The story so far. Would be Banksy-London 'artist' Jack Murray-travels to North Wales to...well...let Jack Murray explain...
I went on a trip with a couple of other chaps to Snowdonia in North Wales to seek out an abandoned, mountain slate quarry, that was closed over 50 years ago. We found it, and it was definitely worth the 6 hour drive. A vast network of old tunnels, metal structures, workers huts, gravel pits and waterfalls looping through the side of a mountain is the best way to describe it. I brought some paint with me and dropped a little something at the highest point we got to. In the future I want to go back and paint site specific, 20ft plus, murals on some of the rock faces in the old quarry pits. Some people will cry and say I’ve spoiled the place and others will say it’s amazing but that’s just life.
The key quote in this being.... 'Some people will cry and say I’ve spoiled the place and others will say it’s amazing but that’s just life.' Indeed. In fact over on UKC a predictable backlash quickly fermented with comments ranging from.'-He should be filled in.'..'He's a cock, he's a cock, he's a cock' to 'we should all go and daub paint all over his "art", it's already shit so we can't go wrong.'
I have to say that although I'm in general agreement that North Wales' s industrial heritage should not be a blank canvas for metropolitan art tourists, as someone who considers himself an artist of sorts, I'm interested in true artists finding ways to utilize the natural-or in the case of the slate quarries-unnatural environment in a truly creative way. Of course local climber artist John Redhead has used the quarries for his sound works. Recording the natural sounds of the quarry to recreate a 'musique concrete' soundscape and using the quarries cabans as visual backdrops. Of course, talking of JR. The slate brouhaha brings to mind the Indian Face saga where he painted a small piece in acrylics on the rock scar he had accidentally exposed. The 'Philistine backlash'- as he might have called it- was as predictable as the UKC reaction.
For Jack Murray, his response to the climbing fraternity was to quite accurately point out that the slate quarries are the result of massive human exploitation. The effective rape of a natural green mountainside in the interests of profit. Of course climbers themselves are impacting on this industrial landscape through their very presence and through the placement of in-situ bolts and tat. So..it's not a simple question of environmentally aware climbers..many of whom have absolutely no problem with massive wind farms truly fucking up the natural environment...and some arrogant urban creative.
John Redhead's Indian Face piece
Perhaps in this instance we should take a leaf out of the book of two of our best artistic utilises of the natural environment, Andy Goldsworthy and Blaenau Ffestiniog's David Nash. Two artists who have both brilliantly exploited..if that's the right word..the natural world and if you can improve on nature-a philosophical question perhaps-then I would suggest they have often succeeded.
To quote John Redhead from my Guardian piece about him a couple of months ago..'Is sport the enemy of art?'...Hope not.