The flow of the lines by Flow artist Mark Clay

Celebrating a range of work by people across Oxfordshire, Flow is an interdisciplinary online exhibition exploring ideas and creativity. The works in the exhibition reflect individual experiences of being in creative ‘flow’. 

In this piece for our blog, one of the featured artists Mark Clay tells us about his work. Suddenly finding himself in lockdown far away from his subject matter, he describes how his creative practice adapted and grew out of this challenge. 

My name is Mark Clay and I am approaching the end of my MFA in Fine Art at Oxford Brookes University, where I have been exploring a disused railway line on Anglesey, North Wales.

This large copper ink drawing is about movement and reflection. Stuck at home in Oxford during the lockdown, and unable to access Anglesey or the railway line, I was challenged to encounter my subject in a very different way. The drawing grew from my strong desire to return to exploring Anglesey in search of this old railway line, which can be surprisingly elusive in the landscape. I was, of course, forced to do so only in my imagination, but for an artist this just another opportunity.

Mark Clay, A Crack in the Record, 2020. Image © the artist

How often do we go for a walk to gather our thoughts or “think things through”? My drawing is a record of exactly this: me “thinking it through”. As I walked around the table to make my drawing, I was able to experience this sense of reflection and insight in that movement, walking in landscapes especially, can bring: a true feeling of flow which in turn enabled me to understand what I was doing and generate further ideas.

Mark Clay working on A Crack in the Record, 2020. Image © the artist

For me, drawing is inextricably bound up with this sense of movement and freedom, and problem-solving. I have encountered this when walking on the line itself, too. Being on the line reinforces the silence of the place and the noise of the ideas and debates occurring around and about it.

Similarly, in the drawing the route of the line appears as an absence, silence or even a flaw. Derived from the shape of the island of Anglesey, it is open to several interpretations: contours on a map, grooves on a record, or rings on the stump of a tree. All are essentially concerned with ideas of memory, time and the recording and recall of information – key aspects of my work.

Mark Clay, A Crack in the Record, 2020. Image © the artist

It is designed to be displayed flat rather than on a wall, emphasising its connection to landscape. This also allows the viewer to join me on my imaginary exploration of Anglesey, mimicking my own process of making the drawing. With careful lighting the piece will also momentarily shine and glitter, as above, suggesting elusive or unexpected moments of recall, or insight.

I hope you get to see it in person one day, and join me in my imaginary wanderings on Anglesey.



Discover Flow online from 4 September – 11 October.

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