in conversation with Davina Kirkpatrick

Can you describe where you are while writing this and what you can see from your window?

I am writing sitting at my grandma’s bureau, I have only started writing at this during lockdown as it is near the router, (very important for my poor broadband to be effective!) and because I had my dad staying with me and he was using the spare room and my desk where I normally write. He went back to his own house upcountry last week, but I am only just returned home and have enjoyed this different writing spot so will continue it awhile as I transition to having space to myself again.
My view first alights on what sits in front of the window, a layered glass piece developed from drawings on Henstil Hill near Sandford, Devon, created through ongoing collaborations with the 'Of Place’ group. (Penny Somerville, Mollie Meager and Catrin Davies). Beyond the artwork is my vegetable patch in the front garden, the road that runs through the village I live in and the weather bent trees and sheep occupied field beyond. Clouds scud the sky today, as much needed rain falls on the land.   

What is your chosen medium for recording your Landlinks work?

Photography, drawing, writing whilst doing the fieldwork, then these developed into cast glass and monotypes.

What and who is the 'driving' force or major influence for your work?

I work both as an artist and academic (I am a visiting Research Fellow at University of Plymouth). I am passionate about collaborative narrative inquiry, bringing the subjective and the personal within the academy, and the transformative power of creativity and serious play.
The artists that inspire me are those that manage despite the precarity of working as a practicing artist to produce inspiring work. These include, Marie Claire Hamon, Michelle Ohlson, Esme Clutterbuck, Carol Laidler, Linda Styles, Delpha Hudson, Natalie Raven, Katerina Athanasopoulou, Jane Speedy and Karen Abadie.


'She Wanders' installation

You work in a variety of different mediums...and working methodologies may differ. How important is research and experimentation to your work and can you outline some of your working processes for us?

I work with materials that have the capacity to produce layered images, that often involve transparency, translucency, opacity and tactility. I enjoy allowing ideas to evolve, shift and change through playing with materials and processes from drawing, printmaking to filmmaking and sound pieces. The ideas I am exploring determine the materials I use.

'She Wanders'

Can you talk a bit about walking and the importance of walking in/to your work?

I use walking as a way of meditating, playing with Debord’s idea of dérive, but primarily in a rural rather than an urban setting. A dérive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, mine are often with Ulf!

A couple of examples of walking work created:
She wanders/wonders
I created an embodied response to grief by creating a film of a woman walking in a glass dress in two locations – the Glory Woods in Surrey and Prussia Cove in Cornwall. 

Walking/Not Walking
A film and talk, created with Carol Laidler, looking at what happens when our bodies age and deteriorate, when pain takes over, when movement is hampered. How does a body in pain take part within a dialogue into place and movement?

What do you think about when walking?

I let my thoughts drift when I walk and this drifting allows thoughts and ideas to germinate, I often record these seedling ideas for writing or making on my phone so I can return to them later.

You are part of the Landlinks project and the synchronised walk that took place April. We would love to hear your feedback on this networking initiative and your resulting creative response to that walk.

I loved being part of a group who were all working at the same time in different locations, using the prompts to take off into their own imaginative journeys. The notifications of postings on the What’s App group as I explored my own landscape amplified the feeling of connection.
My 'what three word' locations, text I wrote during the walk and the prompt words
• ///Clipboard.coccons.incurring
Struggling with - the dog, aged father, staying away from tourists

• ///jigging.according.chambers
Technologically baffled, dog barks, sun shines

• ///
Irritation calming, smile returning, dog squeaking
Ground level

• ///camps.revived.wasps
Tide marks, footprints, Virginia’s lighthouse

• ///elects.enrolling.united
Breathe in, breathe out, space

• ///otherwise.reliving.suggested
Heading back, feeling lighter, distance.

• ///fillers.chin.president
Yellow, must dash, now

I’m thinking about making an artist’s book with a continuous thread of possibly torn paper that is threaded throughout that has the texts written on it, combined with photographic images on the pages, but this remains a forming possibility.
Lack of touch due to social distancing during Covid 19 has heightened my awareness of tactility, I took this yearning for touch into the studio and this influenced the materials and ways I worked. I wanted to work with some of the walk images but also with what is absent now and for the foreseeable future.
I have spent the last 13 weeks not going to the beach, missing the wide open vistas of a littoral landscape, where my red dog can run free, breathing in the saline-infused air and hearing the repetitious rhythm of waves against land. Conversely, I have been walking my dog Ulf locally and mostly on the lead as we are frequently traversing farmland. I have spent a lot a time looking at his furry back legs, he always wants to be ahead of me. I have delighted in finding new footpaths and bridleways and working out how they join and work together to form a network of birdsong, spring wildflower scent and hedgerow colour. These walks have allowed alone thinking and being time as I adjust to a new shared lockdown life with my dad, who came to visit for 5 days and is still here, at the time of writing this.

Process - I first manipulated a single image in photoshop of a feather in the grass and printed different colour variations that also changed when printed as the printer was running low on ink. I created a combination of image from location with the marks that echoed the physical movements I made to let go of my mum as she was dying in 2008. The drawn marks figured in a number of works I made around that time. The grass reminded me so much of them, I needed to revisit them. Grief doesn’t leave us just changes as we walk with it. This will eventually become a triptych of images, utilising image transfer techniques to create transitional images between land/grass/sea/loss.
I returned to the photos I had taken on the walk these were taken at the what three word locations and were inspired by my chosen prompt words. I stripped out the colour making them black and white and adjusting levels/contrast.  This first stage was visually important as it drew my attention to texture, tone, space and that influenced what materials and processes I chose to use.
Working with the tactility of marks left in the sand, traces of time. I stood Ulf in my kiln to get the impression of his paws and used my dead partners boots for the boot prints. I created a whole series of work during my practice-based PhD based upon my partners slippers and the marks of his feet left in them. I have written - He is kept near but conversely there is also a distance created by the transformation of this everyday object that bears his imprint into other forms and images. The different iterations of this slipper image are akin to a meditation practice, the reciting of a mantra. Watching whether the image of his slipper or my footprint comes to the fore visually echoes conversations with my therapist about where I am situated in relation to his absence.” (Davina Kirkpatrick 2017)


I wanted to revisit this meditative practice through using glass and monotypes, thinking about how longing, distance, memory, touch play out, against, alongside, each other. I created cast glass impressions that also include ghost images of a back view of Ulf and my shadow. This resulted in two pieces -

Horizon – breathe in, breathe out, space.
North - breathe in, breathe out, space.

The monotypes followed, playfully layering texture and colour, getting my hands dirty, cutting and sticking collaged digital prints with marks made by touching, stroking, scratching, responding to the previous marks, layering over. Allowing the images to imerge and change from initial photographic and word prompts. I found myself smiling, as time slipped, and I stopped worrying, for a while, about my changed life landscape of Covid 19.

Do you collaborate with other artists or groups? If so who and why?

My writing/visual art making collaborators influence and provide reciprocal support.
As mentioned before the Of Place artist group (Penny Somerville based in Devon, Mollie Meager based in the Forest of Dean, Catrin Davies based in Wales) who I have worked with for 20 years, through short residencies in each other’s studios.
• The Quarantine Conversations group, collaboration during lockdown (with artists Carol Laidler and Professor Jane Speedy) we will shortly be collaborating with the Corona Diaries Group (Australian academics – Bronwyn Davies, Suzanne Gannon, Sheridan Linnell).
• CCRI (Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry), we have been writing together via Zoom during lockdown.
The PEP (Performance, Experience, Presence) Research Group at University of Plymouth, focuses on embodiment, representation, culture and identity. (
• The Bodies Collective Research Group an International and interdisciplinary research group of Early Career Researchers focuses on exploring the body in varied and divergent ways, flattening academic hierarchies through conversations and workshops.
• SPP (Space Place Practice) an artists’ research collective which comes together to create dialogues and to develop projects informed by a shared interest in notions of space, place and creative practice.
Ani-net: (The Artful Narrative Inquiry Network) Attached to the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol  and consists of an interdisciplinary community of researchers and scholars in education and social and human sciences; the humanities and the arts.

Landscape and the environment are both important areas of creative exploration to you. With current concerns about our environment, how do you see your role as an artist?

To use creativity to enable conversations to happen about issues such as grief, loss and pain and to create situations where transformations can occur.

Can you describe your favourite place and why?

Two of my favourite places figure in the film She wanders/wonders the film was seeded as part of a layered account of an inquiry into ‘red’ that emerged out of a collective biography workshop.

The colour red
A particular material context. What else is there?
A moment in red. She sits sifting, letting the most immediate conversation settle; slips sideways, focuses on the dark red darning on pink gloves, the cross hatching and patching, the reforming of a hole, covering over but still being present and the found object at her feet - metal with a hole not perfectly spherical, a little off kilter. The need to hold, press sharp edges into flesh, leave marks. She tries to let go, let herself drift back to the words, to the ribbons of paths, overlaid now with red enamel lines on visual re- imaginings. But also being pulled sideways to a memory of red blotching and staining of skin, under the skin as the blood settled and mottled, patterned. Still, not rushing and fluid. Still. She couldn’t believe, comprehend lack of movement and her mind kept putting it back in a flicker of eyelid, a breath because then it wasn’t end. It wasn’t this, it wasn’t cold, clammy mottled flesh of deadweight, of death. It was rosy-hued, it was rose-tinted, blush and bloom of coy seduction, pulse of blood through veins of movement, of life. But the memory of weight brings her back, the memory of blood on her gloved fingertips from behind the skull.

She wonders/wanders about walking the paths of the Glory Wood in the glass dress spilling red ribbon and ash, an unravelling.

Kneehigh Theatre’s representation of severed feet, stumps of legs with red ribbons falling beautiful and profane, poetic, visceral; to cover, re-cover, uncover, weave and knot, interleave-leave.
Red-lining of an unworn jacket with red stitching detail on the sleeve and red buttons, softest, inky dark blue needlecord. It had to be that jacket, one as yet unpaid for, unworn, kept for the right occasion - coffin attire and red socks; soft climbing socks with horizon embroidered across the toe and red darning- markers of love and care.
Kirkpatrick D (2013).

Glory Wood

The Glory Wood, in Dorking, Surrey and Prussia Cove, in West Cornwall. Historically the Glory Wood had been part of a large country estate that was given to Mole Valley District Council. It covers an area of 32.66 acres. It is an area of woodland on the sandstone hills to the south of Dorking and is leased to and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust. The southern part of the site, known as the Devil’s Den is mainly Oak woodland, with an area of Sweet Chestnut coppice.
The greatest area of fascination is how the paths remain unchanged. They are the same ones my parents walked as they courted (and I wasn’t even a twinkle in my fathers eye); the same ones I walked to get to grandma’s house as a child, and the same ones that figured through my dream landscapes of the last 33 years (since leaving the parental home) and where I chose to place my grief for my mother. This place inspired the making of a number of artworks including large scale enameled steel panels incorporating drawings, print, photographs; paperclay impressions of the paths and screen-prints incorporating a small image of myself at six when I used to walk through the woods to get to my grandma’s house, for the final show of my MA in Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking in 2010.

Prussia Cove

Prussia Cove, formerly called King’s Cove, part of the Port En Alls Estate, on the coast of Mount’s Bay and to the east of Cudden Point. My late partner Chris’ favourite place and where his eldest son and I sprinkled some of his ashes.
These two locations link the grief for my mother with my grief for Chris and place both in two differently distinctive locations.

The Covid 19 is having a massive impact on so many lives.
Are you able to say what effect it is having on your working/creative life and what you have planned once Covid 19 retreats?

My 87 year old dad had come to stay for five days prior to lockdown and ended up staying 12 weeks, it was the longest continual time we have ever spent together and we found a way of being together and being kind to each other that was delightful and involved DIY, drinking cocktails and watching classic movies!
I have enjoyed being more in touch with old friends and family, my research groups and fellow international academics by Zoom.
The challenge is as ever balancing more extreme precarity created by lockdown and working out what paid work will be available once Covid 19 retreats, though my visiting fellow status has been renewed at the University of Plymouth so I will be writing funding bids for 2021.
I also want to continue collaborating, mending and making anew. 

What are you currently reading?

100 years of solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Red dog - Louis De Bernieres
Artful – Ali Smith
Embodying the dead – Claire Hinds and Gary Wynter
Ways to wander – Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind

What are your other interests?

Gardening, sewing, being part of the Falmouth/Penryn Repair Café, drinking cocktails, trying to write a novel from my PhD thesis!
If readers are interested in reading a recent published paper Embodied absence and evoking the ancestors, about place, ritual and walking it can be found here: