Mixed media, Indian Khadi Paper


I am writing about this image as I work on it, or more accurately, as I contemplate the ‘moves’ I make to create it and how it becomes a complex, but for me, successful piece.

I had created several ‘map’ images, some based on real geography and some designed from the imagination. Several take on characteristics of the human form, just as the outline map’s of Wales have suggested female leaping figures.
I have recently been looking at maps of all kinds from different periods and cultures, they are fascinating, often telling us much more than geographic facts (in fact, geographic ‘fact; is not all that convincing in these maps) and there is a history of contemporary artist’s making variations on maps, particularly in post-colonial cultures. The late Paul Davies is an instance in Wales. Also, of course, early twentieth and nineteenth century cartoons i.e. depicting Russian land-mass as a Bear etc.

With this particular ‘map’ I decided to follow the outlines of stains, (most of us must have done this at one time) on a piece of Khadi paper, stains made with tea. All. I thus created an outline (with charcoal) of a possible land mass that reminded me of an imagined continent that I had created as a teenager, and so I embellished the outline with elements of that ‘imagined continent’. I gave it a north, south, east and west. Looking at the outline, I turned it around several times, and chose to work on it in the ‘portrait’ manner, seeing some glimpses of human physiognomy again, which I embellished with place-names in a hybrid mix of languages, partly Welsh, Germanic, Latino, English. (In Welsh the words have different meanings if read as if English, something that, on a map is easier done.. but also suggests the naming of places in Wales, and also allows for interesting punning on words). An example would be the words at the top left.. ‘Duw-bia’s’ which sound like Dubious in English, but Duw is Welsh for god.. so a bias towards god.. dubious, and another reading could be ‘it belongs to god’. Also dubious but well worth considering.

By now the N, S, E, W, were in different positions, causing a disruption to the convention of maps in the West certainly, ~N being West as we think of it, and what we imagine as East is in fact South, and so forth. This evoked for me, the upturned map of South America by Joaquim Torres-García (1943). Two ‘panels’, also of tea-stained Khadi paper, were added to each side of the original sheet of paper, giving more materiality and compositional emphasis to the central image.

On further scrutiny of the image, it became clear that, subliminally, I had created a distorted map of the island of Britain, something akin to a medieval attempt at conjuring up a land-mass based on skimpy evidence, and many of the place-names still seemed relevant even to this reading of the image, i.e. the place named Tourismé covered an area approximating north Wales, the south of England becoming Tierra Incognita and Northern Ireland, Fist. But on a universal level, if you read the names of places in this map, you begin to see how it’s politics would work, where there might be conflict, and where peace… a novel could be set here.

There’s a Janus head in here too, another favourite of mine, unknowingly it seems that the left side ‘Anguerlund’ is an opposite of the right side’s ‘Ponder’.
The urban densities appear as pustulent spots.

The trick is not to make any of these readings too obvious, which leads to one reading dominating, and without it becoming a total mess of mixed messages, allowing a multiplicity of responses. The stuck on stars are not given meaning, but red denotes seats of power, yellow; tourist destinations, blue; areas of cultural interest and red triangular arrows; places of ‘unrest’. Instead, the ‘Key’ which every map must have, was simplified to an ink stain on a separate sketch book page collaged into a side panel... returning us to the origin of the depicted geography, and the addition of words, in Welsh; ‘map o staen’ (map of a stain) became abbreviated to Mapostân.. thus relating us to another sphere of linguistic multiple meaning. The burnt umber ink stain also suggested excrement, an environmental stain secreted by the main land mass. If you look at it long enough, it also becomes a cartoon rat about to take a bite out of the peninsula named ‘Cojones’.

The placing of the ‘title’.. the script for it etc became a conundrum.. and I moved bits of paper with the words drawn on roughly around, looking t it in various positions. In the end, I decided to use the ‘rough words’ and not any other script, and place them above the ink stain, so that it reflects on the origin and wider interpretation.

There are many other incidentals.. The Welsh word ‘Moron’ means carrots.. and is a name given to an island dangling in front of the land-mass that resembles a nose..

There’s a need in the artwork, to suggest the arbitrariness of the mark making, the accidental, the contingent.. even the mistakes, and the crudeness. The work needs to show the variety of life.. not just of a honed skill. Unless it is a ‘skill’ to go with the haphazard… the decision-making that belie it’s arbitrary appearance.

I hope it has humour but also a serious point to make, the place I was brought up in, Bala, is known for a certain teasing sense of humour, and that, I carry with me. Mapostan took me back to a time when I was fully engaged with the creation of imagined lands and today it’s working for me again, it offers a potential of further development. This work might carry all these messages and more, or maybe it is none of these things, Ponder.