Botanicals – The Whitworth Doctors

Paul Slater, aka Fabric Lenny, Spodden Valley Revealed, artist in residence, introduces his forthcoming investigation of the Whitworth Doctors, and talks about his unique creative approach…

Following a number of site visits and explorations in and around the village of Whitworth during the latter part of 2019, I am really pleased to be finally embarking on this exciting project with Mid Pennine Arts, exploring the relationship between the Whitworth Doctors, the landscape that surrounds the village of Whitworth, and my work and practice as a contemporary visual artist.

During my initial visits I was taken by the amazing breadth of what Whitworth has to offer; the history and stories of the blacksmiths turned bone doctors of Whitworth Square, the Red Lion where many of their patients are said to have stayed, the splendid gargoyles that peer down from the church, the fascinating and quirky local museum with its knowledgeable and helpful team of volunteers, and the beauty of Doctors Wood where the Taylor family of doctors are thought to have collected plants and herbs for their botanical remedies. 

Paul Slater 2
The Magic of Doctors Wood

My practice is broad. I draw, paint and make sculpture and 3D objects. I love creative technology and I make animated content and work in virtual reality.

I also love to collaborate with communities and other creative practitioners.

Drawing is the starting point of all of my work.

I draw a lot, using both traditional and digital approaches.

I love the tactile quality of drawing and painting on paper. The drag of a brush, the dull squeak of a pen, the ink bleeds and happy accidents that make the process ever joyful and never predictable. I also love drawing and painting digitally, mainly using my iPads and a variety of creative apps along with a digital pencil or sometimes just my finger. I love the responsiveness, the glide of the stroke across the smooth glass, the ability to make changes instantly, to work over and over the same image, the instant access to a pallet of millions of colours and of course the ability to undo and redo.

Within both of these approaches to image-making I tend not to follow conventional rules. The process of drawing and painting for me is a kind of meditation, a visual archaeology with a strong belief that the process will always offer up treasure if I dig deep enough. Sometimes the treasure will be nothing more than a shard of pottery or an uneven stone, but other times it will be an exquisite jewel. I work hard and aim to keep moving forward with my practice, constantly learning new approaches and techniques whilst always questioning and assessing the work I produce with a firm and critical eye.

Paul Slater 3
Current reading

This is the approach I will use when creating my initial responses to the stories and locations associated with the Whitworth Doctors.  These responses will grow as the work develops from ideas to sketches to paintings and then possibly into animated sequences, three dimensional characters, objects and scenes rendered in virtual reality, soundscapes and musical scores, and possibly further through collaboration into fully formed moving image stories or installations that are projected onto a building within the village or enjoyed and experienced at a community event. I don’t know where the project will lead but I am excited about the journey that will take me there, and the stories that I will learn as I delve into the world of the Whitworth Doctors.

Paul Slater 1
Trees at Doctors Wood

Paul Slater aka Fabric Lenny

Who were the Whitworth Doctors?

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