Tar Barrel Festivals and Livestock Markets, Devon

My paintings centre around ideas of existence and our connections to ourselves, others and the planet. Lately I have been making work about the Tar Barrel festivals and Livestock Markets we have here in Devon. I am interested in ritual, connection, coming of age, and collective experiences that cross time and space to people past, present and future. Material ritual goes deeper than the surface appearance and provides way-markers through one’s life, giving us a sense of belonging to a story. I am particularly interested in the agency and empowerment in these moments where we discover that although being just one part of a crowd, we can direct where the story goes. In the Tar Barrel paintings, I am interested in describing moments where individuals have a sense of centring and realising that they have ‘response-ability’ as part of that crowd to shape its response through their own individual response. Smoke, breath and shadows rising and flickering in the cold night give a sense of the more spiritual and introspective element of the nights’ festivities. The Livestock Market paintings are less ceremonial, but although they show a more everyday event for those who attend, it is equally important as ritual. It is a place for community, for relationship, each taking part in a shared industry and way of life, where old farmers will remember going to the market with their grandparents. In these paintings, ideas of stepping into eldership are more pronounced, but there is an uncomfortable edge to these works, where the structures in which the market exists are far from focused on care but instead on profit, resulting in old ways dying out. These two aspects of rural life are increasingly at odds with our online isolationist world, but a sense of belonging to a story in which we have agency is as important now as ever, the beauty of which these paintings aim to communicate.