North

On June 24th 2008 at 12.05am, I made a walk up Ben Hope, Scotland's most northerly mountain over 3000ft, with the aim of finding (because of it's elevation) a place on this island where the sun didn't set. Of course, it turned out that the sun did indeed set, but in the two hours in which I climbed to reach the summit, I didn't find recourse to use my head-torch and the sun only just dipped below the horizon. "Maximum black" was at around 1am, but still there was sufficient light to be able to safely keep my footing. Dawn came at around 3am and, after a cold hour on the summit, I began to walk down as colour began to penetrate the ground below me.

Experiences and imaginings of metaphorical Northern places, and of gradual movements and shifts have permeated much of my recent thinking and working process. In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Marlow makes his slow, inexorable journey up river towards an isolation and metaphysical darkness. In Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, Hans Castorp's shift is upwards towards the rarified clean air of the mountain, to the sanatorium situated at altitude where contamination by the reality of life at sea level is held at bay, and where time is distorted. I find such ideas echoed in my physical experiences of landscape, and often seek to transform an echo of that experience within visual works.

I have a particular interest in the experiential nature of landscape with reference to the physical processes of walking, climbing and mountaineering. Working primarily with drawing and photography in experimental and experiential forms that seek to create parallels between the experiences of landscape and those of recording and representation, the work is informed by a longstanding interest in the history of mountain and polar exploration and through the artifacts, images and literature of exploration, memoir and scientific document.

Often through intensive and laborious drawing processes I seek to question the ways that these experiences of landscape (rather than landscape itself) both resist and enable the translation into physical form. The work is therefore intended to physically embody an experience as opposed to simply recording one.

Recent works have developed through a growing interest in the landscapes specific to Scotland and an understanding of its geography through personal and physical involvement. Geography provides a means to engage with a more ontological position, and one that is released through the deep time of geology and within the temporal and transitory sensations of weather and climate.

This aspect of time, slowness and the ephemeral, has long been central to the production and conceptual understanding of my work, although this has somehow been made clearer to me by extending this engagement with landscape whereby physical awareness and risk is real and actively experienced. Time spent in remote places is, through necessity, extended, and this non-passive participation through climbing/walking allows me a shift away from romantic and idealised notions of "sublime landscape" to one that recognises and acknowledges the prosaic but, significantly, is also deeper and more full.

Lesley Punton