After getting the bug for painting abstracts, I wanted to make this piece less like something resembling a surface pattern, as I feel the last couple of pieces I’ve created seem to have that degree of “busy-ness”. I’ve purposefully left some white space around the main image here, and began this one by using inks on the canvas to build the image up in a more subtle way. I began with the thought of a shark (after listening to Feargal Sharkey!), and the blue area to the left of the painting was meant to represent a shark’s head. with its mouth opening. I did keep it as a loose representation, as I don’t want this piece to become too illustrative. Blind-sighted b y the shark, I failed to read the image from the right as another hybrid creature, and now see that it looks not dissimilar to a hen or perhaps a turkey. I’ve named it “Sharkenstein” Oil and water-based ink on canvas 50x50cm.
I have always held a fascination for sea creatures. I suppose its the fact that they are some of the most weird and wonderful aspects of nature on our planet. There are so many unknowns…creatures being discovered that we were never aware of, and so many more out there that we may never know. The depths of the ocean conceal so many mysteries, another example which I liken to the notion of the Romantic Sublime- the awe and force of nature, its beauty and its danger…
This piece started out almost as an abstract map, and the colour palette that I was using made me think of the sea; rich blues and greens, exotic pinks and corals and golden sands. The shapes that emerged were organic, and there were hints of cuttlefish, octopus and ray, albeit in very abstract forms. Semi translucent layers of paint were added to give the impression of seaweed floating and to create some depth within the piece.
Some of the more jagged, broken shapes represent debris, a sight all too familiar as a consequence of human stupidity and disregard for our oceans.
After a while of not posting, I feel ready again to let the world know what I’ve been working on. Since completing my MA in Fine Art, my work has taken a slight change of direction. My primary interest and focus throughout my MA had been on the natural world, and the way that I perceive it – through both its fragility and beauty, to its darker (and even on occasions terrifying) aspects. The Romantic notion of the Sublime was a big influence on my studies, and I was fascinated by the ways that viewing apparatus such as the Claude Glass and Claude Mirrors were used to create a certain view of nature that was deemed to be appealing. I, myself, became fascinated with ways to view nature through different lenses; the camera, the mirror, using a microscope and also through scientific equipment such as petri dishes full of site specific bacteria.
After completing the 3 years of study, I decided I needed a break from this theme, and I couldn’t even bring myself to venture back into Birnam Wood, the location that I visited at least 5 times a week over my period of study. I turned my studio into a bit of a retreat, filling it with memorabilia from the 1980s, and objects that made me feel happy. I bought a record player, and brought out a lot of my old vinyl which started to really inspire my work.
Along with the music from the 80s, another influence has been the graphic illustrations of Patrick Nagel, which portray strong, fashionable and glamorous women in a simplified almost Art deco style. Nagel designed the album cover of Rio by Duran Duran. Inspired by the shapes and curves and flat colours in his work, I began to create some abstract pieces using the computer, which I then translated to paint on canvas. I started off small scale, and happy with the results, I decided to tackle something bigger.
I wanted to revisit my interest in nature, so I decided to combine the abstract 80s inspired design with organic forms to create a kind of abstract, junglesque environment. I added in pixel -like shapes which represent our digital dependancy and the tensions and divisions it creates between humans and the natural world. I named the piece “Land of Confusion”, a nod to the 80s hit by Genesis, but also because I feel we are living in a land of confusion in many aspects.
The completed piece will be exhibited from the 23rd March at Scottish Natural Heritage, Battleby House, Perthshire, as part of the PLATFORM 2018 festival.
“Land of Confusion” Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 100cm x100cm
Having made sketches of a walk along the River Ruchil where I played as a child, I noticed similarities in these drawings to aerial views of maps, which weren’t unlike islands, edges and boundaries between land and water, and pathways and pools. I also researched the area around my walk in EDINA’s Statistical accounts of the Parish of Comrie, I learned that there were remains of Druidic places of worship, which really intrigued me as I have an interest in megalithic monuments and Druids groves. Taking inspiration from this, I decided to make an abstract map which hinted at this mysterious layer of the landscape. I chose the 16 squares which I thought most suitable and began to paint in the shapes, using a limited colour palette of white, off white, a tint of cobalt blue/grey and also leaving some areas of the linen canvas unpainted. Although the result was quite pleasing, it was only a means to an end of what I had in mind. The map I had created was bold and graphic, and although abstract it did look like a map. This was important as next I planned to obscure the details by spraying the map white, leaving only a very subtle impression of what lay below. Once they were all sprayed white, I reassembled the squares until I was happy with the layout. Next I got out the stash of items I had gathered on my walks- stones, twigs, roots, snail shells, feathers etc as I wanted to add these into the maps to give a sense of the physical elements present in this landscape. I also sprayed the found objects white, as I wanted to emphasize the textures and shapes of them rather than the colours. I am quite pleased with the final result, although I had toyed with the idea of adding thread stretched between pins to create paths over the boards linking them together. I think the subtlety of the maps works well to describe the hidden or overlooked parts of the landscape which I initially used as my inspiration. The natural objects are reminiscent of standing stones which can be found in a few locations near my walk, and the twigs represent the ancient groves where Druids once worshipped. The thorns and bark (above) do resemble antlers, and have a distinctly pagan look to them, although this was not actually intended. Mysterious Paths (15 10×10 panels with acrylic and found objects on MDF board 62cm x 62cm)
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, marking student work, attending meetings etc, but finally I managed to complete the ‘Cells” painting. I had still felt there was too much contrast in the piece, so I wanted to white out as much as possible, leaving only the bare minimum showing, forcing the viewer to look very closely to observe the shapes created by textural additives. I feel content with the final result, and plan to do a few more pieces using this technique. This week I’m also hoping to get into the biology lab, to see first hand the hidden beauty of cells….so excited!!