I have always been open to collaborations with people working in different disciplines so I was very proud to be asked to be one of the first Coombe Associate Artists alongside Belinda Lee Chapman, but despite a passion for watching contemporary dance, I hadn’t worked with a dancer so I was immediately intrigued to see what Belinda and I might produce if given time,space and encouragement at Coombe.
Devon really is home to some amazing creative folk but sometimes it can feel like we all get stuck down our own valleys or atop our own hills so having an excuse to explore these real and imaginary landscapes together is fantastic. We have started with some walks and talks in the real landscape; Lara and I mapping the route with stories and memories; hillside first kisses, bad news stomps bogs, now long rotten logs un-jumped by long gone ponies, and whole lanes of release of teenage existential angst. For newly arrived Belinda the landscape has no such layering of memories but I hope that by sharing our stories and our love of the landscape we started the process of feeding the roots of a new friendship and a new creative in the area.
Our first meeting in the workshop was spent talking and talking and tea drinking and sharing our backgrounds and current practice, I left inspired and excited to be given the space and time to work with such a talented and passionate person. Our next sessions saw us working with Belinda’s heartfelt poetry and I was struck by how beautiful her hands were and how they danced as she talked, not airy fairy flutterings but strong, supple, expressive and graceful movements. I started to draw a particular word we found in one of her poems which seemed pertinent; ‘space’, I drew it in charcoal on a large sheet of paper, over and over again so it became abstracted and more about the movement of my body whilst making the mark. Belinda started to dance in response, using her whole body to mimic or mirror the sweeps and strokes of the charcoal. Then I drew her movements, the lines of charcoal becoming quite abstract but rooted in response to Belinda’s movements. I left buzzing. We started our third meeting by each leading the other in an exercise; Belinda started by guiding us through the space; engaging all our senses and warming the entire body and mind up – I would definitely recommend all artists to start a session of drawing this way! We culminated this session with an exploration of each other’s hands; our primary source of touch and as an artist our most treasured appendages. With closed eyes we took it in turns to really feel the other’s hands, as if afterwards we would have to draw or describe the hand and therefore so much about the hand’s owner purely by memory; each callous or soft place, the size and strength or fragility. I was ‘looking’ so hard with my hands that Belinda became convinced I was using my eyes. It was an incredibly intense and revealing exercise which I found quite emotional. I then led us through drawing our own hands, a tricky exercise even for very accomplished artists! But I was not interested in how ‘well’ Belinda could draw or she in how ‘well’ I could dance, it was an exercise in sharing and awakening and I left feeling inspired but also quite moved; perhaps drawn in and out of myself!
I am not yet sure where our working together and sharing ways of thinking, expressing and feeling will lead but I’m very pleased to have been given this opportunity by Lara at Coombe Farm and am really looking forward to seeing what happens next!