With so little time left to make works for the Masters Show it would seem obvious that all free time should be devoted to making. However, a surprise day off mid week saw me doing the exact opposite as I set off with my companion Andrew to follow the North Esk upstream to the Rocks of Solitude.
Although the works I have made to date for this show have been influenced by my visits to the coastline I am equally inspired by other environments. At the core of all my forged concepts is my inherent need to explore, question and understand. I am a child, I know nothing, I am eager to engage, play, make discoveries and learn.
At the start of our woodland adventure we were met by several species of birds. I am embarrassed to admit that I could not ID them and concluded that I should invest in an identification book. Our second encounter was a number of large fish lazily swimming near the surface of the river. This observation led to us later researching the life cycle of the salmon. We noted grass, twigs and detritus in the branches of the trees that had been caused by recent flooding. We tried to imagine the volume of water that had consumed the landscape. My favourite engagement of the day was with a young red squirrel who darted in front of us to the end of a branch and eyeballed us intently making sure that we went on our way.
As with all meanderings and adventures afoot I cannot leave without taking home something that has caught my eye. A small twig with lichen anchored to it took my fancy. The colour of the host organism reminding me of the green patina that is formed on copper when it degrades, I resolved to ascertain how I might recreate this environmental alchemy in my studio onto copper leaf.
If you asked me to choose my medium of choice - digital or analogue - my initial gut reaction would be to choose analogue. For many reasons: I love the aesthetic designs, weight and manual functions of old cameras. Equipment that forces me to consider many calculations before I even press the shutter release. I'm afraid that I throw myself wholly at velocity into all that I do so tasks that make me slow down are good for me. In the darkroom I am intoxicated by the chemical cocktail of fumes and seduced by the seedy subdued red lighting. I am in love with the difficult processes that often produce imperfect perfect alternative outcomes because I haven't mastered the techniques.
On closer analysis of the choice though I recognise many aspects of digital photography that I am excited by too. The portability, cheapness and parameters that digital cameras provide. Being able to take hundreds of images on a shoot. The ability to edit images with ease in Photoshop.
The wise decision therefore would be not to make a choice but to form an alliance.....a collaboration of opposites. Which is what I have been doing this week having taken digital photographs of my found objects, editing them in Photoshop to create well contrasted digital negatives then processing them in the darkroom making cyanotypes.
It is through the success of my digital and analogue collaboration I have come to understand that faced with other extremes and opposites in my life that benefits are often found through partnership: old versus new, analytical versus emotional, shy versus outgoing. That choosing one extreme favourably over another is not necessarily the most rewarding course of action as collaborations of opposites often lead to outcomes that could not be achieved singularly.
Having the time, resources and my own studio space to make self indulgent works is indeed a gift that I am truly grateful for. The freedom to immerse myself in the pain and pleasure that is making for makings sake satisfies my soul. I am so lucky that I do not have to make art to sustain myself financially. Each work instead being the medicine that nourishes me providing an outlet to express myself emotionally and intellectually.
Over the last year I have been collecting regularly from the tide line. The treasures amassed methodically laid out on my studio floor so that I may regard and allow them to inspire me. It is only over the last couple of weeks that I have felt that I could begin to synthesize my collection. So that this process may not be disrupted I have made a supply of supports.
To guide and galvanize me on my making journey I have revisited artists that influenced me when I was an undergraduate: Harvey Duke, Will Maclean, Tom McKendrick. It is fair to say that although these artists influenced me I was not brave enough at the time to make works like them. Instead I chose to produce paintings that would please others, that my friends and family could understand and accept, works that did not challenge.
Maturity and confidence have finally allowed me to begin to make art for myself that I do not care if a viewing public likes or not. The first of my mixed media pieces uses three numbered posts I found just over a year ago at Barry Buddon Ministry of Defense Training Area. Added to the composition are layers of card which will then be covered in a homemade texture medium then layered with a van dyke crystal solution.
I am not sure how the piece will turn out. Like I said earlier it is both a tortuous and gratifying process. It is a journey of discoveries and self discovery.
Recipe for texture medium:
Mix together and use straight away. Working time approximately 10 minutes.
They say that if you need something done you should ask a busy person. That is exactly what our principal tutor Dr Jon Pengally did when he invited the MFA students to take part in the Garthee Programme of the 'Look Again Festival'.
Our brief - to select an object from the RGU Arts and Heritage Collections and produce a contextual response. Objects and outcomes produced will go on show at Aberdeen Business School on 20th to 24th April.
The visit to view the extensive and varied artefacts was hosted by the Collections Assistant George Cheyne. George is passionate about the collection and was very happy that our exhibition would provide a public focal point to promote the existence of the works he records and conserves.
It was indeed a privilege to be allowed access and making the decision to chose just one object was hard. My final choice was a scientific microscope.
To accompany the microscope I will be setting found objects from the beach in resin. Added to the samples I will produce two publications: the objects viewed through the eyes of the artist and a scientist.
The message I wish to convey is that we all view the same world differently and form our own personal responses. It's not a case of right and wrong to me..........I believe that there are many viewpoints and truths. I believe also that the world would be a much happier place if we accepted these different responses.
Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. Arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.