tar,wood, slate and jute. It should be factored that Cornwalls maritime fixation led many to a career in the navy for whom the baring of tropical exotic keepsakes helped establish many of the big country estate gardens to this day and to this day a remnant of the feral hunter gatherer can be seen picking Sea Spinach and winkles, though the numbers are obviously commensurate with the frequency of Tesco planning applications and Cornish children leaving to work elsewhere.
Lets return now to the incidence of Greenstone and its influence. There are massive Plutons of stone that stretch in various sized blobs from far out into the Irish Sea, Fitzroys Ledge just pokes up into the seabed from the depths of subterranea, then The Isles of Scilly perch just above the horizon line on the second Pluton, the third is huge and is the West Penwith peninsular, theres some smaller ones at Tregonning and St Agnes Beacon then a big one at Carnkie, another at St.Dennis, Bodmin Moor and finally Dartmoor in fact the entire range is the boundary of what used to be Damnonia, then defined by its received epithet Kernow, then reduced down to what is today, still both Cornwall and Kernow but somewhat smaller.