Difficult to know exactly when the seed was sown, the idea mooted, just when the vision came before imagination’s eye. Like many artists beginning the journey towards a major exhibition Alice Fox was not forthcoming even to her friends as to what Findings might entail – ‘a lot of small things covering the walls’ was all she would say. To focus a body of work towards an end, a public presentation, is certainly something every art student experiences in preparing that ‘final show’. But for those carrying the certainty of a future career that final show is surely the first show, and of many to come. A theme is usually required to satisfy the examiners, and to make the tutor’s task a little easier as work progresses from first thoughts to a conclusive statement. Here, we have a theme: Findings.
The title Findings emerged at least eighteen months ago as a convenient, and now it seems, entirely appropriate label on which to hang a materially diverse body of work. It actually references a book of essays by the poet Kathleen Jamie, who, with the appearance of her book, became a necessary part of a largely male club of ‘new nature writers’. It did not quite have the academic authority of Robert Macfarlane (Landmarks) or the observational brilliance of Mark Coker (Crow Country), or quirky autobiography of the late Roger Deakin (Wildwood). It had something else – that spilled a woman’s particular kind of intensity of looking on to the page. Jamie’s Findings is about a life living the day-to-day of wife, husband, children, house and home, and job, all woven between those precious moments taken when time becomes available to notice and be in nature. Her opening essay about watching peregrines near her home is overflowing with that buzz of newly becoming a birder, someone who opens herself to the wonder of a living, miraculous thing – that flies ecstatically, sees almost beyond our imagining, lives chaotically, wholly, in and by nature.