Ink detail of drawing

Convergence / Divergence – Walking the Land

August 9, 2023

In April I met up with artists from Walking the Land for Convergence / Divergence, a three-day event in Gloucestershire. We exhibited and shared our projects, walked together, discussed ideas for future collaborations and also the future for Walking the Land (WtL) as the group grows in size and geographical location.

Since making my drawing video, Tide, for Watermarks in 2021, I’ve continued to create work on various WtL projects. These have varied from one-off small works to sustained collaborations over a period of time. Below and in my next two posts I’ll attempt to summarise some of the works that I was involved in and were presented at Convergence/Divergence.

Colour photograph of a detail of an oak leaf

Abandoned Walks: Between Two Oaks

In May 2022 I walked Between Two Oaks, following a line towards Kel Portman, stretching between Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. We both knew at the start that we might never reach our destination and would have to abandon it at some point. We decided to focus on oak trees with their mycelial network stretching outwards, and began our walks at the same time and starting near a significant oak tree. We spent a day walking towards each other, pausing at any other oak trees we passed along the line to create work following our pre-arranged prompts.

Along the way we took photographs and created work in situ at each oak tree that crossed our path. I placed lines of red thread  onto a paper map beforehand and at each oak tree I made pencil on paper rubbings of its bark and of the ground, took measurements of its circumference, of distance and paces. We both found surprisingly few oak trees. I could see some not far from the line but only five on my actual path.

Although we drew a straight line onto our maps, in reality we each meandered depending on where there were footpaths and access to land. We occasionally communicated when within range of a mobile signal. Walking creatively together in silence gave me some welcome time out to reflect on my practice more generally as well as this project, and to notice familiar paths in new ways. We still don’t know if this walk will remain abandoned or if either of will ever reach the other at the end of the line, or if we will make something tangible from it. The work that I made in situ was presented at the Walking the Land spring gathering, Convergence / Divergence. Kel has also done abandoned walks with Tamsin Grainger and David Tidsall so do check out his website to find out more about these and if any of us ever reach each other.

A wooden tray with works from the walk on it
Ruth Broadbent Abandoned Walk: Between Two Oaks (2023)

Roll of Emplacement

Roll of Emplacement is an 8-foot long collective artwork created through posting it from one Walking the Land artist to another with each of us adding a section in response. Initiated and co-ordinated by Tamsin Grainger, it became “a group map of foot and root, branch, ground and sky, of emplacement. Responding to the brief with pencil, paint, ink, natural pigment and thread, a co-operative artwork was created, one that contains both individual responses and marks, and at the same time forms a collaborative whole.”* 

I was lucky to be near the end of the roll so had the bonus of seeing most of the works. I received the roll in the post from Janette Kerr who had chased down a post van when her local post office couldn’t take parcels. My drawing was based on an ink shadow drawing that I had made from foraged finds on a First Friday Walk (a monthly WtL event). It fitted the roll exactly so seemed apt to adapt for this project. I worked up to the centre line to try and keep a hint of the line, although it is quite subtle and barely visible in the finished work. In describing each of the works, Tamsin very kindly described mine as having “a deceptive simplicity. Looking closely, there are subtle variations in colour and tone, and together they appear to resemble a plant branch whose flowers and leaves are actually growing on the page.”* 

Black ink shadow drawing
Ruth Broadbent - Drawing for Roll of Emplacement (2022)

If you’d like to see the whole Roll of Emplacement and read more about each of the works within it, do check out Tamsin’s website.

*Quotes are from Tamsin Grainger’s website writing on this work, 2023

Roll of Emplacement Artists: Tamsin Grainger, Julius Smit, Richard Keating, Rachel McDonnell, Janette Kerr, Ruth Broadbent, Jenny Staff, Zoe Ashbrook.

In my next two posts I will write about two other projects in which I’ve been closely involved, Conversations from a Log and Chalk Lines Image Exchange, and which were both exhibited at this spring gathering of Walking the Land. A search for Walking the Land on this website will also bring up previous and future artwork, such as Watermarks (2021) and a Solargraphic project (forthcoming).

If you’d like to find out more about Walking the Land, or become involved, do get in touch, or join the mailing list here. As well as various projects involving different members of the group, there are also regular First Friday Walks (in-person or remote participation) and Last Tuesday Cafés (online).

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