Research Practice: initial thoughts

Here is my attempt at continuing my blog, despite not having a direct ‘need’ to do so. My hope is to start building a useful habit. Useful habits have a habit of not lasting very long, but let us give this one a chance.

This module is orientated around interrogating, analysing and exploring our, or others, creative practice. We will be tasked to produce a research essay based on our findings. Already, we’ve received an avalanche of enormous and confusing words, terms and theories. My initial reactions were bleak.

I studied History in London for my undergrad and, at the time, decided that I’d had my fill of essay writing. By the end of the three years I was yearning to escape education and start doing something that felt tangible and useful. Essays can feel high and mighty when you’re smashing the library, afloat in a dramatic world of arugments armed with coffee rations and a laptop for a paddle. When all is handed in and done, you gain perspective and realise it was all a storm in a takeaway cup. You read your essay, maybe someone else will give it a proof read, then your tutor reads it, marks it and simultaneously gives it funeral rites as it’s lowered into your computer system never to be viewed again.

Maybe I shouldn’t moan so much. Thankfully my complaining head shut up as I excitedly trawled potential research material. Again, I am afloat in the dramatic world of arguements. I’d still rather be etching, drawing, printing, painting and playing.


Currently I’m clutching at straws that hopefully form part of a juicy hay bale of ideas I can roll down the hill into other projects. I plan to explore a few themes and see where they land me.

Firstly, is rural boundaries. The fences, hedges, walls and gates that lock the land of the UK into a tortise shell of ownerships, privacy and privilege. I’m intrigiued by how different people percieve these boundaries. A farmer will see a fence as a barrier for keeping livestock contained, a walker see’s somewhere not to go, a villager see’s nothing but the normal order of things. How do barriers make us traverse and interact with the rural landscape? How do barriers help or hinder us? Where do natural barriers start and our ones end? Why do mental boundaries grow whilst physical ones might crumble?

This leads me to my second theme which is concerned with crossing boundaries. Trespass, our rights to roam and private land are nice ‘n’ spicy topics. They get me riled up and other people as well. It’s an area where people are quick to bust out views and slow to bust out moves – slow, thoughtful and groovy moves. If we create mental boundaries out of physical ones, then how do we change that relationship? That feeling of being in a place you shouldn’t be, that invisible field of dread that exists only in our head, but is triggered by the landscape. How do we respond creatively to being in the wrong place? Does our hand clutching the pencil shudder with fear or fly across the page with triumphant vigour?

The last theme is vague, wobbly and based on a hunch. English rural folk culture is always there, it shifts and moves with contemporary views, in constant transition. Nethertheless, I have the hunch (-a dangerous term in academic writing) that lockdowns, the cost-of-living crisis and a general pessimism about society has made more people turn to the land around them for answers. I see this in the gathering right to roam movement, I see this in concerns for our environment, I see this in people unable to travel abroad, I see it in art and illustration, I see it in myself. Is there something new to be discovered in the rolling hills, sucking bogs and bleak moors of the English countryside? Will removing old boundaries between people and landscapes allow for new barriers to defend us against consumerism, corporation and unjust privileges?