Comparing artistic practice to walking in the snow / by Ally McGinn

Comparing artistic practice to walking in the snow



In a field of untarnished white, a field so massive the edges are just visible in the dark.

I pick a spot near an edge, the opposite side of the entrance.

The tracks lead from the gate to my chosen stop.

I realise where I am standing. That my steps leave a mark. A drawing.

I begin to walk with intent, to step as the process requires.

The drawing has gotten so large that pathways have to be navigated.

I take a photograph to view the whole (it's too dark without the flash) and I see it in that moment. The light illuminates the full view. Then the flash fades and all that remains is the photograph, which seems distanced from the shadowy reality.

I follow a pathway to add something new to the whole (from my original circle which I return to often, maybe stubbornly) and I get lost in the moment, adding more detail on the edges.

The snow is soft but has a crust, the first time i carve the path i can't shuffle, or I'll fall. I have to take great stomping strides. I have to announce myself. Walk with confidence, even if that confidence is forced.

I still occasionally stumble, sometimes I use this to carve a new offshoot of the path, marking the spot to expand upon later, sometimes the path veers in a new direction, and sometimes the path simply gets wider for a while.

The second or third traces can be smoother, more thoughtful, more focussed on form. The more often i walk the path the more defined it comes, but the compacted snow becomes more slippery the more i walk it.

I stop to think, not looking at the ground but internally.

I stop to view the ground, the marks of process, the patterns and inconsistencies. Enjoying the surprises.

Sometimes the steps show the grass underneath.

Some routes go so far from the whole that i cannot see it, the sideways perspective distorts.

Some pathways join, others require a measured step.

I get lost in the activity, losing sight of the whole but still creating, uncaring of the wider perspective but focussed on the process and the pathways.

The camera struggles, sometimes the photos are black. I try to see, but i can't.

It is all still there.

I take more photographs from my new position, seeing different momentary snaps of the whole, before remembering my original spot.  

The moment of reorientation is disorientating. Time is needed to remember the route back. The paths can be tricky to maneuver, I stumble at times, but the pathways are familiar territory.

I return and review the whole from this angle. Seeing the ways it has changed.

In time it becomes impossible to see the whole from any view.

The process goes on, sometimes carving new paths, often reworking old ones.

New snow sometimes falls and begins to normalise the edges.


It's really hard to go back to walking normally, uncaring about your tracks. But those tracks can be more beautiful, for their unintentionality.

The experience is more free, it is a different flow. Concerned with a different experience.

Creating different traces : evidence.


When you break the crust in a large area you get to enjoy the soft snow underneath. Standing unencumbered.


When you see it from far away the whole thing seems strange, and somewhat pointless, but no less beautiful.


You go back to reality, and view the photos as memories. A way back into the experience.


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