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The wellspring

Here I am at the fountainhead, the very beginning – though this is really only the place at which the flow so to speak becomes visible. It’s been seeping up through the sedimentation for quite a while now.

First things first, this is for all practical intents a reflective process journal where I can record thoughts, experiments, visual research, ongoing projects. It’s a diary, a sketchbook, a piece of string tied around the thumb. I don’t expect it to make sense, to join up neatly or to look pretty. I don’t even expect anyone to read it but the discipline of working in full view, without the harbour wall of my arm shielding my scribblings, is a new thing for me.

Primarily, I’ll be using this blog to record my progress on The Lost Rivers of the Moon, an idea I’ve been turning over in my head for a while now. Now it’s time to break the surface and bring it into being.

This project started during the making of another project, the spells, which was a sort of metaphysical exploration of objects, chemistry and superstition. I’d been collecting waters from the Thames (in London where I live now) and the Nene (a river that passed by my childhood home) with the intention of incorporating them in a still life for the series. The image never became of anything (file that away for later!) but thinking about the connection between water, memory, myth made me think of the influence of the moon on the tides. I was originally going to express this as part of The Spells by overprinting two maps, one of the Thames, one of the Moon’s surface, but it seemed as if there was something more interesting to investigate there…

Although the Thames is the most obvious body of water in the capital, it is fed by five major rivers; mostly hidden, lost or diverted. Although no longer visible for much of their length, their existence is evidenced in the topography of streets and buildings, and the names of the roads, pubs, churches and stations they pass by. The Fleet running down through Clerkenwell is possibly the most recognised, followed by south London’s Effra River. Added to these are the slightly less familiar Westbourne, Tyburn and Walbrook, and a myriad of tributaries and waterways; canals, brooks, creeks, streams, ditches, ponds and lakes.

The Moon too has its own mythical bodies of water: 22 maria (Latin: sea) and one Oceanus Procellarum – vast basalt plains of igneous rock that appeared as dark seas viewed from the Earth. These are joined by 20 lacus (Latin: lakes), 11 sinus (bays) and three paludes (marshes).

Two distant planetary cousins, each with their own fluvial mythology. One earthly with an ancient network of water now buried; and one lunar with a surface traversed by water that never was. These coincident maps propose a third in-between landscape to explore…