making light work, 2018

Making Light Work, 2018                                 St Anthony Head, Roseland, Cornwall

We carry rucksacks, bring something of ourselves, and make artwork, short films and written material, during and following our time in these special places.

The Lighthouse came into operation in 1835 and switched from Argon Lamps to Paraffin and then to electricity in 1954. We decided to respond to the site by making artwork from sunlight, using a printmaking/early-photographic cyanotype process. [Please see Background Notes, below, for more information about Cyanotypes]

We considered a range of objects from which to print and wanted them to be relevant to the St Anthony Head site. As St Anthony was patron saint of lost objects and miracles, among other things, we agreed to make our prints from found objects, principally flora and detritus from cliff and shore. Here are details of the nineteen cyanotypes we made on site during the 2018 residency.



Background notes:

John Herschel (1792-1871) discovered the actual process of making cyanotypes in 1842. His work influenced the botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1871) who used the cyanotype process to illustrate books on ferns, flowers and algae from 1843 onwards. In 1839, she became a member of the Botanical Society in London, one of the few scientific societies that were open to women.

A cyanotype is made by placing the object to be printed on paper treated with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide and exposing it to sunlight. The paper is then washed in water, leading to the uncovered areas turning vivid blue.

Susan & Philip Bennetta – artists working as volunteers at National trust sites around the main headlands of Cornwall. This is their second year at the Former Paraffin Store, St Anthony Head; other sites include the Net Loft, Polperro and The Watch House, Dodman Point and previous collaborations range from an installation in an Allotment Shed, to a year-long project on the White Cliffs of Dover. They live and work on Bodmin Moor and will be part of Open Studios, Cornwall, 2019.

A short film, Bluebells at St Anthony, together with unique cyanotypes produced during the residency and a hand-sewn poetry pamphlet, by the same title, mark some of the outcomes from this joint research-based residency. Here is the link to the film: Bluebells at St Anthony.

[thanks to the Ranger Team at the South Cornwall National Trust, past and present, for supporting this arts residency at Former Paraffin Store for Lighthouse, St Anthony Head]