The Edges Of These Isles – A Collaboration Between Artist And Photographer

(MUSIC) SIMON: Tom and I met we meet through a mutual friend whilst doing the three peaks challenge in 24 hours and and I kind of knew Tom and that he
was an artist but I’d never really kind of engaged with his work. TOM: I took a
sketchbook on that trip so that kind of got me started thinking about landscape ‘cos
I’d not.. not really worked specifically from landscape before and
then talking with Simon about about that work – the Three Peaks – and sharing sharing a
passion for the landscape. I can’t remember which one of us brought up,
but we said let’s do something together… collaborate – a photographer and an
artist. We wanted to involve our friends and open up the choice of location for
this project to a wider range of people other than just me and Simon,
so we invited people to share their favourite locations or places that
they felt held significance for them and held beauty, natural beauty. SIMON: As the
project went on I think Tom and I had a bit more influence over that in terms of
wanting to try and reach kind of each country within the UK. Now that’s not to say that
in any sense we were trying to represent the whole of the British Isles but it
was exciting to think that we would be exploring each place, kind of one at
a time, and kind of giving it a voice. TOM: We made some strategical choices
and, like, “we’ll do this then”, “we’ll do this now”, and “this is by the water” and “this is inland” – things like that, and that’s how we care
about our six… and seven locations in the end. (MUSIC) We settled on going up to the
Lake District together, to Buttermere and Crummock Water, which is somewhere that I
think we’ve both kind of… well the Lake District as a whole, we both have a kind of
affinity towards, but that was really the first endeavour together, and I think
really quickly we started to appreciate how each other might work, how we kind of
create, what our kind of process might be… in terms of me shooting work,
or kind of Tom gathering sketches. As a photographer I need to be working in
the moment, and so I was very conscious of light especially, getting up early for
sunrise, making sure we were around when the golden hours are happening,
whereas obviously Tom works in a way that means he can kind of gather material
and build a kind of sense of a place which he can then process
afterwards and convert that in a studio. TOM: The time when I’m with Simon on locations,
that’s been greatly influenced in a number of areas… …1 – the timing – how we operate,
how I operate, to the time that a photographer would spend focusing on one point –
just the difference of that with me… focusing on a single point as an artist –
that’s really affected and just given me a greater depth of knowledge of looking
really. (MUSIC) SIMON to TOM: You’ve done your research! (Both laugh) I think someone like Lindisfarne is a very
special place that’s got a… bit of intrigue and mystery. SIMON: It’s not like anywhere I’ve really been before I don’t think. We’ve got seven hours from now, so we’ve got to get across, do our
stuff and then we’ve got to be back otherwise the tide comes in and then we’re
stranded on the island. TOM: Stranded or washed away!
SIMON: Yeah! (MUSIC) SIMON: With Lindisfarne, you know, obviously the
main attractions are the castle and the abbey, and that sort of thing –
which obviously I would go and photograph but actually that feels like it’s
not necessarily my voice – it’s just the voice that is that the most obvious
photographic voice, so in that sense I have to really start thinking and
working on location about where I’m pointing my camera and what is going to
make an artistic image that is kind of my impression of that place in that time. TOM: It’s like, what am I actually seeing? You go to the coast on holiday so many times… we’re desensitised to what’s there, you know… you know there’s wind, and water, and land, and sand. You say seaside or coast, that’s what you get – you imagine those things… but then when you want to
start drawing from it you’ve got to put all that history and
memory of what you know, what you’ve seen and done before out of the way
because if you don’t… if I don’t, then I just start drawing Colwyn Bay,
or Porth Iago, or somewhere in Cornwall. SIMON: I’m looking for quite a lot of depth
within an image, so I need something in the foreground so it doesn’t look
too flat, you know, so if I’m just shooting out to
sea, it can really easily just be, kind of, sea and sky – and that’s not so you can’t
do something artistic and creative with that – but to have maybe a leading line
like a wall or some rocks in the foreground, or some grass that’s going to mean you feel like there’s a kind of… …to portray the distance. Sometimes I get a bit, kind of, involved
in the camera and thinking about settings and putting filters on and all that
sort of thing, and kind of stressing over all the things – all the technical things
I’ve got to think about, when actually that’s a bit of a distraction from
looking at the light and looking where things are moving. You’ve got to be
fairly quick, and that differs to what Tom’s doing… if I don’t catch it at the time, then that’s it, I haven’t got it, whereas Tom can capture the essence of an idea or sketch something out that he can work on later. TOM: The fact that I’ve been allowed
to think about and really marinade on this location – each location – individually
for a number of months has meant that the the final piece, the final work
has changed form, has changed how it would have been say immediately after.
The scale of it is different as it has moved out of the sketchbook, it has become a larger
painting, or it’s become a 3d model. SIMON: The trip to the Brecon Beacons
was a real surprise for me. We’d planned to go down to the Gower Peninsula and
just thought “well the Brecons is on the way” It’s somewhere that we both talked
about visiting. It was amazing – It was stunning really, there was
quite low cloud and we aimed for one of the peaks and took our time
getting to the top, but it was an amazing sense of the place, in terms of the gestures and the movement in the landscape. The light worked really well, peeking through the clouds and coming through the valleys, and the mist and low cloud really helps create
a sort of mysterious atmosphere within the landscape, and I really felt at ease in
that place creating work – it really didn’t feel taxing at all. I think I
was working in the way that I feel is best for me, which is just kind of on my
feet, walking around camera in hand, and so working in that way just
really enabled me to create some great work from a place that I was
really glad to have explored for the first time. (MUSIC) TOM: The Gower Peninsula was the most magical
trip for me – it’s where I felt my senses were all… yeah… alive in that point…
at that moment. The moment of realising what the final
piece for that place would be was really just a complete mystery that how I ended
up there, because in that moment… …I couldn’t really, I wasn’t really
sketching, or acting, I was just experiencing. So the final piece came from just a raw
experience of of the sunrise at Rhossili and… yeah… that was the most
poignant moment for me. SIMON: I think for me by far, my favourite
was the trip to Glen Coe. We’d driven through on the Three Peaks Challenge
that we’ve done, kind of once in the daylight, but you’re travelling fairly
quick, so I’d never had the chance to explore that landscape, and just the way
that whole day came together… We had one day to explore Glen Coe –
the light was incredible, We managed to do a lot of work down in
the valley, and then climb up high, and the views from the were absolutely stunning.
We were able to have a lot of time to process and talk together –
it just felt a really complete experience. SIMON: The bits in between the visual aspect of
the project – the walking with Simon, that’s when we talk, and we process, we
share. You know, we choose what at to share, but then, I want to share
everything that I’ve got with Simon – I believe he’s the same with me…
I want him to know how I’m working, and I want to know how he’s working, so we’ll
share through our words… what exactly we’re thinking about,
what we’re going for. SIMON: I won’t forget Northern Ireland in a
hurry, just because it was tricky – it was exciting because we flew over
and I’ve never been, and really wanted to, kind of, experience all
these various locations that people have recommended to us, but the weather
was really prohibitive, it was very cold, I didn’t even take a jumper,
I just had my camera in a bag, and a toothbrush, and that was kind of it for my luggage, so
it was very cold, and wet and windy, and we got snowed and hailed on. (MUSIC) TOM: The weather conditions in Ireland really
affected my immediate work – my immediate work in the sketchbook.
Nothing… we weren’t stationary for more than 10 minutes, simply by the
fact that I couldn’t… my fingers wouldn’t function for that long in the cold and
the wind. (SOUND OF WIND) SIMON: For Tom, the changeability of the weather
just means that he can’t sit for a set amount of time and and, kind of, get his head
down and get some sketches done, so he’s been, kind of, grabbing just some
really quick rough sketches to capture the ideas and the essence of a place,
but what he really loves to do is have a bit of time to just sit and take it
in, soak it all up and get the tones right, and get the shapes right, and so
fortunately here when we’re at the castle he’s had a bit time to, kind of,
get some ideas down. TOM: Even though the restraints are there, it’s
just a joy to be here and I think I’ve really enjoyed using some of the
mediums I’m using – for instance, I’ve got soft charcoals and some harder
charcoals, and then pencils and coloured pencils, which I’ve deliberately put in
different compartments to pick quickly for a sketch, and I haven’t done
that before – I haven’t had to think too much about… that before and I was talking to
Simon about it – all along he’s using different filters for shots, and he has
to be quick, he has to be a lot quicker than I am,
but still he’s choosing what to use to take the shot, and for me now that’s
how I am with these sketches – I’ve been making a decision on
a medium, and then having to just work within that boundary to get what I’m
seeing, and the results of that… are just making me happy. It’s just been exciting and enjoyable to
to bring… to sort of push for the result that I want. SIMON: Because we had these locations lined up,
I felt like I wanted to always go and get on to the next one, just in case the light was
bad, or the weather came in and meant we couldn’t get any work done there, so I think
the whole time I felt under quite a lot of pressure to create in the moment, which
was difficult, so maybe I didn’t come away with the images I’d imagined I’d
come away, but again I learnt an awful lot from that experience, that I really
needed to try and feel more at ease in a place, in order to, kind of, let
myself create the work that the landscape demanded of me, rather than trying
to superimpose what I wanted to create onto this place. SIMON: Spending time with Simon and
processing it together – that’s influenced the final pieces and how they appear. I’ve been able to really focus, more
so than before, on single pieces, on single points, because we’ve
had a target of a final piece per each location. SIMON: I’ve obviously got a very strong
emotional connection to pictures, because I was there taking it, and feeling
something at the time, and that can really hinder my judgment in terms of what I
think might be a good photograph, or a photograph that sums up a place, so in
that sense it’s good to have Tom to kind of influence selecting out the images that
I really feel capture what I wanted to capture on the day – just because they might have felt really good in the moment and I might have thought “Oh yes, …this is really good”, and then because of that
I’m blinded by that when I get home – I’m looking at it on the computer and thinking “well, yeah, this is the one” because it felt right at right the time, but actually, that may well not be the best
shot from the day, so it’s better to discuss that through with Tom to make
sure I’m picking out the best images. “…I want each place to hold together on it’s own…” TOM: Working with Simon has helped me look at that
same focal point from different angles. Like, first of all it’s a sketch, then
second of all it’s a painting, third it could be a sculpture, fourth it could be
a 3D painting like a relief painting – and this… …yeah, this… …this has really brought out exactly
what it is I want to say about that moment. SIMON: Initially Tom’s work was extremely
abstract to me, almost to the extent that I couldn’t necessarily connect the work with the
landscape that inspired it. Photography and photographs are very literal,
you know, I was trying to capture the whole of a place, and it was probably fairly
explicit as to where it was. But as time’s gone on the project’s
grown very naturally, and the relationship between Tom and I is growing
very naturally as well in terms of understanding each other’s practice and
each other’s medium, and over that time I definitely got far more understanding
of how Tom processes everything that’s happening on location, and then builds
that into a piece – which I still can’t quite comprehend how it’s made,
which is so different to me being almost, kind of, quite reactionary
in the moment in a landscape, and so I’m still, kind of, in awe of what Tom
does, and what Tom creates because it’s so vastly different from the work that I’m creating, yet it’s inspired by the same place at the same time. SIMON: Primarily we’d planned to go to six
different locations, but as a slight twist for the end of the project, we decided to add a seventh. We went to the Peak District in an attempt to
really understand how we collaborate, and to try and garner a bit more of an understanding
about each other’s processes, we swapped mediums.
TOM: So I took a camera and Simon brought some pencils and sketch books, and we wanted to see how…
we just wanted to go and do that. And me, I’d stick myself in photographer position, Simon would stick himself in artist’s
sketching position, and we’d just see what happens. SIMON: We wanted to try and appreciate how one
another processes the landscape, sees things when we’re on location, and then
create something from that. TOM: We had no targets, no aims really, other
than to see the day out in the landscape, and see what work came of it. I got a good photograph in the end, and
I was really impressed at Simon’s work as well. “Oh, it green!” “It’s so green!” “Haha!” SIMON: We wanted the book to have
a real sort of narrative to it, and to lead people through the
experiences that we had, whilst also trying to best show off the work that
we’ve created, and so there’s an element of needing to have the flow through the
work, and that’s not just my work, that’s matching and pairing it up with Tom’s work,
and so it’s, kind of, very much a case of trying to take the reader through the
process and the narrative, location by location, and taking them
through the whole experience that we went through. TOM: It is completely different from the exhibit
– the exhibit has only six pieces, or seven pieces from
each artist – me and Simon – and the book really I wanted to open up the
sense of the location, more so, in more ways than just one piece of work,
so that’s why we’ve go a lot of sketches, we’ve got a lot of accounts from
myself and Simon. And I wanted to open up my mind really, so that people can read
about how… read physically how I’m thinking, and then see what I’m doing
with my hands in the moment, because you can’t see a painting being painted live,
unfortunately, but you can see, you can see traces of where my hand has been in
the sketches, and I think that there’s a power in that. For me I want the book to be something
that’s returned to periodically, where images begin to
speak to each other over time, rather than being told “this is this”, “this is
that”, “these mean that” – I want the book to be slow and that the images, and let the
writing just speak for itself in a slow way. (MUSIC & BACKGROUND CHATTER) SIMON: I’ve just been blown away by the
amount of support we’ve had. We’ve got a great network of friends who’ve supported us and
it’s been great for them to be here, as well as the audience of the Whitworth
who’ve come to engage with the work. Just overwhelmed – it’s amazing. TOM: It’s exciting, there’s a real buzz here,
and seeing my wife is very emotional… she came in with the children. It’s completely new experience for me, and all the faces of everyone that’s come…
I’m just so thankful – and having Richard Webb here… to lead us in Q&A after the
screening of the film has just been wonderful – he is my former tutor at U.W.E. and
it’s just been fantastic to involve him in this project about landscape
and about collaboration. SIMON: It’s been great to have
conversations and talk with people about what’s behind the work – why are we
doing it? – as well as get feedback from friends and family, and guys at the gallery,
who’ve just been amazingly encouraging. (MUSIC) SIMON: I hold really strong memories from each
and every one of the locations that we visited. There are really, kind of, particular things
which stand out to me, and kind of a sense of a place, which
I’ll hold on to for many many years I think. You know, these are places that I’ll go
back to and, maybe I’ll go back with Tom, but maybe I’ll go back with other
family or other friends. I like the sense that I created something from
that place, back at this time, and I’ll be able to revisit it and see it afresh with new
eyes, and remembering the experience from before. TOM: What I’m going to take from this project is a
new and more acute awareness of the beauty of these islands – the British Isles.
It’s allowed me to think about realising there’s nothing Alpine here, there’s nothing really… there’s nothing really flat and small… We’ve got these really beautiful pockets of land. It’s allowed me to really focus and
pinpoint exactly this point of beauty and extract it – having done this now, I can
apply that to anything else I want to apply it to, I can take it to more locations in this island,
I can take it foreign countries. SIMON: Compared to a lot of other countries
around the world, these amazing landscapes are really accessible and so I
almost want to, kind of, invite people into the notion that they could go and
experience them – these places – for themselves. Tom and I have obviously
chosen do in our particular way, but actually there’s nothing that you can
represent, which compares to somebody being there themselves, so if in any way
we can inspire people to get on the train or get in the car, pack up their walking
boots and go and visit a place and experience it for themselves, that would
feel like a huge accomplishment, to inspire people to go and experience these places. (MUSIC)

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5 thoughts on “The Edges Of These Isles – A Collaboration Between Artist And Photographer

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your event at OPEN EYE Liverpool this evening, nice one Tom and Simon! I hope you can return to N. Ireland very soon, maybe the weather will be kind!! Can heartily recommend Donegal which borders with N. Ireland. Spent much of my teenage years there when I lived in Derry. It inspired me to take in the beauty of the countryside, the coastal areas in Donegal are world class, I urge you to take a look. Success to you!

  2. This came up as a "recommended for you" video that followed one I was watching on photography. I thought I'd watch a minute or so before I moved on to one that would be of more interest. To say I was inspired and motivated to look at my photography a different way is an understatement, fantastic video with two young men who I think are going to go far with their art.

  3. I was totally absorbed whilst watching this excellent video! Brilliant, inspirational, thought provoking and emotional work. Thank you.

  4. Such an inspirational story and video – beautiful! Was about to order your book – but sad to see no shipping to Australia – will have to find another way of getting one!
    Your individual pieces and the way they work with each other is simply stunning!

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