Abstraction And Representation
2 September 2010 – 30 September 2010

This was the exhibition that I presented in the Vardy Gallery for my PhD in September 2010.  A copy of the full transcript of my PhD as a downloadable PDF is available below.

Below is the text for the introductory panel in the exhibition.

Mike’s work explores the interrelated nature of ecological and cultural ideas through a detailed study of local environments and (through walking) our embodied engagement with ‘landscape’.

It charts the tensions between abstraction and representation. His images and colours are abstract and arrived at intuitively; his text is poetic but place specific. He maintains that our perception of the world is phenomenological – it is active and multi-layered and so the act of walking through the environment is central to Mike’s work.

The experience of walking is arguably one of the most egalitarian ways in which we can perceive and interact with the richness of the world in all its natural, social and political complexity. Urban walkers from the northern industrial cities were amongst the first groups of people in the 19th Century to challenge the view that the rights of property in the countryside were absolute. Victorian ‘ramblers’ tore down illegal obstructions on footpaths and the most famous ‘direct action’ for access to the countryside in the 20th Century was the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District.

These new works reflect a twenty first century perspective on the relationship between contemporary society and the roots from which our understanding of natural processes comes from; a relationship based more on our direct experience of the environment than on hierarchies of class and ownership.

In Grasses, Strother Hills; Summer,Strother Hills; November, Bullfinches, Strother Hills andStrother Hills the colours in the pictures do not directly represent the colours of particular grasses, birds, flowers or landscape. However, they are an expression of a general experience of place, and are used intuitively to reflect that experience. On the other hand, the words, used poetically, do describe a particular aspect of the place – a kind of shorthand for the ecological framework of what is, in fact, a mixture of semi-natural and reclaimed woodland and grassland in the Derwent Valley. The text refers to some of the common species of flora and fauna encountered whilst walking across this land.

24 Birds of Fisherman’s Path recalls a series of walks Mike did with his family in the early 1960’s from Freshfield Station along Fisherman’s Path on the Sefton Coast, north of Liverpool. As a young boy living in suburban Litherland, this walk through the pine woods, slacks, saltmarsh and sand dunes fired his interest in walking, natural history and the environmentThe work is based on memory and many of the names of the birds which were seen by Mike and his two brothers (who are both now keen ornithologists) are historically local to Lancashire – for instance, Mike can remember calling a hedge sparrow a spadger!

Craw (Rook), Woofell (Blackbird), Doney (Dunnock), Mawp (Bullfinch), Fell Peggy (Willow Warbler), Bodkin (Reed Bunting), Stanechaker (Wheatear), Chitty (Meadow Pipit), Swat (Redshank), Learock (Skylark), Doup (Carrion Crow), Throstle (Song Thrush), Ullet, (Tawny Owl), Spadger (House Sparrow), Deviling (Swift), Purres (Dunlin), Haggister (Magpie), Snent (Sanderling), Cruchet (Woodpigeon), Whaup (Curlew), Youlring (Yellow Hammer)Crakle (Mistle Thrush), Tewit (Lapwing), Gowk (Cuckoo).