Artist, Choreographer, Performer, Researcher.
In 1976, age 9, I was taken by my local Junior School, to see the Graham Sutherland Gallery at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire. It had just opened that year and was specially built to house a collection of works Sutherland wished to bequeath to the country that had given his work so much inspiration.
I shall never forget standing in close proximity to a small painting, rich in green and red, that appeared to be a tree. A teacher saw my fascinated and intense childs gaze upon this work and asked what I saw. " I see a tree but also thorns and birds,' I replied. She looked at me, eyes from above, looking downwards on my small brown face and responded, ' I think you will be an artist one day'. Those words made a prophetic imprint on me.
A few years later, age 12, walking along the Cleddau estuary close to the castle, in an area that Sutherland found deeply inspiring, I found a stone. The stone curiously resembled an ancient eye from some long lost civilsiation. I imagined it might by Roman, Celtic even Egyptian, entombed in stone and drifting to foreign waters. I kept it, religiously, and now 40 years later I still have it. It has remained with me on all my journeys through time. This 'eye stone' I later imagined was the eye of Sutherland embodied in the rocks, molded and formed by the unique mix of iron ore and sandstone and tidal ebbs and flows.
In 2018, in a hiatus in my artistic practice, I returned to that same Cleddau shore and was again struck by the resonance of the landscape and by the invisible/visible presence of Sutherland's aesthetic.
Could I have a direct relationship with the estuary, or was it always mediated by Sutherland's vision? Was I experiencing the place itself, or experiencing it through a veil of Sutherland interpretations? Or did Sutherland simply act like a conduit to make me see things anew, as they are in all their itensity? Without anthropomorphism, can we apprehend the intrinsic 'consciousness' of living forms?
The current project draws upon published writing on Sutherland, Sutherlands own writing, together with direct responses to his 'Welsh' paintings done in the two periods 1930s and then 1970's. In particular, I have sought to, literally and metaphorically, trace his footsteps and relocate specific areas in Pembrokeshire which so inspired him. In so doing, I aim to then translate both the place, the site, and the painted image, into a photographic, performative, sonic or textual response. The resulting work will be published as a limited edition artists book, and a print exhibiton in Pembrokeshire 2019.
I have been assisted by the map of locations provided in Bennett, Gordon, 'Sutherland in Pembrokeshire' (C.Bennett, Withybush, Wales, 1995).
'' It is not a question so much a tree like a figure, or a root like a figure - it is a question of bringing out the anonymous personality of these things; at the same time they must bear the mould of their ancestry. There is a dualtiy; they can be themselves and something else at the same time. They are formal metaphors'.
Sutherland, Graham, in ed: Andrews, J, 'Correspondences' (Italy, 1982) p: 14
(Rotie, Cambridge, July 15th 2018)
All Photographs copyright Marie-Gabrielle Rotie 2018. All Rights Reserved.