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J a n e t  M c E w a n

Holding Movements III


Helston Folk Museum Cornwall 10- 24 August.2012


For this  third collection of work I have been revisiting questions around landscape aesthetics and visualisation, prompted, not least, by the experience of installing an 18mtr high, lattice tower wind turbine on the farm, at a time when the debates around renewable energy landscape interventions continue to be complex and highly emotive.


Considerable numbers of in depth studies have been carried out on the psychology of landscape perception; including investigations around the drivers of people’s individual preferences. Why do some people prefer certain types of landscape above others?

It’s undoubtedly crucial that a species has the ability to ‘read’ landscapes and then select the environment where it will best thrive.  Environmental psychologists Rachel & Stephen Kaplan concluded there were four main informational elements constituting the  human animal’s visual assessment : coherence,  complexity, legibility and mystery, the latter proving to be a significant contributing element in a number of preferred landscapes.


‘Mystery involves not the presence of information, but its promise….mystery arouses curiosity. What it evokes is not a blank state, but a mind focused on a variety of possibilities, of hypotheses of what might be coming next. It may be the very opportunity to anticipate several possible alternatives that makes mystery so fascinating and mindfilling. The human capacity to respond to suggestion is profound’ (Kaplan 1978)


Pareidolia is the name for the tendency of humans to perceive ambiguous and random stimulus as significant. Arguably the most famous application of pareidolia is the Rorschach inkblot test, a popular method of psychological evaluation. During assessment individuals are shown a series of inkblots and are asked to say the first thing that comes to their mind. Because the stimulus is ambiguous, it is claimed that the patient must impose his or her own structure and in doing so they reveal their thoughts, feelings, and themes, some of which are unconscious and have been projected into the inkblot image.

Visitors to Holding Movements III, are invited to playfully explore, and project, onto two and three dimensional ‘landscapes’ made of sheep fleece, cake and paper. The paper landscapes were created through producing very large inkblots using three ‘inks’ made from farmyard materials: grass, mud and gentian violet (a plant based antisceptic treatment often used on livestock to guard against superficial infection) and then rotating the resulting marks 90 degrees from the familair Rorschach vertical to a horizontal orientation; to suggest a horizon line.



The Edible Landscape works (the grassland cake) were produced in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, Devon, for the launch of Farm Platform in May 2012; a new research facility for agri – environmental research.

Documentation from Holding Movements 1 and 11 can be found on the artists website.


A selection of items from Holding Movements 11, which was presented at The Cornish Studies Centre, in Redruth, is also now held in the permanent collection of the Cornish Studies Library, and can be seen on request by any member of the public. Note that until it receives its catalogue number (hopefully in the near future) it will not show up on the centre’s online archive.


With thanks to Helston Folk Museum, Cornwall Council and Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, Devon.



Janet McEwan 2012.





Holding Movements III : imagining the farm, is an exhibition of artwork selected from outputs generated through my art practice led enquiry into the nature of the contemporary agricultural holding- drawing on my own experience of living and working on a small grassland farm in West Cornwall. This is the third chapter of an ongoing project punctuated earlier by:


Holding Movements I, also presented in Helston Folk Museum, mainly considered the role of one of the main protagonists on the farm - the sun, prompted by the construction of several large photovoltaic plants close to the farm.


Holding Movements 11, asked how the archive; mediator of the past, has the means to accommodate the layered, material and highly situated phenomena that is the farm.

Top: installation view.  (centre: Sheep Mountain: 7 museum display plinths stacked and covered with the all the fleece shorn from the tiny flock of primitive sheep on the farm - 4 ewes and a ram)


Below:the remains of two 'Fieldcakes'  baked and consumed by those whio attended for the artists informal talk on Sat 18th,




HmIII install1web
Thankyou cakeweb
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