Irene Godfrey

Statement 2015

My concerns project both back and forwards in time to embrace both topophilia (a love of place imbued with a sense of history) and ecopoetics (creative and critical engagement with the emerging set of environmental challenges now facing life on earth).

My approach to making work mirrors and parallels the topophile's way of seeing. So the work can be inspired not only by an idea or an image but also by the paint itself. Starting a painting without a preconceived endpoint brings with it the potential for a new work to be found from within the materials. The work develops mark by mark as a response to what has gone before. Paint is repeatedly erased and added creating fragmentation, pathways, depth and ambiguity.

I was brought up in a very rural environment in the North Pennines known as “England's last wilderness” where vestiges of old lead mines are still apparent. This has influenced my interest in looking below the surface, as well as my muted colour palette. I have been looking into who else might have been influenced by this unfashionable area that always seems to have been off the map.

Modernist poet Basil Bunting lived here for a while: He identified strongly with the North Pennines. He called his great poem Briggflatts his ‘autobiography’- ... of love and loss, identity and vocation, restlessness and belonging. Briggflatts draws on the wild nature of the North Pennines and has been embraced by ecopoetics.

I also discovered that W H Auden was fascinated by the few square miles where I grew up. He fell in love with Rookhope at the age of 12 and it became his Amor loci. Auden coined the word Topophilia- literally "love of place". He qualified the meaning by saying..."it has little to do with nature love. Wild or unhumanised nature holds no charms for the
average topophile because it is lacking in history". For Auden a real topophile can adapt to any place where they find themselves, not just the familiar.

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