Outdoor Studios Kent and the South East - Martin Brockman

Martin Brockman

Free as the Fields” exhibition May 2024

The inspiration gained from working with communities and teaching in schools has been with me for the past 38 years .throughout this tour of Britain coast to coast I have carried my own work with me , taking time out to create new pieces in clay wood print and paper. This year I will be presenting a new exhibition “Free As The Fields” at the Blackshed Gallery in Robertsbridge.

The fields in which I walk and work in are approaching another spring, this will be marked by the migrant arrival of summer visitors. Cuckoo nightingale and swift will live amongst us as they have done for the past centuries , yet they are on a list of birds presently at risk . I have created 12 new woodblock prints celebrating their arrival , coloured them with pigments found in the Sussex fields and beaches , then titled with their old English names marking the years of continuity . displayed alongside will be new drawings in which the bird is missing. From the same landscape. Postcards sent from the future.

These prints will be displayed alongside a programme of events that will give recipes and workshops for the future actions we can take to gain back control of our possible future.

Selection of Woodblock prints, Editions of 12, Hand printed on Somerset paper, 20cm x 30cm


My first job and journey into community based art was working for Welfare State International Theatre Group, a collective of highly skilled artist writers musicians performers . They had already “raised the Titanic “ and had “Parliament in Flames ” when I met them and were touring the world with spectacular site specific theatre, their generosity kindness and rigour was to be an inspiration. I continued to work with them from 1986 to 2004 when they archived the company , I still work with founder members John Fox and Sue Gill “Dead Good Guides” as well as the many companies of site specific artists that I met through my days with welfare state.

Having studied ceramics I was invited to build and fire a kiln of tiles I had made from clay dug on the Cumbrian coast at Askham . The project was called “The World’s Waste” and toured galleries around Britain looking at the long term legacy of Nuclear Industry. On returning from Cumbria I took time out to create a new collection of Woodblock prints . Called “Glutton and the Illusionist”, charting the change the countryside I grew up in during the 1980’s during the Margaret Thatcher government.

Sculptural Kilns

It was 1987 the hurricane had struck the south east of England. I juggled working with the theatre group in summer with tree planting forestry over the winter .Visiting communities from deserted coast to city centres I developed a kiln that could be sculptural as well as functional , firing earthenware clays found in rivers and on beaches to 1000 centigrade . The kilns created from clay and hay were based on Roman updraft kilns the external forms echoing the clay works inside . These kilns were fired as a part of outdoor theatre shows , community feasts and celebrations. A year long project growing a school dinner with a local primary school even including a foray into the Chelsea Flower Show a gold medal winning potters garden . Clay and fire still appear in my work as I tour a wheelbarrow kiln firing wherever I find clay.

In the Forest

Works in wood and coppice materials.

Visiting and working at new sites I have used locally sourced sustainable materials, coppice hazel and willow being a good example of woodland management going back centuries to provide flexible and sustainable rods .

I found these materials useful when creating large scale sculptures in and with communities celebrating their woodlands and beaches . It also proved to be a really accessible community workshop that could be run with all abilities and ages and still proves to be a popular workshop day spent in the landscape .

Following the hurricane in 1987 I began to create site specific sculptures and benches working with larger oak timbers and carving with hand tools . The most recent being Waterland benches set on the Saxon Shoreway at Milton Creek Sittingbourne. I sometimes visit the older pieces as in the village sign at Shipbourne carved 20 years ago and enjoy the way they have settled into the landscape.

Skills Passing

I met with Sandra Drew and the staff at Stour Valley Arts in 2002 and was fortunate to meet and take many school groups into the sculpture park at Kingswood Challock . We’d spend the day there responding to the artworks in the forest as well as exploring materials and passing on making techniques and tools.

Lately this has also involved working as a resident artist at The Thames Barge “Raybel . We used to foraged materials and skills associated to the site to explore celebrate and communicate the fragility and future of our natural spaces . Working primarily outside the landscape becomes our classroom and theatre space providing materials and inspiration.

With my fellow educators / artists at Stour Valley we formed OutdoorStufios Arts CIC and will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary next year.

Facebook: @Martin.Brockman.90

Instagram: @brockmanpage

Web: blackShed Gallery