The Art of Travel: From Place to Place, from Here to There, from Me to You…
In this piece, which centres on two of our case-study towns, Hereford and Bournemouth, artist Michelle Rumney reflects on emotional recovery and recovering friendships, time, memories, and different meanings and experiences of “connectivity”.
‘From Me to You (Hereford to Poole)’ Collage: map pieces & stitching on paper 2015
If, like me, you enjoy travelling, you may have spent the last year, quite literally, going nowhere. In ‘normal’ times, my own Google timeline is satisfyingly peppered with road trips, long journeys and a constant to-ing and fro-ing about the place. Rarely has it stood so still for so long.
Reflecting on this, what is it to be able to travel, to move, to physically transport yourself to somewhere else, to somewhere other than your own familiar surroundings? What are the connections we inevitably make when we thread our way from one place to another place? What is the Art of Travel?
“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about this quest – in all its ardour and paradoxes – than our travels”.
Alain de Botton ‘The Art of Travel’
Yes, being on a Quest sounds good to me – it has an air of noble purpose, a sense of urgency and a touch of the romantic about it. And, from an early age, I’ve always loved the sense of freedom and excitement I feel when embarking on a journey, however short, to somewhere else. It’s an adventure, a step into the unknown (even if I’ve been there 100 times before), and a joy.
Somewhat inevitably, this surfaces constantly in my work. Journeys and routes, both real and imagined, are pieced together and re-explored. One such example is a journey I’ve taken many times, from Bournemouth-Poole to Hereford, or put more in context, from my home to the home of one of my dearest friends, or as the title of the piece goes “From Me to You”.
The piece is made from paper maps, in this case from an old road atlas which I’d kept, reassuringly, in the car for years – though I never needed to refer to it for this particular journey – I think it is deeply ingrained in my subconscious, I’ve done it so many times…
‘From Me to You (Hereford to Poole)’ : detail – ‘X’ Bristol Channel Collage: map pieces & stitching on paper 2015
A long map panel seems to buckle and dip. It’s not quite flat and on closer inspection those lakes aren’t really lakes at all. They are the Bristol Channel, which has been reconfigured like the rest of the landscape to apparently make no sense at all.
Except there’s clearly an ‘X’ through the whole work. Is this a kiss or a crossing out or an ‘x marks the spot’ perhaps? The city of Hereford is in the top left corner and the town of Poole in Dorset is at the bottom right. This X makes up the only viable roads on the map, attempting to connect the two places, yet not quite connecting in the middle.
‘From Me to You (Hereford to Poole)’: detail - Bournemouth Collage: map pieces & stitching on paper 2015
Ah, the Art of Travel – this is a car journey from one city-esque conurbation to another, travelling across beautiful Dorset, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire countryside to get there. The route is mainly on A roads, with a brief stretch on the M4 – crossing the Bristol Channel via the Severn Bridge – followed by the stunning wibbly-wobbly road through the Wye Valley, past the enigmatic ruins of Tintern Abbey. I find myself smiling most of the way – the journey is always cathartic.
Is it simply a journey though? A journey is something taken through time and space. Here it’s locked in time, rather like we’ve all been during the past year. Are these connections and routes locked in too?
It’s also a story and a very personal, though universal one. Of friendship, of longevity (over 30 years), and of a pilgrimage of sorts.
What will it feel like when I next make that familiar and yet now unfamiliar journey? What will have changed? What will have stayed the same?
How will have Hereford, the Place, changed? How has Bournemouth changed since I last left it? How will have my Here and your There changed in relation to each other?
And, most of all, how will You have changed in relation to Me?
There’s a fear here and, of course, a deep yearning to reconnect with You. And, in doing so, to reconnect with a part of myself (ourselves?), that has been waiting, waiting…
Here’s looking forward to us all redrawing our shared connections.
Michelle Rumney is a Bournemouth based fine artist whose work explores notions of ritual, mapping and transformation through the use of basic materials such as raw pigments, cotton thread, labels and paper. Her work touches on religion, psychology, history, geography and our attempts to make sense of the world around us. Michelle’s works have been described as “other worldly”, "blissful" and "meditative".
You can find more of Michelle’s work at michellerumney.com