‘A Walk – A Vision ­­- A Dream’
 
 
A land art project entitled ’ Wilderness - The Dance’ at Kemyel Crease near Mousehole 
by Cornwall based artist Jonathan Middlemiss

 Written by Michaela Placzek, Art Consultant, Silverwell Creative

 
Cornwall 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 horticultural area.
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 nest-like forms.
 
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.
 
Furthermore the 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 artist.
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The artist himself put it most poetically when I asked him what the experience was for him: ‘a walk – a vision - a dream’.
 
Interestingly this 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 rhyme.
 
To find out more about the artist and the project and how to find Kemyel Crease, please visit 
www.middlemissart.com

text copyright Michaela Placzek, Silverwell Creative

www.silverwellcreative.co.uk

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