Walking & Thinking,

Thinking & Walking.

Walking is my daily ritual. I am slowly coming round to the fact that walking might be part of my practice, as well as a big part of my life. Walking informs my drawing and painting, and is a useful tool when making work, even when my subject matter is not focussed on the landscape, or embodiment of landscape. Walking helps me process ideas, reflect upon things that are happening in the studio and in life. We all walk – I am no different to anyone else – but I do realise that walking is of differing importance to everyone.

I walk every day, it is crucial to my emotional and physical wellbeing, and is part of who I am. This body of work was initiated by my daily walking practice, yet I find myself reflecting on how walking aids my practice and as a person when making a body of work isn’t based on walks. I still need that daily rhythmic routine, to be moving, in order to think clearly, to clarify ideas in my mind, to remember how to look properly and notice my surroundings and myself. The landscape in the distance and close by, the quickly changing coastal weather, the temperature and air on my skin, my changing pace and use of different muscle groups as I go for it and sweat up-hill, struggle with my knees on the down-hill, or coast for a while on the flat – all these elements develop into a visual response.

As a woman, my experience of walking differs from that of a man. Why? Because I/we have more to consider: personal safety being one. When walking home from a night out with girlfriends, we will text each other to check we are all home safely, when planning a long walk I am aware of where the more isolated areas are, of ensuring my phone is charged, of letting a friend or sibling know where I am going for the day. Has anything ever happened to me? No. But that heightened awareness makes my experience of walking different from that of a man walking. Advice in women’s running magazines suggests that as a woman running, I might be safer running with a group, to run in the daylight, to not wear my hair in a plait or bunch at the back of my head (it is easier for a perpetrator to grab hair tied up from behind). All this advice collides with how and where I want to run, and where and how I do run.

 ‘Be careful’. ‘Take care’. ‘Text me when you’re home’. ‘Are you sure you are ok to walk on your own?’ ‘Are you walking with your husband?’ ‘Join a group’. These are questions/ statements I hear often in relation to walks and runs, yet am aware these are asked/shared because I am a woman. I find myself asking myself the same questions.

Is long distance walking and running, or even short daily constitutionals just a male domain? No of course not. Yet I feel that, as with so many things in life, women must take on board an extra layer of self-awareness, of responsibility.

Mixing and layering traditional gesso, and sourcing pigments (some local to Cornwall), grinding and blending, cracking eggs and adding white wine and clove oil, feels like a domestic task in my studio. It is a practical task, yet also enables me to connect better with my ground, with my paint, with my materials, a time to think before the painting starts. Squeezing paint from a tube now feels disconnected, however convenient it may be. Artists during medieval and Renaissance times used egg tempera before it was superseded by oil paint.  Reading around that period in time, I question if the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ was in fact enlightened at all: women cast out of their communities as witches for sourcing natural remedies, for mixing their own ‘lotions and potions’, for being older, alone. A gender and class driven mass genocide. Whilst the male dominated art studios of the time also sourced natural pigment colours to paint with, mixed and explored within the safety of their own gender. Although the Italian Renaissance has been held up as a yard stick, a standard and aspiration of skill, our view of it is changing, along with our awareness of the historical traditional exclusions that have resulted in a gender biased history of art.

Sign up for news

To find out about updates and exhibitions, add your email below.