I recently released my first full volume of original, pen plotted artworks, entitled ‘Coalfield’. My work and practice is located in North Nottinghamshire, where I have lived for the past 37 years. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with landscape, geology and maps. As a kid, I would pour over the shapes of contour lines, drinking in the graphical information, thinking that I had discovered some secret information about the local terrain.
I have also always had a strange fascination with the local post-industrial landscape. In the area where I grew up (Mansfield), coal mining is a rich part of our history. My Grandfather worked all of his life down the pits, moving between collieries as he was blacklisted for his work with the unions. As a kid, I can vividly remember being bitterly disappointed each year at the annual ‘Family Open Day’ at Sherwood Colliery, where I would watch my older siblings wander off for a trip down the lift shaft. I however, was never “big enough”...... I cried.
The huge monolithic headstocks drew me in, wide eyed as we passed most days in the car... quietly smiling in delight as they spun.
These are, of course, my naive and nostalgic memories of what was (and still is) a horrible industry. (https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/research/8-reasons-why-we-need-to-phase-out-the-fossil-fuel-industry/). It is important to acknowledge the climate emergency and issues surrounding the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
I think I am part of a generation who have a fading living-memory of working coal mines. By the time I was a teenager, most of the local collieries had shut, and the terrain was re-sculpted into country parks, housing estates and flattened rubble piles. Though while ever the structures clung to existence, I was drawn to the sites, photographing any shadows of a former life….’Urban Exploration’ is the term, though I didn’t realise it at the time. One remaining Colliery headstock and Winding House is Clipstone. Once the tallest in Europe, they tower over the landscape, visible, standing on their tip-toes, for miles and miles. It's now a contentious site. Though listed, they have been heavily vandalised. They sit, slowly allowed to decay. I love them with a passion, and drive past whenever the detour will allow, still gawping open-mouthed like when I was a kid (sometimes the wheels still spin in the wind). I would love for them to be preserved. I think they are an important part of our history; for the good, the bad and the ugly (or beautiful). But then, its not my village and back yard that they lie in, so I understand the counter argument for demolition and re-purposing of the site.
The Coalfield series has drawn from these experiences. Between the different colliery sites, millions of tonnes of coal was extracted. Spoil heaps sculpt the local vistas, slowly turning from black to green over the years. The pen plotted artworks explore the height maps of a selection of colliery sites, now hidden footprints of their past.
This series is still work in progress, and it feels that there is more to explore. So far, I've only completed a small selection of the local colliery sites, six in total. I have also been experimenting in different mediums, throwing data between digital and physically tangible forms.
As well as the pen plotted works, I have been working with my nephew Matthew Hudson, to 3D print sections of the sites. It has proven really interesting taking both the height map and LIDAR scans of the sites and comparing the output. I’m now beginning to re-explore this 3D data, using it as a starting point to digitally manipulate in After Effects, into moving image.
Side note: I love this book so much, and thumb through it regularly. It's a visual record of the miners strike, and is curated in the most beautiful ways. Thank you to Joff Spittlehouse who has loaned this to me on possibly the longest of terms ever known (I've racked up years now). I can't get hold of a copy ANYWHERE, so if anyone knows how I can acquire one, please email me.