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.
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
When I returned to check on the gel plates, I saw some interesting results, varying from obvious spread marks and feathery swirls to beautiful fantasy landscapes.
Above: Lycoperdon Perlatum (Common Puffball) sample
Above: Pleurotus Ostreatus (Common Oyster Mushroom)
The Common Oyster Mushroom gave a fluffy, cloudy pattern, and with the combination of the sample in gel, looked like a bird of some sort, with a brown eye.
Above : Sample of Mycena Galericulata (Common Bonnet)
The most beautiful were from the samples of liquified Boletus Subtomentosus. One sample had been spread over jelly, the other sample had been mixed with “broth”, a protein additive to feed the bacteria.
Above: Boletus Subtomentosus sample with added protein “broth”
What I believe gave these samples (and the Common Oyster samples) an advantage over the others is the fact that they were spread using a glass rod spreader, as if one were making a crepe. This is the method I will use in future when I try out any more samples, as it covers the whole dish as opposed to a few spots here and there.
I’m in awe of these beautiful pieces of nature’s art, which appear as if drawn in pencil on off-white paper. To me, they are an imaginary landscape, where distant towers or tall buildings balance precariously on a steep hill within a rugged hilly landscape. What is even more remarkable is that both plates resemble a similar landscape, but the latter looks as if it is further into the distance. The moon lights the scene, casting magical moonbeams over the kingdom….or perhaps we are looking at the scene through falling snow, the white spots giving a sense of perspective with their variations in size. Perhaps this is a picture of Dunsinane Hill, and the Hill fort where Macbeth lies waiting, anticipating his future, and the spots are the foot soldiers heading towards him to seal his fate. These landscapes certainly have a magical, even supernatural quality, and makes me feel that something special has grown from a small sample found in Birnam Wood.
I almost feel as if these gel plates could be used as a sort of divination method, a bit like the ancient art of scrying, where the past, present or future could be told using such tools as crystals,glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Such images are likely products of our imagination or subconscious, although some believe that they come from spirits, gods or demons. According to http://witchesofthecraft.com the symbol of the bird in scrying means ascension, good news, or bird headed beings. Although I couldn’t find hills, I found mountains which means obstacles or a specific area (Dunsinane Hill perhaps?) This element of foreseeing the future also ties in with the prophecies in Macbeth. I feel that this experiment links to my theme in a few ways – the site-specific gathering of the fungi, the images they have produced, and the unpredictability of the images, shapes and patterns, which may be interpreted by my imagination or that of others.
I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma on how best to present my poetry as art…I have decided that I want to omit the photos I have taken, not that I dislike them really, but just think that the words work better speaking for themselves. I was thinking about the possibility of combining my interests of map making with poetry and making some kind of poetry map. I saw a map by Nina Katchadourian which, at a glance, appeared to be made from shredded paper, but on closer inspection I saw that it was made from a map of Austria which she had dissected, and was shaped like a heart, as Austria is known as the heart of Europe.
Austria (1997) Dissected paper road map , Nina Katchdourian
This started me thinking that I would like to make my poetry into a sculpture, whether or not it looked like a map. I was a bit wary about the paper tearing easily, so I thought I’d try a little experiment with some wax.
I printed out my poem about the Water of Ruchil and cut it into strips, which I then dipped into wax. The wax gave the paper a much more appealing look, more transparent, and it felt really smooth to touch.
Next I considered how to fix the strips together to form a 3D sculptural piece. I decided to let the materials dictate how i did this, by using what would normally be used to fix printed sheets together – a stapler…which would allow the work to have more of a raw and honest feel to it, rather than covertly fixing it with glue.
I added the lines of poetry quite randomly, as I wanted it to have an abstract feel to it. The strips were stapled in a sort of loop formation, and then loops which were furthest apart were folded in and fixed together to bulk the sculpture up.
Above :Starting to take shape
Above and below : The “ball” of poetry
I decided to take some closer shots of the poetry sculpture, as I imagined it might be good for showing depth of field and make quite abstract images.
I prefer the photographs to the sculpture itself, as they describe my feelings of wandering through the landscape and remembering my childhood – dreamlike, surreal, vivid and vague. I’m also surprised at how in an attempt to move away from photography, I have come back to in a more abstract and less obvious way.
I also had a go at filming the poetry moving, but think I will try this again with proper editing software so that i can crop into the images more. You can see the video Poetry in Motion below…