State of Emergency – Commission for The Box, Plymouth
7 August 2020
Lockdown found me several hundred miles from home, legally and practically unable to return, without most of my work materials and prevented from taking part in many social activities. Like many others, I was glued to the news and newspapers, obsessively reading about the virus and how others were managing it, as if by reading I could somehow solve the enormity of the problem. The news and economic pages were deeply depressing, and the lifestyle pages seemed even more irrelevant than usual, given that there was no way to travel to the tropical islands and the concerts weren’t happening, while I had no way visit the galleries or remodel my own home and garden. Like everyone else, I found myself in a seemingly familiar but utterly alien state of limbo, struggling to make sense of the new ‘reality’.
From those newspapers I took images of athletes, politicians and celebrities, participating in the same social, cultural and leisure activities that have been denied us, then turned them upside-down, just as all our lives have been turned upside-down.
The silhouettes, divorced from everyday life and their contexts at the moment the photos were taken, became suspended in strange, uncomfortable poses: rising or drifting, fighting or at peace, reaching for something unknown and unseen. The figures could be falling, floating or merely in suspension. Their very isolation could be as much freedom as imprisonment in an infinite, undetermined time and space – it all depends on perspective.
After experimenting with background colours, blue seems the most satisfactory – symbolising sky, air or ocean.
“Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions, whereas the other colours are not… All colours arouse specific associative ideas, psychologically material or tangible, while blue suggests at most the sea and sky, and they, after all, are in actual, visible nature what is most abstract.” (Yves Klein, Selected Writings)
The colour blue has been used by artists for centuries to represent holiness and majesty – The Virgin Mary’s robes are blue, partly because it was so expensive, being found only in the mines of Afghanistan – ‘ultramarine’ means ‘beyond the sea’.
For Goethe, blue presented ‘a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose’ and for Rebecca Solnit, it represents something out of reach:
“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that colour of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go.” (Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost)
Painted on newsprint, the physical backgrounds to the images are continual reports, statistics and speculation on COVID-19, as this terrifying virus forms the new background to everything we do.
Paris Street residency: 4
2 October 2018
Those sunny postcards of Plymouth that I posted a few weeks ago? I spent a happy/disturbed couple of weeks painting scenes of catastrophic sea level rise obliterating parts of Plymouth.
Scientists, writers and psychologists have spent years trying to work out why, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, we often choose to deny the truth or simply remain inactive when we think about the future and climate change. It may be that we thought it would be ‘some time in the future’, many models used to show things happening ‘at the end of this century’, which of course is too far away for many of us to contemplate. Perhaps we thought everything would be all right until then?
Painting these scenes, I found it all too easy to imagine this happening. In some of them, for good measure, I imagined the sea having disappeared, and a drought-ridden landscape replacing our seaside, but the models predict the opposite. We are supposed to try to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, but the chances are we are already set on a course for at least twice if not three times that. Sea levels will possibly rise by metres, not centimetres. If melting ice from Greenland disrupts the Gulf Stream, as it seems to be doing, Great Britain faces a possible future climate not of sun-drenched Mediterranean summers like the one we’ve just had, but of a climate similar to Newfoundland, since we are at the same latitude. We might see giant icebergs on our shores. Other models suggest that the currents will simple chuck more heat into the atmosphere instead of it being buried in the ocean. We can’t know for sure, but things will change.
I’m an artist, not a scientist. I don’t pretend to know what will happen in the future, but the footage of flooding in North Carolina last month looked eerily similar to some of my postcards.
101 of them hit the streets, shops, venues and phone boxes of Plymouth as part of #PlymouthFutures for Plymouth Art Weekender and The Atlantic Project.
You can see all of them here
Let me know if you find one.
Paris Street Residency: 3
10 September 2018
Commissions are strange animals. I love them and fear them in equal measure. How do you know the recipient is being honest when they see the finished item for the first time? How do you know they’ll be able to live with it for years? Especially when you know them, and will have to see them (and possibly your commission) on a regular basis for years – will they still love it when they’re 64?
So with the usual excitement and trepidation I agreed to a painting commission for the brilliant young Director of the University of Exeter Chapel Choir. His office is the Mary Harris Memorial Chapel of the Holy Trinity (to give it its full name) on Streatham Campus – a beautiful, modern building, consecrated in 1958 and given Grade II listed status in 1988. One of its most striking attributes is the stunning ceiling, painted by Thomas Monnington using patterns in geometry and light. There are no stained glass windows, but the light is filtered through high columns of glass bricks which distort the outside world and add to the calm quality inside.
I’ve sung, read lessons and listened to concerts and services in the Chapel, so I thought I knew it quite well, but I took the opportunity to visit in the summer when it was empty, to get a feel for the mood of the place when it’s not filled with sound. Sitting in different places, peering through the glass, finding visual references and resonances in the fittings and decor, I began to get a different sense of it, so my original ideas had to be let go. There’s a quietness and order to it which I hadn’t noticed before. I often paint while listening to music – sometimes one piece obsessively for weeks on end, so I asked Michael for his favourite pieces and chose one from them which seemed to fit the mathematics of the ceiling and the quiet grandeur of the place.
Layering the score and text under paint, I superimposed different parts of the chapel which I found interesting and played with the composition until it seemed to tell some kind of story. The hard bit about creating things is often knowing when to stop, but finally the visual harmonies seemed to come together.
He says he likes it.
Sheffield – 1
25 May 2017
The start of my Leverhulme artist in residence in the Geography Department at Sheffield University. Feeling like a new kid at school, not sure of where to go, knowing virtually nobody. I introduce myself in offices and am greeted with beaming smiles. Asked to come back to sort paperwork, I make my way to the Students’ Union and get a coffee, with an appropriate ‘Number 1’ table marker for my first day – there’s warm sun, a light breeze and a happy atmosphere.
I meet with ‘my’ Professor to discuss the plan for the year and talk about the proposed trip to Svalbard, and am given a desk and a computer in the Post Doc room, temporarily, until a studio/office can be found that I’m allowed to grubby with ‘art’ things, instead of all the clean stuff that people usually do here.
For the next ten months, I’m going to be looking at all things ice, carbon, coal and methane. I’ll be looking at the links between Sheffield and Svalbard, the writing of Robert Neal Rudmose Brown, the founder of Sheffield Geography department and an Arctic explorer who has written screeds about Svalbard, and looking at some of the consequences of the carbon cycle and climate change.
The Waters Wide
5 May 2017
I’m delighted to be showing at Cartridges Law in Cowick Street during Art Week Exeter (AWE) from 14- 21 May 2017. Please see the AWE website for details. You are very welcome to join me for a private view on Thursday 18th May at 5.30pm – 7pm. Please contact me if you would like to come so we can provide more than just water…
All works are for sale, 10% of sales to go to Devon Wildlife Trust.
Leverhulme Artist in Residence
15 February 2017
Stunned and excited to be the Leverhulme Artist in Residence at Sheffield University for 2017-18. More details here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/geography/news/leverhulme-trust-award-1.667165
24 October 2016
Every week, for a year, I’ve been writing to the Prime Minister (whoever it happens to be at the time) about Climate Change and environmental issues. It started with all the pre-COP21 optimism. It ends with the news that 2016 is set to be the hottest year ever on record. I’m not sure how I’m going to exhibit these yet. For now, some snaps.
On Watch… read the article
15 March 2016
If you haven’t managed to find a copy of Manor Magazine, you can read the full article here: MANOR 008 naomi hart.
I’ll be doing another illustrated talk about the expedition as part of Exeter Phoenix ‘Last Wednesday’ series of artists’ talks on April 27th at 5pm. See here for a link to book.
12 February 2016
Huge Thank you to Belinda Dillon and Manor Magazine for the beautiful article in this month’s issue. you can read the full article here: MANOR 008 naomi hart
4 August 2015
3-4 August 2015
Anchored opposite Roede Oe (Red Island).
We are on day/night reversal – it makes very little difference anymore, ‘I don’t know whether it’s Christmas or Tuesday’.
This place is so beautiful.
I am alone on Ezra.
Alone in the world.