The Slow Road for Old Shadows


This project is an investigation into a landmark I've always found beguiling. It's little more than a small stretch of road that runs across Shotover and which once carried traffic between Oxford and London. Potholed and rutted, a confusion of mud, stones and puddles, there’s always been something compelling about this place and through my research, I hope to uncover just why that is, producing a series of works with which I can share my conclusions.

There are of course a number of ways to study a road. One could describe its surface, analyse its construction, research its history, plot its course - all of which are useful, indeed, essential in understanding it fully. But while all these analytical methods would tell me about the road, they couldn't help explain its fascination.

Using a Goethean method of observation, my aim to observe and study the road intuitively rather than intellectually, to see with the mind rather than just the senses and thereby understand it more holistically. Someone studying the road from a purely analytical perspective would hardly be interested in the sounds of the birds in the hedgerows, aeroplanes flying above, the reflections in the puddles or the shadows cast from the trees, and yet, considering the road holistically these are all important pieces of information which will become apparent.

Etymologically, 'intuition' means 'seeing into' which, as Henri Bortoft writes in his book 'The Wholeness of Nature', "expresses the fact that it [intuition] is the experience of seeing the phenomenon in depth."

Seeing a phenomenon intuitively reveals a further dimension (or depth) in whatever is being observed, but the elements of the phenomenon itself are not changed. This dimension, or depth, is not an extensive dimension of physical space but an intensive one. There is, as Bortoft writes, "nothing backstage. There is only the phenomenon itself, but this has another dimension to it, a further aspect which is not sensory at all."

There is of course a great deal more to Goethe's methodology than I can explain here, but something which I found useful when studying this method was the following: knowledge of a thing, Bortoft tells us, is a mode of participation in the thing being observed, and knowledge of a thing is itself a further development of that thing. In researching the road therefore, I will participate in, rather than simply observe the road, gaining an holistic knowledge of the road which will be, in Bortoft's words, a further development of the road itself.

See Day 1