Pathway Through a Wood, Morlogws, Wales. Stephen Riley, 1992

New old work – a pathway through a wood

Unearthing things

I’m up to my ears in new work at the moment. I have an intricate addition to the Glitch series coming along and I am also working on two process paintings, which I can only do a little bit on at a time, due to the nature of the process. But I also have a vast amount of work that has not to date found its way onto the website, due to its already being old and stored away in plan chests etc. when this website was created. Naturally, then, I was most interested in posting what I was doing at that moment. So this sort of work got neglected, and it is good to re-find it and make it visible now.

This dates back to 1992, when I still felt able to work from a romantic sensibility. It is one of a few drawings done ‘live’ in a densely packed wood in a remote bit of west Wales. I was staying in a place called Morlogws, near Newcastle Emlyn, and this was somewhere in the woods somewhere near that location.

I remember feeling the intensity of the wood, the way it wrapped around me, seeming both protecting and slightly menacing at the same time. In this particular part, vegetation encroaches on both sides and covers overhead, creating a tunnel. It could be friend or enemy: it might shelter the traveller from the elements; it might harbour something frightening in the tangled, impenetrable darkness. Even the pathway was partly obstructed, as shrubs had started to make their way across a track seldom used this side of the days of the packhorse. And if you found yourself still in the wood after the daylight had gone, you would have no chance of finding your way out, and you would be stuck there for the night, projecting all sorts of primitive fears onto the clicking and rustling that would come from the undergrowth. Wild boar and wolves may be long gone, and your mind would know that, but your body would not believe it.

I am currently reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. I should have read it 30 years ago, as I feel it explains to me and validates things I have long felt instinctively but never properly articulated. It analyses the way spaces have meanings for us, often on a primal level. He also posits that artists are ‘born phenomenologists’, in that we are instinctively more sensitised to spaces than some. I don’t know what everyone else feels, but I do know that from childhood I have experienced the sensations and atmospheres induced by spaces and buildings, often with great intensity. And I do remember feeling something quite awesome (in the traditional sense of the word), while drawing in that forest.

I love this drawing, but it is for sale. Please enquire if interested. It is about A2 in size, excluding the frame.