Lucy's spring sleep-out to be screened at open studio event

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ONE can only imagine the surprise etched on the face of one poor, unsuspecting herdsman who happened upon the slumbering body of Lucy May Schofield one cold morning in March.

Lucy, the present artistic incumbent at remote Highgreen, Tarset, was filming herself curled up on a mattress on the moor for an installation recording the vernal equinox when the Tarset shepherd woke her to ask if she was all right.

“He pulled over on his quad bike and came into the shot and was talking to me,” said Lucy.

“I had a few interruptions during the day, including a curious cyclist probably heading to the Pennine Way!”

Members of the public will have a chance to see Lucy’s time lapse film – part of a presentation of art work titled Awake, at a special artist’s open studio event on Sunday up at Highgreen.

Lucy said: “It was really to mark the turning of winter into spring, so I found a really beautiful old mattress on the estate and made a silk sheet for it. The night before, I painted it with UV light-sensitive chemicals to make a cyanotype.

“You apply a green mix of solution to paper or silk and as it’s exposed to sunlight, it turns bluer and bluer.

“Then at about 5.30am, as dawn was breaking, I put it out on a bed of heather off the road leading up to Highgreen. I was on top of the sheet and what I hoped would happen was the image of my sleeping shape would remain against the silk once it was transformed by the day’s sunlight.”

It was just above freezing as Lucy ventured out, top to toe in thick thermals, many pairs of socks, a balaclava and her grandmother’s green knitted mohair coat.

“I looked quite ridiculous,” she confessed. Lucy said she slept ‘lightly’ for about ten of the 12 hours she lay on the moor and was so enamoured of the experience, she’s inviting members of the Tarset community to join her for another ‘sleep out’ for the culmination of her ‘light meditations’ project at the autumn equinox.

“It was such a wonderful thing to do. I could smell the spring on the moor and hear the skylarks, which were almost like improvised jazz. I felt connected to the landscape and I thought everyone should see that,” she said.

By autumn, another element of her art work will hopefully be ready to keep participants warm – a huge knitted blanket that she’s making from locally-sourced Blue Leicester wool.

Tarset smallholder Fransje Samsom, of the Woolgathering spinning and weaving group, is supplying her with the hand-dyed indigo yarn.

Lucy is now half way through her year-long residency with VARC and, in addition to her spring equinox pieces, she has also marked the winter solstice with The Last Light.

The Last Light comprised 160 small sheets of mulberry paper, hand-made in the studio, painted with the UV light-sensitive coating, numbered and placed, before dawn on the winter solstice, in a grid on the interior wall of a derelict shooting hut on the moors near Highgreen.

Through the daylight hours the sun’s rays on the papers and their movement in the breeze was captured in a series of time lapse images, taken every 30 seconds throughout the day, which forms another short film.

Prior to taking up her Highgreen residency, Lucy had spent two years living in Japan.

She came to Highgreen with a strong desire to connect with the natural world – to observe closely and make minimum impact on her surroundings.

This notion, combined with recently studied skills in paper-making and wood-block printing led her to begin making a series of weekly ‘mokuhanga’ – wood block carvings and prints.

Each carved wood block, Nature Caress, is formed from a seasonal detail observed on one of Lucy’s daily walks.

Printed with water-based pigments onto hand-made paper, the series of (so far) 26 wood block prints are displayed in Sunday’s show.

Highgreen will host her end of residency exhibition between September 16-18, when the full series of 52 carved wood blocks and new summer solstice and autumn equinox installation pieces, as well as the winter and spring works, will be unveiled.

l Highgreen will be open on Sunday between 2 and 6pm. Entry is free and refreshments will be provided. Meanwhile, if Highgreen is too far to travel for you, there’s another chance to see some of Lucy’s work at Newcastle’s Holy Biscuit art gallery between May 23 and June 22.

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