January battling resistance. Pigheaded commitment to pointlessness through drizzle, hammering downpours, ice sheets. Stabbing shock of cold, shaking teeth-chattering re-dress, feet in bucket. Exhilaration. Repeat.
There is a place, hidden away down an unremarkable track, marked only by a steady pilgrimage of women clutching waterproof bags. In one direction they wear a steely determination, the other a lightness of load. A heavy, clanging gate cuts through the quiet; behind it a place cut off from the industriousness of London except for the occasional overhead plane.
I came to Kenwood Ladies Pond this summer under duress of an attentive new friend who I suspect, knowing its restorative natural powers, saw an unspoken need that I had failed to identify in myself. My intention (apart from to satisfy her insistence) was to briefly sketch in the meadow before our swim, as part of a planned personal project to visually document various parts of the capital throughout the year.
Amongst the chattering crowds of women looking for a cool dip in the oppressive city heat, however, I found in that moment an unexpected respite. Something well beyond a companionable swim with a friend in dubiously murky waters. Something that required more attention than one afternoon’s quick sketching.
What began is this project: A year-long visual homage to the Pond, the women who swim there, and the wildlife whose habitat is momentarily shared; revisiting this one place many times a week, as the summer crowds dwindle and a bunch of hardy perennials endure declining temperatures. With only a sketchbook and pencil, photography strictly forbidden and no 4G spot to be found (and now increasingly the shaky hands of a post-swim chill), my studio work is growing around very basic sketches, visual memory, and a number of remarkably accommodating swimmers-come-models.