Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.


"Possibilities" - "unspecified qualities of a promising nature" - Oxford English Dictionary

I've been thinking about the French concept of "terroir" - the way in which the geography and geology of a particular landscape interact with the plants grown there.  It can affect the flavour of a wine such that its region can be identified by its taste.  I've been looking around at this landscape and wondering how much it has become a part of my work and affected my own personality.  For someone originally from the flatlands, it is beautiful to live in a valley, where so many more views and angles are possible.  It has deepened my love of the natural world and given me a greater opportunity to observe its minutae.  Living so close to nature puts things into perspective for me and provides a slow, rhythmical backdrop to life.

How much are we a product of our "terroir"?  At one point in my life many aspects of it changed at once, and at that point I realised that much of who I thought I was, was actually just activities and labels.  I was defined and categorised by them - by others, and even by myself.  They had become ingrained over the years - "I am X and I work at Y", "I am a daughter / sister / wife / mother / etc.", "I love to cook", "I am a dog-owner", "I run x times a week", etc., etc..  Taking away a large group of such things in one instant made me feel as if I had been cut free from my moorings and was floating in space.  I wondered what actually "me" was?

But maybe this is not such a bad thing. Perhaps, without realising it, we can become squashed into moulds that we don't easily fit.  Sometimes aspects of our personality can become blunted or subdued by circumstances or ill-fitting roles.  A new situation or environment allows different aspects of "me" to spring to life or to be required.  Perhaps each different "terroir" in my life produces a different version of "me", identifiable by the unique set of factors that it contains.  Each one must therefore contain a new set of possibilities.  It is always interesting to see what grows in a newly-inherited garden, when the weeds are cleared away and the light is allowed in.  You don't always get what you expect and sometimes there are some beautiful surprises.

I listened to the brilliant Reith Lectures given by Grayson Perry a few weeks ago.  In the last talk he quoted Marcel Duchamp, who said, "clear your studio out at least twice in your life".  Co-incidentally, I am about to do just that and, in a few weeks time, the "terroir" will be changing.

All text and images ©2013 Carol Saunderson