Touching Topography: Negotiating Landscape Encounters with ‘Several Parts’ of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Dunn, Gregory Paul (2018) Touching Topography: Negotiating Landscape Encounters with ‘Several Parts’ of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Abstract

This collaborative research project explores the significance of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as a meaningful site for contemporary society and especially for a small selection of artists who reside there, some of them, for over thirty years. The research has enquired as to the possible agency of the landscape in expressive media and the artist’s part as catalyst in the creative process. Over the last four hundred years, many representations of landscape in Western Europe, including those of the Wye Valley, have reduced human experience of topography to a vertical, flat and oblong plane. By being framed, drawings, prints and paintings have hedged in foliage, cordoned vistas and fenced off panoramas. Such depictions have arguably reduced a comprehensive, corporeally centred encounter to an ‘ocularcentric’ one. Subsequently, due to the continued nature of framing, photography, and more recently, smartphone photography has done little to dissolve the frame placed between us and the world we witness. Such photography repeatedly reinstates the visual values of others and continues to centre on the visual account of reality. A botanically abundant setting such as the Lower Wye Valley is arguably a sensorially stimulating site; a place within which to be near living (and dying) matter; investigations were therefore situated within the predominantly arboreal landscape along the Wye, roughly between Ross and Chepstow and through the implementation of a broad range of intentionally immersive research methodologies. By using auto-ethnography, observation, ambulatory interviews, researcher-led group walks and making pilotstudies, it was hoped that any resulting data would be informed by actual encounters with the material nature of the location. By adopting a physically centred approach to the study, it was the intention to elicit primary responses from participants as part of iv endorsing a more multi-modal approach to experiencing landscape with the intended result being a more ecologically and empathetic relationship with place.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Firstly, I would like to thank Director of Studies, Richard Coles, for his continued confidence in my abilities. Richard devised this collaborative project and I am grateful to him for selecting me to carry out the research. I would like to thank Henry Rogers and David Maund for being my referees and the BCU Student Services staff, who under the leadership of Caroline Wall, have been fantastic. I would also like to acknowledge the impact that my former tutor and friend Barbara Downs has had on my creative practice over the last twenty-something years. I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC Grant Ref. AH/L002973/1) for funding the project. I would also like to thank the professional collaborators in this project, the Wye Valley AONB Management Team whose generosity, local knowledge and facility for fun was inexhaustible. Thankyou Andrew Blake, Andrew Nixon, Nick Critchley, Nikki Moore, Sharon Seymour and especially Sarah Sawyer, whose boundless enthusiasm, imagination and understanding kept me going when I most needed it. Thanks also, to all the Wye Valley creatives I interviewed, especially Susan Peterken, Walter Keeler, Doug Eaton, Phil Mundell and David Hurn, as well as all the research participants and co-researchers who were so honest and generous in their responses to all the enquiries I made in the Wye Valley. Sian Vaughan helped me to write this thesis and I would like to thank her for going over and above her supervisory responsibilities, enabling me to carry on and see this through to the end. I would also like to thank my family, firstly for participating in research activities, and secondly for supporting me at every turn with love, positivity and beer. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Jo, for her selfless support and limitless loyalty. I am forever grateful for her un-conditional love.
Subjects: K400 Planning (Urban, Rural and Regional)
L700 Human and Social Geography
Divisions: REF UoA Output Collections > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2019 13:10
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2019 13:10
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6948

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