The Lines Project
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Back in 2020, during the first Covid lockdown, a daily walk became both a necessity and a luxury. For those of us lucky enough to live in relatively unpopulated rural areas, we had unlimited access to open fields and forests. We were stuck in our village for a while, but the surrounding fields gave no visible reminders of the troubled events unfolding, and so it was easier to remain calm. Other members of my family were experiencing it differently, living in apartments with no garden and their daily outings were confined to concrete and tarmac.
The Lines Project started out as a distraction, and a wish to keep communication lines open between myself and my brother living in France. He was in an apartment with no garden. One outing per day was permitted, and the over-efficient French administration had devised a system of permission slips to print out every time he wanted to venture outdoors.
Meanwhile, in Dorset, walking through Charity Woods near my home and the sun shining through the trees and everything so verdant, I was inspired to take some photos. Under dense cover of the canopy, the vertical lines of the tree trunks looked almost black and contrasted so beautifully with the emerald and lime foliage.
Ideas began to percolate and I saw other "lines" too; I noticed lines of perspective in pathways receding to the horizon, lines of fencing, lines of telegraph poles cutting across fields. I began collecting photos on my phone. I talked to my brother about my little obsession, and he started taking his own photos of lines too. His were urban and gritty.
My brother and I took our photos with mobile phones and shared them on a new Whatsapp chat called "Lines", and then my daughter joined in and shared a few images from her daily walks too.
In reality, this little family distraction only lasted a few weeks. For me though, the Lines Project kept me going in the studio throughout that long, hot summer; for the first time I started using landscape as a starting point for some new collagraphs. I also did a fresh series of monotypes inspired by that first set of forest photos.
At one point, I wondered about making a photo book of all the "Lines" photos we'd shared with each other, as social documentation. We talked about adding some pertinent quotes from two celebrated authors, one French and the other English. The quotes below seemed to fit. Both authors use nature references; Victor Hugo uses the metaphor of a snail to depict a town retreated inside itself during an outbreak of the Plague, and a reigning sense of torpor there. Hardy emphasises how nature is unbowed and unchanging, unphased by human suffering.
Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.
Thomas Hardy, "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"
Dans la ville, bâtie en escargot sur son plateau, à peine ouverte vers la mer, une torpeur morne régnait.
Victor Hugo, "La Peste"
My thoughts about "Lines" percolated a bit during that time too. It occurred to me that the tree trunks in Charity Woods, as vertical lines, could be seen as the bars of a cage. Or do we look instead at the spaces between the trees as glimmers of hope and freedom? In any given challenging situation, do we look for the opportunities or do we dwell on the loss? I try to be the person who sees the spaces and not the bars, but I have to work hard at it.
In 2022 I hope to exhibit these monotype prints I speak of. The whole series of six unique original prints is entitled "Lines". Buying original art is a luxury that many can't afford, so for the first time I have decided to offer them for sale as A3 giclée reproductions - they are smaller than the original prints, but the quality is impressive. My thanks go to Mike Shepherd in Lancaster who gave advice and got the giclée project off the ground.
Many people have found themselves able to respond creatively to the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. I myself have had several things on the go, and am only now getting round to sharing them. Keep your eyes peeled for news of an online shop and an upcoming exhibition. I will be sending another newsletter with more details, but if you are not already doing so, please follow me on Instagram @gennytheprintmaker - you are more likely to hear everything there first.
Thank you so much for reading,