Lines Made by Walking

November 23, 2013


Photos: Belfast Art Therapy Summer School, Land Art Workshop

Walking is a way of drawing lines, marking out spaces, and mapping. Roaming through different kinds of terrains (urban, rural and suburban), can involve physical experiences within the art therapy encounter. Walking can be documented through photographs, videos, and sketches. It can be a means of foraging for art materials (natural and found), a way to frame therapeutic conversations, and a method for making routes through the world at hand. Collections of found materials can be gathered, as a kind of ritual. Bundled they become hand held sculptures and collages. Natural materials can be worn, attached to clothing, made into hats, masks, or strung on to cord for wearing.


“Our gait is as personal as our fingertip”, writes Karen O’Rourke in Walking and MappingArtists as Cartographers. With our feet we make choices, select passageways, and shape the spaces we pass through. We respond to experiences coming at us from all directions, negotiating the unexpected.  Even in the course of a routine walk we come across unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps artworks can be made and left along the paths we walk, whether along forests trails or concrete foot paths. These gifts becoming a way to reach out to others, to give something of ourselves away in anticipation of being found.


Walking is a public form of art therapy disclosing our whereabouts through the lines of our travel. Our feet draw our marks of connection within and through particular places. Do we trace the same paths repeatedly? Do we walk off course? In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit champions the benefits of getting lost, as the beginning of finding another way. Going beyond what we know, begins a collaboration with chance and change. “Getting lost is not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are” (Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost).


Karen O’Rourke, Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers

Richard Long, Walking Artist,

Hamish Fulton, Walking Artist,

Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Pieces Found Along the Way

November 8, 2013

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The Irish artist Tony O’Malley (1913-2003) was well known for his paintings, however his wooden collages or constructions are captivating assemblages of his everyday journeys. The Royal Hibernian Gallery in Dublin has produced an intriguing display of these three dimensional drawings or inscapes. The wooden collages seem to formulate constructions of a home away from home, a series of storyboards portraying O’Malley’s Irish memories while living in Cornwall. Abandoned pieces of wood have found a new purpose within O’Malley’s wall sculptures. Discarded and lost fragments are composed into a new whole, a collection of waste materials transformed into new compositions of meaning.

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O’Malley is a self taught artist who began generating artworks in his 40’s. His constructions are composed of wood, string, yarn, nails, and oil paint. The compositions are personal symbols, re-instating the discarded into a reclaimed dignity. The collages forge new relationships; they are collections from walks deeply felt. Wandering, finding what is needed, and making odd things come together is an art. It is a formulation of personal icons, that could also find a place within art therapy.

In O’Malley’s sculptural collages, there is a sense of reconfiguring what could easily be forgotten. He integrates what has been lost into the found. Bits of string, yarn and nails hold pieces together. There is a sense of being in O’Malley’s work shed when viewing these artworks. A work shed with wood, tools, twine, hooks, fixings, and paint cans, a personal space for rummaging and reconstituting meaning. The shed as an enclosed studio or cabin of the imagination, holding found and hardware materials in drawers, shelves, and workbenches. The sound of hammering, the smell of paint, and a process of inscribing lines on the surfaces of old relics of once functional items.


O’Malley’s constructions are the materials of a personal memoir, the inscapes of a traveller walking down beaches and back roads searching for more of himself. The found pieces of his journeys are not unlike pages of a journal, each a fragment of memory, a collection of passages.

Photos: From the exhibition Tony O’Malley Constructions, at the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery in Dublin.