Land of Confusion

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“Land of Confusion” Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 100cm x100cm

Mysterious Paths

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. IMG_4596Although 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. IMG_4603 Once they were all sprayed white, I reassembled the squares until I was happy with the layout. IMG_4612 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. IMG_4907 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. hidden_landscapes Mysterious Paths (15 10×10 panels with acrylic and found objects on MDF board 62cm x 62cm)

Roman Stone

Wanting to source an old OS map, and also find out any historic information about the site around the River Ruchil in Comrie, I visited the library in Perth and went to the reference and archives department.  I was directed to a very helpful lady who showed me some maps and photocopied a couple which were of interest to me. I was then advised to look at few websites, such as EDINA: Statistical Accounts of Scotland and Scotland’s Places (which has many OS maps in its digital archive). When I arrived home, I went straight to these websites, and found some fascinating info about the area around the Ruchil, as well as other interesting facts about the village of Comrie, where I lived since the age of three until I was in my mid-twenties. I found that a Roman General named Agricola had built a fort and a “Marching Camp” at Comrie, near the Ruchil, where he clashed with the army of the Caledonians, headed by Galgacus, in 79AD. Looking at the OS map, I found some areas marked where the Roman camp and Roman Fort had existed. There was also a standing stone adjacent to the camp, which was called the Roman Stone. As the area of the camp was quite a stretch, and the coordinates would have varied considerably between different areas, I decided to use the coordinates (WGS84) of the Roman Stone to make a piece of work. I had been thinking about making a piece which consisted solely of coordinates, and had toyed with perhaps using plants or other natural materials to make them. The fact that I was mapping a Roman Stone, gave me the idea of making a mosaic (in keeping with Roman tradition), using stone which I found nearby at the Ruchil. I also thought it would be more interesting to write the coordinates in Roman numerals so:

56 21′:65.46″N    3 59′: 06.17 W translated as:  LVI XXI LXV. XLVI N  III LIX  OVI. XVII  W

IMG_3700I collected some small peebles from the river’s edge in a bucket, and took them home to clean them. PREPARINGSTONES2Once washed, I used the barbecue and an old set of bellows to speed up the drying process.makingmosaic6I projected and traced the numerals onto a small canvas. Rather than using the the stones to fill the numerals, I decide to work into the negative space as this gives the numerals a recessed appearance as if they were carved or set into stone. It also leaves the numerals as empty space, signifying that the Romans are no longer there, just ghosts within the landscape.makingmosaic5A few hours later the mosaic was beginning to take shape. I stuck the stones down using PVA glue.makingmosaic2makingmosaic4

 makingmosaic3From this angle, the piece itself looks not unlike a road or track

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 The finished stonework…I preferred to spray the piece with a very thin coat of white to make it slightly more subtle and ghostlike.

whitemosaicdetail whitemosaicThe finished piece… I’m quite happy with the result, and I think conceptually it works as a site inspired piece, with the use of the Roman Numerals, and the mosaic technique using stone found near the site. Also the WGS84 coordinates tie in with the walking theme, as does the fact that there was a “marching” camp nearby.

Water of Ruchil

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                                Solitary stravaiger

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Stepping back in time

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Helpless and uprooted

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Thirstily searching for Life

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Charred discarded memories

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Hide in empty vessels

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Bottled up Emotions

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Weeping with nostalgia

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Open eyes observing

IMG_1751Mossy melancholy

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Dark decaying circles

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Rings of life, and death

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Bearded branches bearing

islands

Overhanging islands

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Wizened witches fingers

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Slowly shedding skin

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The ancient paths where legions trod

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Adorned with hostile emblems

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Non-native invaders thriving

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Surviving futile floods

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Dryadic burrs lie twisted

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By shallow shifting sands

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Relics of rotten remains

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Receive a new awakening

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Gushing rapids foaming

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to the Wild Boar’s Pool

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Constant flowing waters

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Reflecting on times past

IMG_3166Sunbeams over Nemeton

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Pierce the Veil of Sleep

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Sinister skeletal symbols

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Monuments to life

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Warped wefts of wisdom

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Frame palimpsestic paths

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Sacred standing stones

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Cover ritualistic remains

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Barbaric battlefields beckon

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Shackled and forbidden

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For those who draw the short straw

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Mortality confirmed

Walk in my Shoes

This project is borne out of my interest in walking and psychogeography, in particular the ways ways that we tread our paths through the countryside.  The idea behind this project is to encourage people to walk whilst paying attention to their immediate surroundings, in particular to look more carefully at the surface which they are walking on. This will be encouraged by lending out some footwear which would be usually deemed inappropriate to take walks in…Silk ballet pumps and glittering heels.

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Delicate pink satin ballet slippers

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Glittering Four inch stilettoes from Nine West

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IMG_2741Gold mesh sequinned and beaded pumps from Russell & Bromley

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Gold two inch stiletto sandals by made in Italy by Rhapisardi

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The performative element of this activity, Walking in my Shoes will alter the way the walker moves through the space of the landscape, adjusting their balance more by using their arms, balancing and tilting their bodies. 

It makes a bit of a statement around some of the snobbery associated with walking (yes, you heard me correctly!)… the knowing glances of those observing the name on the front of your wellie boot to the logo on the breast of your waterproof jacket, and the disapproving looks from those who are well-kitted out towards those who walk without caring about their apparel.

The participant will choose to walk anywhere they wish, for as long as they are able, wearing my shoes. The footwear will slow the walker down, causing them to place their feet strategically, avoiding hazards, but observing them more carefully.

Each participant will receive a shoe box with a pair of the shoes they must wear, a list of instructions and a small plastic bag.

As a starting point, they are required to have a photograph taken of themselves wearing the shoes at the start of their walk. Throughout the walk they are required to take further photos of their feet (wearing the shoes) on the terrain over which they are walking. They are also asked to take any photos of interesting sights they see or observations they make on their walk. A souvenir of their walk is also required, and they must collect an object on their walk which they think is interesting or memorable.

Finally, they will photograph the shoes in their destination – at the end of the walk.

They will be given a questionnaire to fill in about their experience, with space for them to draw a small map of the walk they took.

The results from all the walkers involved in this project will be collated and shared on a WordPress site and possible website too. The shoes, found objects, photographs and questionnaires/ map drawings will be displayed as part of the MA2 Assignment  Intersections and Articulations, and eventually the small maps will be used to produce a large abstract imaginary map as a culmination of the project.

Scratching the Surface – Exhibition up!

On Monday I installed the Scratching The Surface Exhibition at Scottish Natural Heritage Battleby, Redgorton. The exhibition was put together as an assignment for my MA in Fine Art course. The brief – to put together an exhibition in a public place. The deadline – 5 weeks, which isn’t a great deal of time when you’re working and have family commitments!

Given the nature of my work, I decided to contact Scottish Natural Heritage, as this is an organisation that I would like to develop links with, either as part of collaborative research/art projects, or perhaps one day as an artist in residence.

My main interest at the moment is invasive and injurious plants, and after a few ideas, I decided that Scratching the Surface would be a suitable title. Through a bit of research,  I also found out that the site was used as a “hospital” for soldiers to convalesce after the First World War. Given that the plants which I was planning to use for the exhibition had either injurious or healing properties, I felt that this gave my work a site-specific connection, which I aimed to portray within some of my pieces.

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The poster which I designed to advertise the event, using a detail of the painting ‘Hostile Invasion’

The work I produced over the 5 weeks was:

  • Masking the Pain : a mask made from nettles, Ivy and other plants

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  • PRICK : A word made from thorns on canvas, sprayed with white acrylic

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  • Forbidden Fruit : A 3D piece mounted onto canvas, made with polyustyrene, papier mache nails and elastoplast

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  • Hostile Invasion : A painting of a hostile, overgrown landscape

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  • The Exotic Seed Company : An Installation of fictitious seed packets

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  • No way out : Wire and thorns coming out a of canvas
  • Off side : A painting of a Butterbur Leaf, in the style of stained glass
  • From Scratch : A stylized painting of a bramble stalk

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  • Sleeping with the enemy : A bed made from Giant Hogweed, Butterbur, Nettles and Thorns

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  • A sign for Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar

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  • A fanzine called Invasion of the Body Scratchers

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I also made a few more pieces which I did not exhibit, as it was felt that they weren’t strong enough, or devalued other pieces .

I spent all day Monday installing the exhibition, and had a few challenges along the way…covering the picture hanging system to give the exhibtion a more contemporary feel was probably the biggest, so I decided to use canvases to hang over the rods, onto which I then fixed my work.

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A contrast with lighting gives the exhibition a more dramatic feel (below) but I found it difficult to photograph my work under these conditions

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I have to say that I’m quite pleased with the result of my work, and its great to see it all up together as an exhibition. On Friday, between 12 noon and 1pm I am hosting a tasting session to sample some of the materials I used to create the artwork, e.g.. Nettle, bramble and rose hip wines, bramble crumble etc. and dandelion and nettle teas. I will be serving the wines as spritzers from Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar, and will set up my sign advertising this.

If anyone wants to visit, this exhibition will be on until 2pm Friday, when the 3D works will have to be dismantled due to other events taking place, but the 2d works should be up for possibly another week.

“Cells”…finally completed

whitecIt’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!!