Being-with, Making-with

Friday March 8 to Wednesday May 1, 2019, Dartington Space Gallery

The artists in this new show, Nicky Cornwell, Karen Hawkins, Judith Israel and Jenny Thorburn,  first encountered each other in May 2018 on an short course called Context and Form: Art and Writing led by artist Chris Drury and poet Kay Syrad.

During that week they immersed themselves in art making on the Dartington Estate responding to a challenge set by Kay and Chris: to attend to ‘being-with’ the Earth and to see it as a source, as opposed to a resource.

Collective attention was concentrated on experiencing creativity in and with nature, using what each encountered as the source through which to explore form.  Time was spent looking outwards, encouraging a sensitivity towards those things that arose as the unintended consequences of their own presence. The work that emerged was ephemeral and tentative, sensitive collaborations with nature.

Having continued to evolve these ideas beyond the course they have come together again to re-present the experience and to show new artwork.  This represents the first time that an course has inspired such collective intent to share the insights it offered in an exhibition.

The work shown is diverse in form and material; from watercolour and prints, to drawings, objects and video. Whilst each artist reveals their own personal visual language, the shared lineage is clear, ‘being-with’ is echoed by a deep sense of reflection and observation, drawing this work together into a shared crucible.

Meet-the-artists Reception:  Friday March 8, 18:00

[Main image: Judith Israel print (detail)]

Find more information about the gallery, hours and directions


Artist statements and short biographies

Nicky Cornwell

The shifting nature of perception lies at the heart of my efforts to create. I am curious to ‘see’ beyond and through outward appearances into an imaginative extension or alternative understanding of the ‘given’ world, hoping to unearth deep, pre-conceptual energies and forms.

Natural environments are a generative source and subject for me, an essential relationship that offers the phenomenological and physical metaphors that I respond to and which I hope to share.

Intuition and impulsive play are key elements in what is a process-led investigation responding to the elemental nature of materials such as wax, graphite and paper – and more recently, organic matter. It is a mercurial pattern of restlessness and absorption aiming to generate works of connective energy and emotional resonance.


Nicky Cornwell – short biography

Until last year, I worked from Mivart Studios in Bristol, varying my practice between personal creative projects, applied art commissions and being a librarian. Last year, I headed to Scotland to study at Glasgow School of Art and recently graduated from the Mlitt. Fine Art Practice Programme.

Always sensitive to organic form and place, the experience confirmed a growing commitment towards engaging more directly with the natural environment and exploring its perceptual ambiguities. While previous work focussed largely on drawing and painting, recent experiments integrating three-dimensions are the current pre-occupation and will be explored in the pieces on show at Dartington Space Gallery.


Artist contact details

Instagram: @nickycornwell

Phone: 07870167966



Karen Hawkins

I have, for some-time been working with the ‘felt sense’ and form as the product of a conscious state. I find immense joy in the reverie of nature and the osmotic influence of being in the natural world and working on site.

The course ‘Form and Context’ really gave me the opportunity to explore and firm up these ideas and tune into a sense based language, a pathway into being, much more finely tuned than product based work. These pieces are ‘language’, a synchronistic expression of ‘being with’ the natural world.


Karen Hawkins – short biography

I live and work on the North Devon Coast. My background is working as a public artist, having run my own company ‘oceanicarts’ for over 18 years, I created site-specific work, ran workshops in community settings and residencies in schools. I have also taught Art and Outdoor Learning in the Primary and Secondary sector and in H.E settings.

The course ‘Form and Context, Art and Writing on the Dartington Estate 2018 and this exhibition have created opportunities for a new direction in my work, synchronising a consciousness in both artist and place to develop a new chapter of creativity in an osmotic way.


Artist contact details


Instagram: kazhawkinsart

Mob: 07834854527



Judith Israel

My work has always been rooted in observation and the natural world, whether it be drawing, weaving or making, so the opportunity to be a participant on ‘Context and Form, Art and Writing’, in the perfect setting of The Dart and Dartington, seemed an unmissable opportunity.

Immersion in the river and grounds, meditating, swimming , walking, photographing as well as working with Chris, Kay and my fellow participants, enabled me to explore ideas of ‘being-with’, in a joyful and supportive environment which felt holistic, connected and mindful.

This reverence and reverie in nature, has continued since Dartington, ‘River Nests’ are now accompanied by ‘River Catchers’ (structures created on riverbanks using nearby flora and fauna) and installed with a ‘light touch’ to evolve and alchemize as the rivers continue their fluvial rise and fall.

I hope my work in this exhibition demonstrates my continuing journey of ‘Being-with, Making-with’.


Judith Israel – short biography

I divide my time as an Artist/maker and a Gardener, including time volunteering in a Forest Garden in Staffordshire.  I taught Art and Photography in Higher and Secondary Education for twenty years but continued my own Art practice throughout this time.  After completing my degree in Constructed Textiles in 1985, I worked as a weaver in Sutherland, Scotland, where wild spaces and the landscape began to infuse themselves into my being and work.

Much of my time is still spent in the environment; observing, swimming, walking, camping and making.

‘Context and Form’ with Chris Drury and Kay Syrad at Dartington in May 2018 reignited a deep and passionate method of ‘making-with’ and writing, the explorations, so far, are shown here in this exhibition.


Artist contact details

Instagram judithisrael1203

Phone 07974487169



Jenny Thorburn

At the start of last year’s long hot summer, on the course Context and Form, I had to face up to the dilemma of an artist who works in and loves the countryside and natural world, who would describe herself as a landscape artist, if it were possible to escape the burden of that phrase in art history. Kay Syrad and Chris Drury challenged the group to attend to ‘Being’ (with the Earth), and to see the Earth as a source, not a resource. I stopped drawing with pencil and paper (the ancient chestnut and bee hive), and fell into a trance, flowing down hill to the river.I found playmates at the muddy edge, embracing a greater force. The dilemma of an artist who makes marks is how to work in a landscape, leaving ‘no trace’. There are found marks, made by nature, and these can be recorded (on the very earth-resource-heavy camera). But in the end the simplest thing to do was to cast discarded stems into the flow of the river in an attempt to make drawings, or writing, on the surface. This seemed to become a dialogue between myself and the river, a call and response, a dance as I followed the river’s pace, responding to its direction, and every minute it wiped the words away and carried on as if I had never been there. The antithesis to the thesis of art as the making of beautiful permanent objects. But, when the call of an exhibition came, there came the problem of how to convert this ephemeral experience into something that conforms to the conventions of showing work in a human environment where the dialogue is between people, who are not even in the same space at the same time. I have settled on using various methods for human time-distant communication; video; wall pictures; a book; postcards sent by post. But when I return to Dartington I’ll be drawn back to that other dialogue with the wild water.

Jenny Thorburn– short biography

I am based in the Chilterns, northwest of London. I have been practising as an artist for about 10 years; previously I was a landscape architect, and before that an accountant. I have exhibited paintings, woodcut prints, drawings and collages in galleries in my local area and in London. I am exploring using book forms to present art work.

My work comes from walking in and observing the landscape, and has particularly been a response to the fine trees in my home countryside. I have participated in two courses at Dartington, giving new experiences in a landscape that has deep early childhood resonances for me. I was born in Exeter.


Artist contact details


Instagram: jennythorburn2




[main image at top: Judith Israel: Detail ‘River nest’ – drawing, watercolour and pencil]