Triparks was set in three different rural places, defined by political boundaries: Dartmoor, Exmoor and Northumberland National Parks. Each place is distinctive, and the project opened a window onto the differences and similarities of working and living within these protected landscapes.
From across England six artists came to investigate people, place and time in these very different landscapes. Aune Head Arts was the lead agency in the project, assisted locally by Somerset Art Works, and Allenheads Contemporary Arts, as well as the respective National Park Authorities. Two artists worked in each park to create artworks which provoke, relate and reveal things about the places and people they visited and met.
Artist and film maker, Karen Guthrie’s work for Tri-Parks centres around the development and creation of an Exmoor National Dress worn by local people in a series of photographic portraits. Says Karen: “My work always originates in social interaction and during my time on Exmoor I have allowed myself to be guided by instinct and personal recommendations from people I have encountered. This has been rewarding, as the Exmoor people I have met have invariably been warm and generous with their time and thoughts, sharing easily their sense of where the place is ‘at’ now as well as concerns for its future.
“These people have inspired me to develop a costume for them, something iconic that they can be immortalised wearing, something vaguely ceremonial but also referring to what people do in Exmoor now. Dunster Show was a great opportunity to get some feedback on some of my ideas, and showing some vintage local garments loaned to me by local people was a chance for them to reminisce and to this in turn extended my research and awareness of local customs etc.” http://www.somewhere.org.uk/projects/triparks/
Harald Smykla’s interest lay in the ‘spiritus loci’ of Exmoor National Park. He examines popular tales, myths and characters – from Lorna Doone to Ada Lovelace, from Johnny Kingdom to the ‘person from Porlock’ to the Beast of Exmoor -, and correlates them with his personal experiences of visiting the area.
In the process of his artistic research, Harald literally drew on both the physical landscape and its map representation: Resuming the search for the legendary Beast of Exmoor, Harald identified several big cats (and some other mega-creatures) on the map. Their forms are outlined by joined-up sections of the National Park’s network of roads, footpaths and bridleways. Harald travelled along the contour of such a very large cat – the length of its body stretching from Porlock to Martinhoe Common, its paws treading on Simonsbath and Exford – by riding or pushing his bicycle on mudpaths, open moorland, narrow country lanes or busy A-roads, crossing and re-crossing the Devon-Somerset county borders. Thereby he inscribed a gigantic yet invisible drawing into a physical and cultural landscape that references the Sublime in many guises. Its contemporary relevance within local sites and narratives revealed through Harald’s documented observations and encounters en route. Some of these featured in his daily snail-mail-art dispatches. He also produced some ‘merchandise’ (his special brand of tea-towels, hand-stained with illustrations relevant to his work on Exmoor) for display in outlets such as local Visitors’ Information Centres
His pictorial and written records of the journey was a performative artwork in its own right – form a central part of his wider research into Exmoor as a contemporary Romantic landscape, where the Sublime can embrace Arcadia and Apocalypse, the Archaic and the Digital.