‘Exploration, execution, risk-taking, route-finding, planning, mapping, materiality, determination, imagination, respect for the environment, reflection, danger, beauty, memory and harmony’; all terms alluded to over the course of the Inaugural Mountain Arts Festival, that could equally apply to both art and the exploration of wilderness, underlying the close affinity between the two activities.
The practices of an artist and climber are often solitary, and require a level of commitment that both isolates and consolidates. It is sometimes, indeed often necessary to step outside of oneself to really see.
It is all too easy to become caught up in the pursuit of beauty and the sublime experience, living for that very moment and temporarily laying aside all that went before or what the future might hold. It becomes imperative to remember how this point was reached, in case one has to re-trace our steps, just as it is equally important to know where you are heading, when to stop or make an honourable retreat.
We learn through research, experience, muscle-memory, trial and error, identifying the signs of the right route to follow; have we been this way before? Being prepared to be bold and follow an uncharted path to an unknown place.
Giving the opportunity for the makers, writers and climbers to come together and discuss their relationship with the wilderness encourages a re-evaluation of our practices and why we choose to spend our time engaged in what might be regarded by some as self-indulgent pursuits. We live in a time where the majority of the population of the planet now live in cities and choose the virtual over the real, has it ever been more important for the pathfinders and commentators to remind us all of the world beyond the streets and screens?
How we choose to engage with the environment beyond the pictorial or descriptive is a challenge for both climbers and artists alike. An experience that can only be gained through the direct physical engagement with material; be it pigment, thought, rock or heath.
‘Over your cities grass will grow’, a line coined by Anselm Kiefer in relationship to the inevitable conclusion, and whether it is a painting, drawing, a piece of poetry or prose, an art walk in the landscape, a bold new line on a crag or a the first ascent of a mighty Himalayan rock face, all can act as material witnesses to our presence in the landscape, as a reminder of where we came from and where we will ultimately return. – Luke M. Walker Co-Curator 2015