Art Making Art Thinking

Making art - ideas from anytime and anyplace


Art times . . .  The Art Thought Train steams on . . . and on

Six weeks since the last blog in April and there has been too much happening for me to speak about everything. This blog will have two parts;

Part One – I choose to focus on this .  .  .  many artists are uncomfortable with the mechanics and the machinations of the art world and choose to withdraw their labour because the art world takes away more than it gives .  .  .

Lee Lozano was active in the New York art scene during the sixties until she chose to step away from the art machine.

Between March and June2018 the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh is exhibiting ‘Lee Lozano – Slip Slide Splice.’


A series of supporting events have included discussion groups one of which I decided take part in – ‘Refusal’ facilitated by Ruth Bretherick.

Attendees had been sent two articles of preliminary reading material.  ‘Tune in, Turn on, Drop out: The Rejection of Lee Lozano’ by Helen Molesworth and ‘This moment: a Dialogue on Participation, Refusal and History Making’ Angela Dimitrakaki and Lara Perry.

Both articles address the complex nature of being an artist and a woman in capitalist society. Please read them if you have time.

Both articles discuss Lee Lozano’s art practice and speculate on her decision to withdraw, to refuse, to turn away from being an artist.

And  her more controversial decision to stopped interacting with other women.

Our discussion was time limited to one hour and meant people had to focus on what to say, ask, explain and disagree. Realistically if it had continued for a longer time the initial statement of position of each participant would have diffused into a sequence of monologues.

Points and questions touched on;

Given her refusal of the art world would she have wanted to be in this exhibition?

Lee Lozano’s privileged position within the art world begged the question of whether her conscious withdrawal would have commanded so much attention were she lesser known. Her refusal to interact with women was another indication of the ‘abnormal perceptual systems’ (sic) possessed by artists, (both these points were raised for discussion by the single male present)

The overt and the hidden patriarchal systems existing both in the art world and wider society

The use of language in art

The idealistic and intellectual difficulties entangled within the word feminism

The role of self-sabotage

How little has fundamentally changed for women artists since the sixties

The complexities contained within such a short space of time are analogous to those contained within a work of art, there is only so much time to make what matters. . .

One thing bothers me though. . . why didn’t she destroy her work?


Part Two – visuals


I haven’t spoken about how irritating I found Paul Morley’s Sunday Feature on Radio 3 ‘Too Many Artists?’ his discussion was elliptical and self-absorbed and I remembered how I didn’t like his music writing in the 70’s and 80’s when he displayed the same arrogant opinions masked as knowledge and intellectual debate.

Less opinion and more reality . . . I found the Dawn Chorus parts 1 and 2 entrancing, then listened to 2017’s with Will Young whose delight in learning was tangible.

I read Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and was dismayed again by our western society.

I was overcome with admiration for my daughter, Rebekah L Stackhouse, who ran the Edinburgh Marathon on 27th May to help raise funds for refugees after all the line between being secure and made homeless is a fragile one . . . and all the other runners who crossed their personal Rubicon. I cried . . .a lot.

Coming up. . .The Saturday Draw at Eastfield House has 2 dates in June, the 2nd and the 16th. We will be walking and drawing – Sign up 

The next Art in Nature, Drawing and Well-being on 21st July, more on that in the next blog



Art Time x Two (Short post)

Making art is a complex interplay of thought and action, of inaction and thought, of unthinking action, and  of physical inaction combined with thinking. To learn not to worry about this interplay takes practice, for some artists it takes a long time ( myself ) and for some artists it takes no time at all to be able to put such things in perspective. It is sixteen years since I graduated and the prospect of placing my work in the sights of other eyes still has the power to unnerve me, however there are more important things to consider. To continue being curious and asking why? What for? What is? Where can? To continue listening, seeing, feeling, touching, being – to continue making.

The five images of painting and sculpture above are ©Aileenmstackhouse2016

 on show during Perthshire Open Studios 2016 September 3 – 11. Venue 20 Spittalfield Hall Orange Route includes; artists Cornelia Weinmann, Mary Meldrum Brown, Graham Findlay, ceramicist Jenny Charles and makers Eileen Clason and David Downie which means that there will be a wide variety of art for sale.



Art Time

The sensation of time passing changes completely when I am physically involved in making art; sculpture; drawing; painting and any other form of creativity. I choose the word sensation rather than the word perception – I choose it since I exist within time and perception seems less descriptive of existing within time than sensation. To explain this statement and further confuse anyone who reads this – firstly –

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is                               

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

Thinking about making art is as much making art as making art is

I firmly believe this – it is not possible for me to physically make art all the time

Because – I stop being able to see what I have done

I stop being able to choose what to do next

I cannot find where to go next

I become lost


This is not a reason to stop thinking about making nor a reason to stop making

Reason tells me that even when I think I am lost I am still making.


Secondly –

Time which marks spaces between art making has no meaning in the place where art is made. This internal arena itself has no time, the place where art making takes place, its precise location is unknown and yet it is always present although sometimes inaccessible and always imprecise. Art making possesses an elastic quality in its propensity to stretch then contract experience – snapping back with rapid accelerations in the speed of decision making regarding the work – such speed makes it difficult to track where an idea springs from.


All this has re- emerged while I have been sorting what to put in SEVEN, our group exhibition in Spittalfield Village Hall (Venue 20) for Perthshire Open Studios 2016 from 3-11 September. Participating in exhibiting art brings associated tasks separate from making the thing itself. Talking with other artists, organising events, sharing ideas, collaboration and publicity (Social media, Radio and Press), printing and documentation, alongside the more mundane carrying, cleaning, driving, cleaning, measuring, cleaning, drilling, cleaning, hammering, cleaning, suspension, cleaning, polishing. . .is it ready yet???



See you at POS 2016 Spittalfield. . .



June 2016 – Places I have not been before

Places I have not been before – notwithstanding living within sixty miles of them. St. Andrews Museum exhibition The Glasgow Boys and St Andrews Botanic Garden

(Off at a tangent . . .’Notwithstanding’ what a wonderful word. I don’t think I have ever used it before; in fact I am sure I haven’t. I chose this word because I did not want to write despite or in spite of – neither of those mean what I mean. I think it is because they include ‘spite’ which causes tension in my head. Then choosing the distance of sixty miles is because I can get there and back in a day.)

I go to St. Andrews frequently and have done since I was young yet I do not remember ever visiting St Andrews Museum in Kinburn Park so when I see that ‘The Glasgow Boys – A Spirit of Rebellion’ is one of their exhibitions I decide to have a look at both the building and the art. Museums are among my favourite places to go, along with art galleries, gardens and the seaside so today is potentially thought overload. Kinburn Castle houses the museum and is a squat chunky Victorian mansion built in 1855 and surrounded by attractive gardens.


should know don’t know

The Glasgow Boys are a group of artists from over a hundred years ago who I am conscious of but have never really examined and there are particular paintings I remember having seen in other galleries (the McManus in Dundee). From this perspective in time it takes a deliberate effort to consider the fact that these painters were considered radical, using techniques and methods which were unfamiliar to many and providing an alternative to the Edinburgh art world. Some of these paintings are so familiar to me that I do not really see them, this is interesting for me as an artist, my gaze slips over and glides away, I find myself thinking about other subjects, or watching the reflection in the picture glass of other gallery goers moving briskly from work to another. With a  shrug I remind myself to look properly, to give due attention to this evidence of humanity’s continuing urge to create. I look at them but I do not truly recognise how different they were from other art at the time, for example; works by Edward Hornel (who sometimes worked with another Glasgow boy, George Henry) remind me of biscuit box lids  or illustrations in the children’s books I read in my childhood. There is a sickly sweet quality in his pictures of young girls which is not present in his other works (see his collaborative works made with George Henry such as ‘Old man’1881 ). There are other paintings  which I do like and have not seen before and again I register that I remember the work of art and not the name of the artist.  This painting is beautiful and for the nth time I ask myself, why do some paintings resonate and others just slide by? There are so many factors which affect our visual aesthetic that there is no point in asking really – it just comes down to like/ not like.

In the afternoon I went on to St Andrews Botanic Garden to look at the tropical butterflies housed in a small and extremely hot glass house. At the door I was advised to shed my coat and bag because of the heat and after ten minutes I was dripping wet – my camera stopped working and I simply sat down and watched the butterflies. I could have sat there all afternoon – the butterflies were truly beautiful, some brilliantly coloured and so many patterns on their wings and on their bodies. Visitors are advised to take care of where they tread as the butterflies will rest on the path, and to check themselves as they leave because the butterflies will alight on our bodies and drink our perspiration. The very friendly volunteer told me about the butterflies being delivered in pupae form from a butterfly farm, hatched and then set free for our delight – butterflies don’t live for very long and after being told this I found myself questioning why  I was  initially happy to be there. In the end I felt that a butterfly probably doesn’t realise it’s living in a glorified shed rather than a jungle (although I can never actually know this) and it was a chance for children to see animals in reality rather than through the medium of an illuminated flatscreen. But that’s another conversation entirely.


IMG_20160613_144008238 IMG_20160613_141717086IMG_20160613_144848981



Weir Lornty Burn

Other news this month, the summer solstice on the 20th June is the best time of the year for someone like me who in the winter  regularly experiences ‘achluophobia, nyctophobia (from Greek νυξ, “night”), scotophobia (from σκότος – “darkness”), or lygophobia (from λυγή – “twilight”). I joined in the Symphonic Ecology Project : World Wide Soundscape by recording the sound of where I was at noon for two minutes. The recording is noisy because it’s next to a weir on the Lornty Burn  in Blairgowrie where the water flow is controlled by a hydro electric turbine.  Projects asking for contributions from many different people from all walks of life always pique my interest, it reminds me of how tiny I am in the scheme of the world and restores an essential perspective.



Scratch Notes – Volume ?

A proposal for one of my artworks ( as yet incomplete) was accepted by Perthshire Creates for their exhibition beginning in September at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, it has to be finished by 19th of September and delivered to the door on the 20th. After I’ve finished this blog I will be cracking on with that, it’s called Scratch Notes – volume ? and is a portable sewing box which unfolds into four small boxes and one larger. I sent a drawing to explain how it was to be displayed and a friend said they didn’t understand the drawing. . .which is ok . . I don’t mind.





I delivered my wax figures  to Roddy Mathieson Master Caster of the Mobile Foundry for casting in bronze – they are going to be my part of the group exhibition Seven in Spittalfield Hall (Venue 20, Orange Route, Perthshire Open Studios 2016)  he hopes to get them done in July then I will be riffling away at them and maybe applying some different finishes depending on how they look.



Last but not least it was confirmed that I will be running a drawing class for Blairgowrie and Rattray Adult Education called Ways into Drawing starting in the autumn at the new creative venue in Blairgowrie – Nest managed by Rachel Bower and Tracie Dick.



Lost and found broken

Places I have been before and I am going to again – Glen Beanie 31 July 2016

Last year I went to Glen Beanie to draw with a group of artists from Perthshire Visual Arts Forum led by George Logan it was an exceptional day even though we were all soaked by the end. This year we are going again to discuss various ideas and concepts. . .it’s going to be good.


Pauline McGee and George Logan


the burn beats

Making space – it’s nearly the end of May interactive exhibition space Fair Maid's House Perth interactive exhibition space Fair Maid’s House Perth

May 20

I  met my artist friend Kay Hood outside the Fair Maid’s House in Perth, we were going to see the two artworks she had been commissioned to paint. Kay had been asked to make the work by Mike Robinson, CEO of The Royal Scottish Geographical Society  because she lives in the house in Blairgowrie where James Croll stayed in the nineteenth century ( see Jo Woolf for background as to why he is so important). The exhibition and education spaces at the Fair Maid’s House are designed by Studioarc  and work extremely well considering the house’s size, Studioarc have redesigned the garden now renamed The Croll Garden. It’s remarkably compact and still waits for the  appropriate plants which have been chosen in consultation with the Botanics in Edinburgh. The central sculptural work is based on the Earth’s orbit  and visitors are encouraged to move a small metal planet around the Sun while reading the texts etched into the surrounding stone panels on the ground. The tactile interaction of the physical movement between the observer’s hands, eyes and body echoes the complexity and magnitude of the Earth’s own  relationships with the solar system and beyond.

Wisteria Anton Cottage ©Kay Hood2016

Wisteria Anton Cottage ©Kay Hood2016

What makes James Croll and his like such singular people is that they worked out so much about our existence without access to the tools of learning we have now. Could I do that? No.





May 24


Excuse the extremely short sentences.

Bluebell wood©aileenmstackhouse2016

Bluebell wood©aileenmstackhouse2016

I am thinking in snatches and glimpses.

I am catching my breath in gasps.

My breath is catching at the air.

I am attempting to push against repeating patterns (again!)

Early morning walking brings clarity of thought.

Never mind the weather.

Rain coming©aileenmstackhouse2016

Rain coming©aileenmstackhouse2016

Maybe because the body is moving.

Away, through and towards.

Rather than being stationary or moving within and around a circumscribed space.

Such as home, workspace, shop, garden, car.

Maybe this walking action allows self to escape from

Snags, hooks, holes and obstacles.


looking back©aileenmstackhouse2016

looking back©aileenmstackhouse2016

Since last week the dog walking time does not last long enough for my thinking.

The dog herself would walk for as long as I would let her.

That is not fair because she is not yet two years old and her joints are still malleable.

And in fact it would be too long for my body since it does not have the stamina it had BC.


At the beginning of this week I walked to the trees at the top of the hill on the other side of the Lornty Burn.

behind toward©aileenmstackhouse2016

behind toward©aileenmstackhouse2016


I saw a new horizon ahead of me to the North and the River Ericht Gorge below me towards the East.

away from©aileenmstackhouse2016

away from©aileenmstackhouse2016

May 27

again I have been reading and not making

I  finished reading Rebecca Solnit The Faraway Nearby and in the chapter Flight she writes of an artwork (Path by Elin Hansdottir) she  encountered in Iceland

“ If Path was a book, it was about not knowing, about being lost, and about darkness, the darkness of the deep interior,

into the woods©aileenmstackhouse2016

into the woods©aileenmstackhouse2016

a book you read with your feet. But it was wordless and so had the penurious privilege of visual art, of being able to invoke many meanings without being pinned down to the specificities of words. Too, it was the thing itself, not the representation of the thing. It was darkness, a convoluted route, a throbbing sound, faint zones of light, perceptual confusion. It was a space only revealed over time through motion.”

I am enjoying working through her writings and her words strike true although I sometimes find myself wishing she would give more. More what? Explanation? That’s precisely when I can become annoyed as a visual artist, when I am asked to explain further, to explain why.

If I knew the words, the answer, I would not be making the art.

Yayoi Kusama lives voluntarily in a psychiatric institution in Japan, is this to give her space to make her art? Her work is beautiful and in parts and details reminds me of many other artists ( e.g. Louise Bourgeoise, Alan Davie ).

Although I complain about having not enough space/time for creativity I would not want to experience being limited and shut away.

I prefer walking to make space.


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