20 March – 19 April 2013 at each venue
Preview Evening with introduction by artists and commissioners 19 March 18:30, The Saltburn School
Bethan Lloyd Worthington and Sarah Riseborough
Work resulting from residencies at Street House Excavations, Loftus, North Yorkshire
Bethan’s work for The Reveal is an investigation of the small, defined, but interconnected dig territory in terms of human and geological time. Bethan spent two and a half weeks with archaeologists and volunteers, walking in from Staithes most days. Pieces record specific details within and around the Street House site – Heather recolonising the alum mines and cliff tops; An incongruous boulder; A cut in the ground, proof of Romans; A tree, near a spring, where there was a farm, on former borderland, where gallows swung upon a tumulus. The light passing, the wind rocking the portakabin. It’s an attempt to communicate the experience of spending time with people who point at things that aren’t there and talk about them as though they are.
At Kirkleatham Museum prints, objects and film by the artists sit alongside finds. At Saltburn School, a larger collection of drawings, photography and installation span two rooms and coincide with the launch of Saltburn School’s new Class 1 gallery. With thanks to archaeologist Stephen Sherlock, Arts Council England, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Rednile’s Factory Nights. Kirkleatham Museum, Kirkleatham Lane, Redcar, TS10 5NW. Open Tues- Sun, The Saltburn School, Marske Mill Lane, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 1HJ
Bethan Lloyd Worthington
Street House Excavations, Loftus, North Yorkshire
30 August, 2012
This landscape is unreal, I don’t trust it, it’s unfamiliar. But the placements, the rolls and cliffs and sunmist rising in the afternoon and thick slurping gulleys. And the potash mine with the something to do with Dark Matter in its undergrounds. It expels white steam prettily. I was looking to the other side of the valley, amongst the ruined sheds in corrugated iron, and furtive plots of land, steel meshed gates and black beyond, into the land. Then, RM refers to Nan Shepherd – A mountain has an inside… always looking into… Makes it seem a sham, somehow. Undermined. I have a long walk in the morning.
31 August, 2012
07:40 I set off, up Cowbar Bank, along the Cleveland Way, through broad bean fields, along cliff paths, tried to pop up by the field but came off the track too early.
A changing, rectangular ditch, precise, stony. Steve told me some of the history of the site, which is now his history. Met some of the rest of the team. Tried some trowelling, to even out the surface of the ditch, enabling us to see the changes in tone in the soil, dark patches, post holes. I like the cabin, it’s light.
The salt evaporation process. They married a girl from Lincolnshire, they brought her back, she knew how to do it, then they all knew how to do it. Squidged ‘figures’ held up the pot of seawater. A squidged lump of clay, on a hazel rod, heated on the fire, seawater dribbled onto the clay, evaporates. Why do it like this, instead of in a pot? What was the surface like, sparkling layered depth, smooth on top? Crusted? Did they scrape it off or did it fall away? Maybe I will get some seawater. I like these objects, until we get the finds and questions and build a picture of this year’s dig, I like these skewered salts.
I made a drawing of the ditch, to start.
Went and sat by the sprayed cross on the land. Listened while they talked over tea. Stephen talked about a conference he’d been to, there was some questioning of Christianity/Christian symbolism. The Saxon’s he’s found here are at a tipping point – conversion period. There is a tendency for people to see what they believe in, Christian or Pagan. Christianity emerging from this earth. Most prominently displayed by women, a cross worn inwards to the chest.
After lunch to Gallihowe, where the gallows were. An old sycamore and an older stump. Neat stones, remains of the farm. Draw the tree. Animal in the grass.
Pete – Orion, in the pyramids. If there were a third ring ditch.
Tuesday 4th September
I walked in again today, the broad bean fields were blacker and deader. I saw a hedgehog, nudged it with a stick and it snuffled sleepily. I’d been looking at satellite images the night before of the overgrown patch in the field at Boulby Bank. It’s a perfect circle, raised up with other shapes coming off it. Daunting to walk towards, sounds carry strangely.
Went down to the lower field with Steve after a brief chat. He was expecting a roundhouse I think. I saw the first cut with the machine, the first stone scraped. Then a great many more stones, large, worked. Then a piece of Roman pot, quite fine, that confirmed what everyone supposed. Several more pot deposits, I dug some out with Peter, my first discoveries. This land is so full. Sun so bright it’s hard to draw.
Just before dark I walked along the harbour. The sea is terrifying.
Wednesday 5th September
Sat down in the cabin to look through yesterday’s photos and maybe make a drawing of the first-broken ground. I notice shadows all over the paper, which will make it difficult to draw, but I like them, so I draw them in, not knowing what it will look like when I move the paper from under the marks on the window. As I draw I notice shifting, the marks drift off from the shadows. It makes me think of yesterday when I began drawing a trench as the diggers tore the walls away. I like the marks, I wonder if you could read them, like geo phys.
I’ve come to sit on the stile by the cliff, I like it up here, it’s peaceful. A tractor is passing, picking up bales and wrapping them – the bale turns on two sets of rollers as two curved arms encircle it several times with green plastic film. It’s a good action.
A few hours of focused drawing on the Roman site. The first time I’ve attempted a pit properly. Yesterday it was all too fresh and exciting, there were finds constantly and the size and shape of the pit changed fast. Today I got somewhere, something of a feel of a Victorian explorer’s drawing perhaps. Some drama. I’m starting to see a large piece, some sort of plan of how things are placed around here.
They have a magnifying glass out over there. Machine men are well into it.
Went with Dave and Steve to a Neolithic cairn on the heather moorland near Roseberry Topping and the Captain Cook Monument (which I remember says something about the good work he did in civilizing the savages). It was a wonderful time of day to see it, just a little light to show the centuries of shapes interconnecting. Steve talked about the placement of objects on sites, for example jet found at the left hand side of a doorway, and nothing else anywhere. Transitional spaces, one threshold into another. Also talked of human sacrifice. Savages. I asked about the phrase that has stayed with me from Francis Pryor’s Britain B.C. – ‘The ritual killing of objects’. It’s such a powerful idea to me, sometime maker of objects. Steve talked briefly about quernstones, which are never found intact. I’ll ask him to talk more on this, I know a little but I’d like to hear it from him. He also mentioned transitional objects/materials again and the performative nature of metalworking. Salt/Water; Stone/Metal; Sand/Glass. Someone Ellie works with at The Institute of Making/Makespace is focused on the performativity of materials I think. Yes, one thing becomes another.
Thursday 6th September
A very windy day, I’m hiding in the cabin but even that is rattling and rumbling too much to draw or concentrate. I pop out to both sites occasionally but don’t stay for long, it’s hard work for everyone today.
I head up to the cliff path (against my better judgement perhaps) and find a sheltered spot behind a wall. As I sit down I see another hearing aid (there was one a few metres along the path on my first day. Did they blow out from their owners?
I spend an hour or two on a drawing of a rock jutting out, partially flocked with mounds of heather. After we’d visited the heather-covered Bronze Age ring cairn last night, we went to the Cumberland Arms (odd place) and in between interjections from Dallas redux, Steve told me about the heather that has recolonized the alum mines and precipices, just stopping short of our heavily cultivated territory. It’s a powerful idea – traces of Iron Age vegetation waking up now, and now in the year they are violet.
Friday 7th September
The site day off. Spend the morning reading then walk to Kirkleatham Museum, to see the treasure. It’s a beautiful little pocket, quite a separate world from the road that cuts through and the housing estates nearby. Almshouses, church, cottages, lanes, gates that go nowhere and high walls that protect nothing. Perfect. I’m not feeling so well, relative lie-in has given me a headache. There’s something familiar about the museum once inside. It reminds me of what people still call the Old Library in Macclesfield (now a Wetherspoons). Softly, comfortingly municipal.
Saturday 8th September
– Sherlock, Late Prehistoric Settlement
Beehive versus saddle querns. Quernstones reused as ingates or bar moulds. ‘Magical processes’. Can I make a quernstone, spewing out magical substances. Chalk perhaps, or boiled sweets.
Sunday 9th September
Today, I tried to draw the Roman site from the same angle, now that they’re a few days on. A much less romantic, more frenetic image emerged. Red pins in grid formation, buckets moving position like chess pieces, precise plans being made, the measure being taken. The image seems quite bitty now.
My partner came over to visit in the afternoon and I showed him the sites and around Staithes in the evening. It made me realize how at home I feel around here already, it’s my territory now I’ve walked it and come to understand it.
I read an exciting line in the book on my bedside table – “In making a sketch from Nature, your full powers must be put forth. You must be strung up to a high pitch.”
Monday 10th September
A day off, of sorts. After a walk we drove over to Whitby, to visit the Abbey. The finds there are beautifully presented. I was pleased to recognize the jewellery and the spindle whorls. The Abbey itself is very affecting, I enjoyed the way they had marked out the 1250 building in the turf. I walked their outline. On the way back to Staithes we stopped at St. Oswald’s Church at Lythe. Walking over the enclosed grass before the churchyard, I was aware of bumps and splits under my feet. This s an ancient place then. Inside I’m filling my lungs with holy must. As I walk to the back, a light pings on and there’s a smart, English Heritage style display of Viking stones that were found during a renovation. An ancient place then. I do my poking about and peering through keyholes but the doors are so well made there’s little space to peer around them. I purchase a teatowel to remember it by. At home, looking at it, I’m quite taken with it, it’s beautifully printed. There are two photographs of the church, one older than the other. The ink is deep green and rich and mysterious. The font is well chosen. For some reason I think of Gallihowe, I can see it pictured there. Gallihowe is alive in the minds of the people here, in it’s nomenclature, but really, there isn’t anything there. Not to modern eyes. The tree is a picturesque detail but it’s nowhere near as old as the use of the site, nor is the older stump alongside it. The ghost of bodies swinging in the wind.
My prints (I have a commitment to produce 100) may be souvenirs of this memory place.
Tuesday 11th September
I walk in and find pot on the way. The decoration looks very old but the body is fine, so the decoration is harking back, nostalgic.
In the portakabin I make my afternoon shadow drawing. There are more clouds passing today so the shadows vanish and reappear as I try to mark them. It’s quite magical, I film it. I then walk up to Gallihowe to visit the spring.
Wednesday 12th September
Wake early. Rain likely. Rain falling, today I’ll stay at home, start a larger piece. The posts around the spring are still fresh in mind, in boatlike formation so I draw them stark and monumental. I sit out by the harbor at lunch and read E.M.Forster’s The Siren’s Song. It has the most amazing opening paragraph I think I’ve ever read.
“Few things have been more beautiful than my note book on the Deist Controversy as it fell downward through the waters of the Mediterranean. It dived, like a piece of black slate, but opened soon, disclosing leaves of pale green, which quivered into blue. Now it had vanished, now it was a piece of magical india rubber stretching out to infinity, now it was a book again, but bigger than the book of all knowledge. It grew more fantastic as it reached the bottom, where a puff of sand welcomed it and obscured it from view. But it reappeared, quite sane though a little tremulous, lying decently open on its back, while unseen fingers fidgeted among its leaves.”
As I read, they’re filming Cbeebies a few houses down. A dog starts barking every time they begin.
Saturday 15th September
When the archaeologists are here it can be seen as fallow. They come, and they enrich.
I was thinking of Reaper Man (by Terry Pratchett) the other day, all this golden crop and time. Today I visited the horse in the field on from the Roman site. It took a couple of minutes for me to realise that he only has one eye. The eye he doesn’t have he turned towards me often. It’s velvety inside, a smooth shadowed hollow, a continuation of horse face. He looks dead. I fancy he is like Binky, a Deaths Head or ‘Mari Llwyd’. But I’m told after it’s a perfectly earthly sort of hell – some bastard shot it out with an air gun.
Etty is coming tomorrow, a lady of Gallihowe. Today I spent pacing around, dowsing for any last information. I walk the boundary hedge that runs straight out in line with the spring from Gallihowe. It’s a larger mound than many of the other field boundaries, there are gnarled old hawthorns, uneven gaps between them now. Two large stone troughs. Hardwood. There are flattened glades in the grass and patches of hard dry earth, bedded down by animals. I feel I want to hang around. It feels like a rite, a stitch from end to end.
Sunday 16th September
Last walk in. The hills are easier today. I try to see where the Bronze Age wooden posts were found at CowBar, but can’t. I see a small baby fieldmouse on the road near Boulby Bank and stroke it’s little back. The light at the top is golden on the fields and blue black over the cliff. There are site tours today, so Steve is off with them, the team are observed, the wind is blowing and the mood is gone. I’ll be sad to leave in the morning. I’m sad about it now.