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Art of Farming project reveals Christmas Number One image

Northumberland Farmer John W Davison saying goodbye to one of his precious Bleu du Maine Langley Flock Lambs. Copyright Robin Oliver Artist August 2019. All rights reserved.

Artists Farming project ends the year counting down during Advent in a very collaborative way.

Cumberland born and resident artist Robin Oliver’s Drawings from Cumberland and beyond, ‘the Art of Farming project’, has today revealed your Christmas Number One image from his growing archive of photographs, drawings and accounts, highlighting the endeavours of Farmers Farming, across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Robin commenced his extended enquiry earlier this year inspired by a 2019 Farm Sale which the artist attended and recorded during the early summer. As he observed the people and the auction lots in front of him, Robin began to consider why it was that the Farm Sale had arisen, and what it meant to the people involved, in the context of any research evidence available, which asserts that we are continuing to lose our farms across the country for a variety of reasons. As the result of some further enquiry, Robin felt that he ought to attempt to record what was happening within the farming communities, while it was happening, rather than when a farm or smallholding subsequently has been lost, and as in some areas, become yet another prime residential development site, or may even become derelict.

In this context, Robin asserts that the role of the artist is not simply to attempt to create ‘pretty pictures’ which afford a romantic view.

‘The Farm Sale’, as summed up by the Artist is about endings, however, for some, it is about maintenance and progression (those farmers who go to the farm sales to add to their endeavours and farms), and for others, it is about new beginnings (those who are starting out having purchased a farm, or taken on a tenancy or smallholding). In essence, this is the cycle of life and farming.

Robin feels that he is attempting to highlight the struggle and the joy that farming can be through his direct engagement with farmers as they are farming across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in a highly collaborative way.

Robin suggests that the project is rather like a river which meanders, from each meeting it is hoped that something positive will grow. It is about capturing a moment, which may lead to more moments, where the Artist’s role, as he sees it, is to engage, look, listen, learn, empathise, and to record. Where appropriate, telling a story, whatever that story might be, working in a variety of media. This may simply be making a photograph, drawing, painting, and, or writing. Sometimes it is about reading between the lines, and at times it will be not telling the story at all, as many things remain confidential.

Robin is particularly keen to consider and make art in response to the issue of ‘Succession’ as a theme and backdrop to the Cycle of Farming Life. This area of study highlights those individuals working within the industry who have no one in the family too, or who wish to follow on.

Robin believes that to be able to visit a farmer at his work and make some photographs, as an example, is a privilege and a starting point which gives a reason for a meeting. It is also a means of highlighting the true ‘Art of Farming’ as it is practised today within a diverse range of settings, landscapes, and endeavours, explaining that some contacts will be the only meeting, or these meetings may be repeated over time, taking a collaborative approach, where the individual farmer may decide upon the context of any work undertaken jointly. The project overall is creating an ongoing archive (‘a snapshot of Farming life today’) across many miles. Ideally, an Initial photographic portrait of the individual(s) will be made.

It is evident from the deluge of feedback received to date that Robin’s, the Art of Farming Project is proving increasingly popular with a worldwide audience. So much so, that during the period of Advent, members of the public have been registering their most appreciated image(s) from Robin’s growing archive, as we count down to Christmas Day.

Here, especially for CHRISTMAS, Robin has revealed your selected favourite image from his Art of Farming Project 2019. Your chosen Farming Champion is Mr John W Davison, informally photographed with one of his 2019, Blue du Maine lambs, ahead of his ‘Langley Flock’ Dispersal Sale. This photograph highlighted by you was made on the 9th day of August 2019.

Robin reinforces how privileged he felt being able to record Northumberland Farmer Mr Davison’s preparations for the ‘Dispersal sale’ of his and his wife’s very fine ‘Langley Flock’ of accredited pedigree ‘Bleu du Maine sheep.’ A highly significant and historical event according to the artist because a dispersal sale may only be described as a ‘dispersal sale’ where every registered sheep belonging to that flock is offered for sale. Further, the flock name will be thereafter terminated and cannot be resurrected by the present holder or used by any other member or future member.

Looking forward to the New Year Robin would like to hear from any individual working at their farm today, who may wish to arrange a meeting in future.

Robin is happy to record aspects of the landscape only, the stock kept, or agriculture undertaken, in addition to making portraits of the individual(s) as a stand-alone image, or recording farming in action in the field.

To view Robin Oliver’s ‘ADVENT’ images and learn more about his farming study, travels, and drawings in search of farmers farming, please go to the ‘FARMING FOCUS’ section of his free for you to view website gallery.

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