Credit P Ward 2018

Painting a Parish Future – Pendeen in St Just, communal painting, earth pigments on board 120x120cm. Credit: P Ward 2018

Innovative Cornish project creates landscape art - with a twist

Cornish residents have played an integral role in a breath-taking new project that has given an unusual twist to the traditional way of creating landscape paintings.

People from the parishes of Pendeen in St Just and Gorran have helped create two paintings, using earth pigments collected from the local area.

The intricate and striking paintings were produced as part of a special online exhibition called Painting a Parish Future - part of the Creative Exchange programme at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, and supported by the European Economic and Social Research Council.

Exploring how the connections between ecology and politics have evolved over time, the project aimed to re-engage local people with the natural materials that surround them through a series of workshops.

The exhibition saw local residents work in tandem with Cornwall artist Peter Ward and University of Exeter Senior Lecturer in Politics Dr Joanie Willet, who used a mixture of science and creativity to explore the history of geology in the local areas.

Both workshops started with a walk around the community to stop and share information, thoughts and stories about our individual experiences, relationships and knowledge of the area.

The participants then took part in a communal painting using the pigments found, which had been analysed by the Camborne School of Mines.

Led by Peter, the painting of the image was structured to echo the evolutionary process, starting with imagery around geology, land use and flora and fauna, and lastly human intervention to create a beautiful layered depiction on their parish.

These workshops also offered a space for local people to come together and share experiences and knowledge and future visions of their local communities.

Dr Joanie Willet said: “Being part of this exchange has been transformational for me as a researcher.  I’ve been interested in embodied and participatory research styles for a long time, but working with Pete and his earth pigments adds a wonderful extra dimension.  The political philosophies that I work with explore how people and institutions are literally of our environments. 

“Through Pete we were able to explore what people think about their environments, by using the materials that these environments are built from.  It adds a wonderful whole new aspect of embodiment for me!”

Artist Peter Ward added: “The Creative Exchange programme has offered the opportunity to extend my creative research into earth pigments from mining waste and natural landforms in Southwest UK.

“A major aspect of this research is how primitive actions, such as collecting coloured rocks and soils and making them into paint, may enrich and enhance our relationships, understanding and empathy to our local environments. Working with Joanie at ESI along with other experts from across the region and local people has certainly enriched my own experience and led to many new areas of interest and knowledge specific to Cornwall.

“Applying these principles of interdisciplinary research to specific situations illuminates the political and ecological worth of such practices and throws up many new possibilities of working towards better ways in our ever-changing world.”

Painting a Parish Future ran alongside ongoing national and local initiatives such as ‘Going Wild’ with Cornwall Council and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Local Neighbourhood Development Plans.

It is hoped that the research gathered will provide a model for further actions in local communities across the UK, international research with Indigenous communities in Australia, and the basis for an academic work in relation to such activities, as well as a real focus for community action.

Peter and Joanie will now build upon this project to provide further events in the future. If you would like to run a Painting a Parish Future event in your community please get in touch with Joanie at j.m.a.willet@exeter.ac.uk or Peter Ward on peter-ward@live.co.uk

You can view the full exhibition online at www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk/news/painting-a-parish-future

Date: 9 July 2020

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