The HND student exhibition marks the end of yet another academic year. Their summation is a happy reminder that I will soon have six weeks in which I can go exploring with a camera, collect from the tide-line and play in my studio.
In preparation I have been trawling my favourite online auction site. My intention is to develop the glass cyanotype images that I housed in vintage darkroom lamps - the mains wiring jarring the aesthetic. My solution is to wire my new versions with an internal battery so that they can stand alone on a plinth.
Six switches later and 3 more lamps acquired I now have the beginnings of a new summer project.................
Photos courtesy of Gillian Ross
As part of my exhibition at the Meffan I agreed to do a pinhole camera workshop. By way of introduction to this magical pastime, a low cost approach was adopted so that students left knowing that you didn't need to spend lots of money.
Knowledge that has been generously gifted to me was in turn passed onto my attentive students. It is fair to say that my pupils left enthusiastically clutching their new camera.
Photos courtesy of Gillian Ross
Oonagh Devoy – ‘Pilgrimage’ Talk
After less than five minutes in my car I arrive at the coast; my favourite close by place to explore being where the Elliot is absorbed into the North Sea. I cannot tell you how many times I have visited this spot, for I visit it often. It is here that I am able to simply lose myself in my thoughts and merge into the landscape. As I explore the shore I am compelled to take photographs and collect from the tide line, it is a dependable place, always there for me, providing me with solace, food for the soul and treasures from the sea.
Although the Scottish coastline is the principal stimulus that feeds into my art practice, it is not the sole environment that moves me to create. In the hills too, my soul is free to leave my body and make discoveries. However the effort necessary to reach a summit can prove challenging as I am physically, mentally, geographically and environmentally challenged. The hills are my father and the coast is my mother. I am rewarded and punished by both. I cannot exist without either and I am constantly torn between the two of them.
The main challenge I face when wishing to explore the hills is my difficulty with navigation. As a result, I am compelled to make the journey with a companion. The best companion is one who not only can lead me safely there and back, but who also shares my desire to ponder and wonder. My goal is never a race to the top, or to add another tick on a growing list of conquests, but to experience and enjoy what the environment has to yield. I am an observant trespasser, hungry to feast on the landscape and its secret contents.
In contrast to this companionship in the hills, I generally explore the coastline alone. Maybe I would the hills too if I was more confident in my ability to navigate them? However, having a companion to meander with has taught me a valuable lesson, that the joy of a shared experience does not halve, it somehow magically more than doubles in value. Perhaps the formula for joy is altered because the memory of a shared experience has another chance of being kept alive and revisited? It could be because different elements of the experience have been captured by each viewer? I’m afraid that the mathematical equation for shared experiences is yet another question there is no definitive answer to. Thankfully though, I have been lucky enough to experience this magical formula on numerous occasions:
Walking is not a new instrument by which I engage and make sense of the world, as a teenager I would roam the countryside for miles with my younger brother. Whole days could be easily lost in discovery and play, we were like feral animals. For our days journeying, we consulted no maps and made no plans except to return in time for our evening meal. It was a time of no mobile phones but we did not feel unsafe, I was connected to my brother and connected to the land. We wandered and wondered, we made bows and arrows, we built a tree house, we fought viciously, we laughed hard and free, we were intrepid explorers, happy companions, and we made the best of memories. And now, as then, walking and exploring is still the principal method I employ to make sense of the world, my placement in it and my placement in relation to everything else. My expeditions may take the form of a trek in the hills, an urban flaneur or a coastal quest, the location is not important but the journey is. My art is a response, the workings out, the final summation.
On any journey, at any point, I may be drawn to an object that I consider being beautiful and that I must own. These objects and the experience combined will inspire idea generation and production in my studio or darkroom; they also maintain and augment my happiness and well-being.
It is the aesthetic qualities of my found objects that initially draw me to them. Because of these treasures, I have come to expand the latitude of my own definition of ‘beauty’. It is a genuine enigma to me that what I honestly and wholly consider to be ‘beautiful’, what I am physically and emotionally attracted to, is in turn defined in opposition to mainstream notions.
It is my intention and hope that my artworks may inspire a viewing audience to wonder, that they might ask what the object before them is, maybe even ponder upon its history and origin. But does it ultimately matter though if we know the identity of an object? Can we not just enjoy these finds for the unknown, tactile, sea worn treasures that they have become?
Through the deliberate placement of my found objects in a gallery space I hope to give viewers the opportunity to contemplate the visual and tactile qualities of these exhibits. I wish to invite you to inspect the objects intimately, to appreciate the aesthetic qualities first and then to maybe also consider what the object was and where it came from.
This exhibition is the culmination of two years worth of walks and the objects I have collected. Explorations and interactions translated into emotive responses. My outcomes are not intended to be pretty, mainstream, or saleable. They are instead a self indulgent consequence. Journies of discoveries, problem solving and pleasure seeking.
I would like to end this introduction to my exhibition with a quote by the Scottish writer and explorer, Nan Shepherd. “I believe I now understand in some small measure why the Buddhist goes on a pilgrimage to a mountain. The journey is itself part of the techniques by which the god is sought. It is a journey into Being; for as I penetrate more deeply into the mountain’s life, I penetrate also into my own”.
Photography courtesy of Pam Kelly
It took me at least quarter of an hour to scrape the windows on the college minibus this morning. However, the effort would be repaid back by my class that same morning when they helped me hang my 'Pilgrimage'
exhibition at The Meffan in Forfar.
One of the Units in the HND Contemporary Art Practice framework is 'Professional Practice'. It is designed to equip students with the skills necessary to promote themselves and apply for opportunities. What better introduction to the Unit than to immerse and involve them in the setting up.
When I joined the Masters Course just over two years ago I was not prepared for the friendships that would come into and enrich my life as a result.
The one that has had the biggest impact on me is my pinhole friend Donald Tainsh that I met at a Dry Plate Workshop in Glasgow. There are many qualities that I admire about him, a few of them being: his kindness, his wit, his technical and photography skills and his humility.
To help me with my studies Donald not only imparted much valuable pinhole advice but he offered me a spare tripod that he owned to aid in my dry plate adventures. Instead of taking the tripod for nothing I insisted upon a barter deal.
Since then I have met up with Donald and his lovely wife Maggie to take photographs: Maggie forgiving us of our analogue obsession waiting patiently at a close by café!
Donald and Maggie also came to the preview of my Masters Show. It was here that he admired one of my pinhole prints and offered to buy it. Rather than take the cash I suggested another swap; my pinhole image for one of his. Today we met in Edinburgh to close our deal.
The early morning drive to Banchory was consumed by mixed emotions of anxiety, happiness and sadness. I was anxious for two reasons:
The morning rehearsal saw the composer David Ward, myself and my companion Andrew in the front row being treated to a private recital. When making the video I only had a computer simulation of the music to work with so I was excited to hear the musicians.
The intimacy of our private premiered performance was indeed overwhelming. It was a surreal experience. It goes without saying that I was moved to the core. The afternoon performance to an audience did nothing to diminish this emotion. Feedback from the attendees was positive with many kind words said.
The whole experience has been amazing. I have enjoyed very much working with David Ward, Rohan de Saram, Suren de Saram, Kausikan Rajeshkumar and Mark Hope. Accomplished professionals who have treated me kindly and taught me much.
I was completely unprepared for the depression that followed the dismantling of my Masters Show.
On analysis I should be very happy for I had presented an exhibition that I had worked very hard to produce. I shared the opening night with close family and friends who had travelled far and wide to be with me. My exhibition was well received and I was duly awarded a Distinction by my tutors.
However, the depression set in when the new term began. No longer did I have a Friday to look forward to where I would either be travelling to Gray's School of Art or making in my studio. So where to begin?
What I have learned from My Masters experience is how important making is to me. Although I no longer have a Friday to play I know that it is necessary to create time in my busy life to continue making. However instead of rushing into my studio and continuing where I left off I have chosen to take time to reflect. To spend time surrounded by my collections and works to date and take stock..........and what better way to do this than making a new pinhole camera.
Friday 25th August found me in the company of family and friends who had put themselves out to join me at the preview of my Masters Show. I feel privileged to be so well thought of for they had travelled far and wide to be with me.
I have said it before, but it really is a mystery to me how quickly two years has flown by. The Masters Show marks an end point but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter of making too. Although my show filled a number of spaces I was frustrated that I didn't have enough time to make all that I wanted to. That said, I must be thankful that I own a sketchbook full of ideas to continue my journey............I am so happy to have rediscovered making again.