‘A Walk – A Vision - A
land art project entitled ’ Wilderness - The Dance’ at Kemyel
Crease near Mousehole
based artist Jonathan Middlemiss
by Michaela Placzek, Art Consultant, Silverwell Creative
based artist Jonathan Middlemiss and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust are
pleased to announce the launch of a pioneering land art project.
Carried out over the three months on the public Coast Path at Kemyel
Crease Reserve between Lamorna Cove and Mousehole, this unique
project brings together two of Cornwall’s most celebrated areas of
interest: the Arts and wildlife.
Renowned artist Jon
Middlemiss, who received a grant form the Arts Council for this
project, is best known for his ceramics. However, over the past few
years he has embarked on a personal journey of discovery, which
naturally brought with it the desire to widen his artistic skills
and exploration of subject matter. This led him to create work on a
bigger scale, outside the familiarity of a white gallery space. The
results were seen last year at Trelissick Gardens in the stunning
wooden sculptural pieces on display there.
Jonathan is delighted to
have another chance to take art back into one of its prime
inspirational sources, nature itself, in a beautiful corner of
Cornwall – the footpath near Mousehole.
Journeying along this path
one day, Jonathan discovered it’s potential. He intuitively felt
it was the right place to marry natural features such as rocks,
trees and water with artistic sculptures, born from the inspiration
this environment holds for him. It also came to represent a journey
in a wider sense; the path had undergone historic changes itself, as
it journeyed through time, having once formed part of an important
The concept behind his
work, namely the interplay between man, consciousness, and
landscape, has echoes of other ancient belief systems, including
Australian Aboriginal concepts of the Dream Time, the Tree of Life
and Native American Shamanism.
Anyone willing to embark
upon an intuitive journey of self-discovery and visualisation,
awakening ancient feelings for the land and the past will love this
project. It also promises to be of particular interest to all those
who are involved in education, or the environment, providing
opportunities for students and teachers alike.
Comprising six main
stages, the linear 300-metre journey can start from either end of
the coastal footpath, adding at once a dual interpretation and a
sense of choice and participation for the visitor.
Starting from the West
side, the Lamorna end, as the artist originally conceived it, an
enclosed tunnel-like space formed by an avenue of trees - which
seems to contain a nurturing, birthing energy - forms the
introduction to an unfolding journey.
The avenue sweeps up to
the left, and bending, twisting trees create a spiralling effect,
which the artist has enhanced by laying wood along the path.
It is a place of
preparation, almost womb like. It offers a threshold, a sacred space
to for quiet reflection, a place to listen in. Standing in the quite
shelter, one can hear the playful song of a bird or follow the
murmur of the sea, at the base of the cliff to the right. This
powerful, yet lulling sound echoes the rib-like shape of the spiral
one seems surrounded by. The play of sunbeams thrusting through the
thicket dapples the space. This temple like area, carefully swept
and cleared by the artist of superfluous debris, can be used as part
of a ritual journey, where one finds the protection and strength
required to move on, and emerge empowered, and curious, of what the
next stage will bring.
Next, one emerges into in
an airy and light garden that suggests a magical awakening,
spiritual epiphany, or physical birth. Flowers fill the space with a
jewel-like, gleaming quality, redolent of the fertile aspects of
earth and life. They also imply innocence, childhood, and play. Rich
and overgrown, its air of mystery is enhanced by the remains of an
ancient granite wall. This lyrical playground atmosphere is enhanced
by various delicate sculptures, brightly painted with biodegradable
colours and constructed from bent chestnut sticks. They are
reminiscent of simple, children’s drawings. Smaller shapes, half
hidden, nestle inside.
Moving on, the visitor
walks up natural steps made from roots, and becomes aware of the
babbling of a stream, which crosses over the path. This forms a
natural division, almost forcing one to look back at the innocent
space they are leaving behind. Stepping across water can be seen
also in a more symbolic, almost biblical sense. Water is here used
as a symbol for flow, but also represents chi, the life-giving
force. The artist has installed various sculptures along the path
made from skilfully woven sticks and grass that are shaped in
On the hill, marked by a
pattern of large tree roots, sits a sculpted stump, a majestic,
watchful, feminine presence, a complimentary contrast to a masculine
presence to come at the end of the path.
Further along the pathway,
as if in front of a window with a clear view to the sea, are a group
of ethereal bird-like sculptures in woven bramble.
The whole path now follows
a more serpentine route, and, taking a close look, one spots
snake-like branches curling around ancient trees. A jungle-like
atmosphere pervades, which is underlined by the harts-tongue ferns
covering the ground.
The final stage is marked
by a fallen Monterey, which has a section cut away, giving an abrupt
image of human intervention. This is to be enhanced using metal and
nails, underlying the masculine angularity and power of the object.
Envisaged as a shamanic
walk in a meditative space, this location is ideal for such a
project. More than a mere art installation, which people can only
view but not engage in or even comprehend on a personal level, this
space allows the visitor to interactively tune in to the works, the
land with its inherent aesthetic, and the interplay between them,
creating the most fascinating, atmospheric journey for anyone open
to the call it makes to them.
The project’s name
provides an interesting clue for the purpose the artist intended for
it; ‘cres’ is Cornish for centre. ( Kemyel is ancient Cornish
for “stone of Michael” )
Using mainly naturally
found materials - which Jonathan fondly calls ‘materials with
memory’ - or those that are biodegradable promotes the interests
of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and creates an appropriate awareness
of the beauty and richness of this reserve. Man-made materials such
as metal and nails are deliberately used to accentuate the contrast
that human life represents.
The land art project,
which has universal appeal for people from all walks of life, allows
art and nature lovers of all ages to embark on a personal journey of
the heart. With or without set tasks, they can follow it at their
own pace to discover anew that which seemed so familiar. KEAP and
Creative Partnership have therefore expressed an interest to use the
project in collaborations with various schools, hoping to add to
curricular activities in ways that enrich the learning process in
subjects such as art, dance, creative writing, story-telling, drama,
music or biology in a very practical way.
What is most fascinating
about this innovative project, is that it has doesn’t arise from
any fixed criteria, like an oil painting that is built up layer for
layer for example; it exists though the ever-changing juxtapositions
and interactions of environment and art. Changes often occur on a
daily basis, which means that the artist has had to either
reconstruct certain parts of the path or integrate these changes
such as effects of erosion, wet areas, or leaf fall. Materials that
were expected to be integrated might have vanished or changed and
others literally fell into place to offer themselves as even more
suitable. This way of working has been exciting for the artist as
new gateways of discovery opened themselves to let in what
‘demanded’ to be included.
On the whole the working
process was and still is for anyone who will engage in it in the
future, a constantly evolving, organic response rather than a
preconceived plan, which was merely imposed upon its setting.
restrictions given by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust concerning animal
breeding seasons or bush and tree felling proved to be challenging,
but again made the pathway particularly unique, thereby encouraging
the artist to be inventive when it came to choosing materials from
the natural environment, and to think more deeply about the
sensitivity of his interaction with the landscape. However,
materials like metal allowed for contrasts and offered a level of
control that the elusive, transient quality of nature can deny an
The artist himself put it
most poetically when I asked him what the experience was for him:
‘a walk – a vision - a dream’.
has also been intuited by the many walkers he has met whilst working
on the site, however different they described the experience from a
personal point of view. What Jonathan found most intriguing was the
fact that other people have seen things or felt emotions that might
not have been his original intention, but which broadened his own
perception and therefore proved the potential of the space as being
of universal appeal, yet touching everybody deep down on a personal
level. For some it may just be another pleasant Cornish pathway
enhanced by thoughtful and resonant sculpture, but for others it
offers a reflection of the rites of passages of life, which we all
experience, flow with or struggle against; or a dance, a lyrical
experience that uplifts us and guides us through its rhythm and
To find out more about the artist and the project and how to find
Kemyel Crease, please visit
text copyright Michaela Placzek, Silverwell