Bert Jansch the legendary folk guitarist was my former husband.
My memoir of our time together
Bert Jansch-Living with the Legend
will be featured at The Telegraph's Dartington Ways with Words Literary festival 2014
on July 8th at 10.30am
I will be in conversation with my Editor Andy Christian in The Barn Theatre using new film footage
Chambertin is the soundtrack I chose, no one could ever play it like Bert.
See sample pages on buy the books page
K. It's been nearly three years since we had a glimpse into your life with the publication of your diary, how have things changed since then?
H. "Well as you are keenly aware, Bert died.
With his death, age came suddenly galloping over the horizon taking me by surprise and making it necessary to reassess many things.
Principally I have had to learn how to delegate, this is not an easy thing for a hands on artist to do and I fought hard against it, I still want to build stone walls myself but my hands suffer and my knees protest at hours of squatting. One can only live in denial for so long before being forced to admit to behaving like a fool. I now have more help and assistants than before and have never been so busy, but being busy is not necessarily a good thing; it can prevent clear thinking and certainly in the last twelve months it led to exhaustion."
K. Over the years your artistic expression has developed to encompass the environment around you, what triggered this process and how do your surroundings inform your work?
H "The trigger was the need for more space, in fact every move I made was because I needed more space to store and make artwork. Houses quickly become too full and the same is true of workshops and store sheds. I was a country girl and have never been happy unless I can walk barefoot in the grass; I always said that if I could not make a living as an artist I would either work with horses or become a landscape gardener. In the early days I could not know that I would eventually be in a position to combine the three things."
K. Your muse is very obviously the equine form, and on occasion the human form, but we rarely see any pure abstraction in your work, why is that?
H. "Well I'm not dead yet so there is still time; in fact it is already happening as my sculpture garden evolves but to see it you really need to have walked in the landscape. My interest in the abstract is heightened by my practical work in the woodland and surrounding formal garden. The placement of objects in a landscape can be likened to tuning an instrument, it can be thought of in terms of musical composition or as a flow of energy. It can be likened to a punctuation mark. The really interesting thing about it is that when a placement is right, the work or object feels as though it has always been there and has an increased sense of mass or gravitas."
K. It has recently emerged that there are people copying your work; some would argue this is the sincerest form of flattery, but it must be aggravating. How did you feel when you found out and what's been your response since?
H "I still find driftwood an exciting material and never expected to be the only artist to use it but never thought it would become quite as popularised as has become the case in recent years. Most craft shops now seem to burst with mountains of insipid driftwood hearts and mirrors: occasionally it is used to good effect in furniture. I saw some the other day and almost bought it just for the timber because well washed and worn driftwood is scarce on local beaches now.
Personally I have never been tempted to copy anyone else's work, I can't imagine anything more boring. One might just as well work in a factory for all the creative impetus it contains. You are right in that there are a number of copyists at work now, the surprise is that it has taken so long given the advent of the internet, in the main the work appears to be a sort of factory production line. But good luck to them, everyone needs to eat; work of that quality will satisfy a certain market, it will never tempt serious collectors.
My response is to go deeper into my own work, look harder, experiment further, engage with it completely for as long as I live and breathe."
K. Your artwork can take months to complete, involving blood, sweat and tears along the path of a journey that means each piece becomes an intimate part of your life; how do you deal with giving up the work when it's sold, and are there some with which you cannot bear to part?
H. "Yes it's why I keep needing to buy larger houses. When I started out and money was short, keeping work back from sale, so long as it was good enough, was an unaffordable luxury and I was able to keep very little of what I made. Selling work always involves a struggle; if it's not good enough to sell you can't let it go because your reputation is carried with it, if it is good enough to sell you don't want to let it go. I have been known to buy back good early pieces and I won't sell them again. There are some pieces that took many years for me to understand why they did not possess the necessary and indefinable quality I sought. When they finally came good they became the ones I will never sell because they had become as much part of me as the feel of my skin. I may have them cast in bronze or steel and retain the original."
K. You knew you were an artist from a very early age and have never done anything else; when you started practicing, art was consumed through exhibitions, galleries and private views, now though the landscape has changed and the world can come to your door with the click of a mouse. How has this changed what it means to be an artist and how you engage with your audience?
H. "I am not sure that the internet has changed what it means to be an artist. It is largely a matter of temperament I think, and of having no choice but to allow free flow to one's creative impetus or fall prey to sickness and despair. Not that many artists escape the black dog entirely. I think the internet may have increased the pressure on artists in some ways. We cannot plead ignorance of world events and that carries with it a certain obligation. It has certainly made it possible for artists to have far reaching voices and a more intimate connection with their audience. I believe the creative opportunities it offers far outweigh any disadvantages. It is a very exciting time, the collaborative possibilities that exist now are without precedent. I think too that there has never before been such a level of interest in contemporary art, exhibition attendances keep breaking records don't they?
K. On the subject of new ways to engage with one's audience, I'm in the middle of a short film project using the crowd funding platform, a phenomenon which allows an artist's audience to pledge their support directly to the project; many people believe that this is a great democratising force in the arts, but others argue that it results in art produced by committee, what are your thoughts, and is it something you think established artists could use?
H. "Kickstarter sounds very interesting indeed, this sort of movement was born out of necessity with the collapse of the banks. I think it an inspired way forward. President Obama got behind it and it would seem that it is very successful in the USA, and unless, I imagined it, in India also....I am not sure how well it will fare in the UK, we are slow to accept new ideas here. It could only be argued that it results in art produced by committee if the artist agrees to hand over artistic control, of course there maybe be circumstances where that will be the precise intention which is in itself an interesting notion. Money raised in that way is still money and a necessity. I don't know if established artists would use crowd funding but I see no reason why they shouldn't. Not every prominent artist is necessarily able to fund their own projects."
K. In recent years your work has grown in scale and scope, encompassing the land around you, what can we expect to see in future?
H "Time will tell, but I do think I will need to find another place soon because I am still suffering from shrinking space. Taking on the gallery in Ashburton has alleviated the overcrowding to a degree but I am not sure that it will be sufficient. I will be exhibiting more widely in the future as my new bronzes are cast. There is a big range of sizes from something that will fit in the palm of a hand to monumental pieces for the landscape. There will be more writing too, I have been compiling material for another book and, as often happens in midwinter, I retreat into the room above the wood-burner to begin a sort of active hibernation with a laptop and the unfailingly brilliant Radio Paradise. Have you come across Radio Paradise? Everyone should listen at least once. radioparadise.com I may start painting again.
I gave up attempting to make any sort of prediction because I found that I seldom got it right; the journey and how it is travelled is everything.