Art Making Art Thinking

Making art - ideas from anytime and anyplace

Tag: Creative Scotland (page 1 of 2)

Super Moon – What would Galileo think?

a week on from the blood blue super full moon and  snow has fallen deep and soft in the night everything hidden and lying beneath this all resting against each other randomly it is not dry small flakes it is large wet flakes in clumps on the branches of trees and houses  the sky is blue grey no stars or moon this morning dark no hint of the sun rising behind the sidlaws to the south no robin sings toward the dawn no wind

I can play with our northern dog outside in her element where she would rather be all the time

I have been wondering what all the great thinkers of the past would make of our world now, what they may have achieved with the resources we have at their fingertips, does ease of access to our technologies for some of our societies make us intellectually lazy, does lack of access mean people think harder to solve problems or do they become worn down by life’s inequalities? Galileo’s life was intellectually hard, his support and enhancement of Copernicus’ theory was challenged and threatened by the Roman Catholic Church and his reasoned analysis of the Earth’s place in the Solar System meant imprisonment, yet he kept working and eventually was able to come home near the end of his life. Sometime in the early years of this century I looked at Galileo’s drawings of the phases of the Moon with close attention and seriously thought, for the first time, about what was actually involved in his process of moving his gaze through the telescope (the lenses ground by himself) at the Moon and recording what he saw when he drew the Moon. The drawings were published them in his book The Sidereal Messenger (1610), I had seen them before but I had not previously fully considered what these drawings actually are and what they meant for society then.

This thinking about thought is cyclical, like the Moon it moves out of sight then returns when I see or read something which reminds me, in this case the BBC’s programme about the Moon scheduled to take place on the same night (31 March 2018) as a Super Moon. What moved me was not only the images of the Moon, it was those of peoples’ reaction to this natural event, their excitement showed in the way they moved, how they spoke. . . all these people all around the world responding . . . this is as beautiful as the Moon itself. Throughout the programme the camera kept returning to an artwork made of the Moon and showing audiences’ reactions when they encountered it. Although this moon was not real people who came to see reacted in the same way as they would to the real one. The artist was not credited during the programme, I waited for the end credits to confirm who I thought it was. I have not seen the artwork itself, a Radio 4 programme had caught my interest and I was pleased to see that this moon looked like my imagining. The artist is Luke Jerram, have a look at his work on his website.

I think Galileo would have liked Luke’s Moon, and I think he would have liked all the technology  we use now to see the Moon, technology which can be traced back to him grinding lenses for his telescope so that he could look at the Moon. If you want to read about his life and its complexities then Dava Sobel’s (2009) book of his life is fascinating.

For the rest of February and into March I am BUSY. Writing my Final Research report for Creative Scotland and sorting out from the project what I’m going to show at Platform 2018, Culture Perth and Kinross’s yearly festival of the arts. http://www.culturepk.org.uk/

 

 

The North Wind Doth Blow – River Ericht in January 2018

New Year January 2018

I am listening to Moving Pictures an occasional dip into radio art documentaries I take when I’m preparing to write. I find people talking about other artists’ works brings me gently to a frame of mind where I can write because I do find writing difficult.  ‘A flower picture’ by Rachel Ruysch is in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington and the accompanying discussion about her eye for detail demonstrated by her painting strikes an echo in my mind about my own work. The smallest detail of my surroundings fascinates me – whether looking down the lens of a microscope at soil or up to the stars with a telescope. It’s the same with listening, feeling or thinking. Sometimes I feel it’s not possible to think more deeply and then find after a while that my understanding has moved on by a fraction and then make art work which I could not have before. The works themselves are circular and iterative, no one else would notice any difference except me. The questions are constant and still shout at me . . . however many new things I find there are still more . . .and more . . . and I understand that this searching will continue for the rest of my life and that the new things are not new. It is the way I see them which changes.

Listen to the radio programme.

To go back to January 2017, to look at the beginning of this research project into the River Ericht here in Blairgowrie is like looking at the parts from a jigsaw . . . each piece a fragment of thought, a new person, a landscape (familiar then unfamiliar), a tree, a plant, a rock, a building, a story, water, air and interlinked in a way I cannot find. I think I will start here, at the end where I don’t know what I have, in January 2018 and go back to the beginning in January 2017. I began with thinking about water, its flow and changing nature and I end with think about air, its flow and its changing nature.

These three pencil drawings, the first this year, are thought drawings considering turbulence and how we move through space and time. They are not scientific drawings, they are personal reflections. This weekend I will take them down to Edinburgh and hopefully sell them in the SSA/VAS Open 2018

An interlude – continuing reflection on practice – a post with no images

In my thesis (2006)[1] I examined the idea that creative practice for most artists (from any art) could not be easily separated from everyday life.

Arguably everyday life for everyone requires imagination and memory as well as thinking . . .

about what is around them now . . .

about what has been around them in the past . . .

and about what will be around them in the future.

When I think about what that involves for us . . . for all of us . . . all the time . . . I am still astounded by the existence of consciousness and its complexity.

Essentially consciousness is one of the most beautiful things in our world, it results in seemingly unlimited ways of structuring and restructuring and enhancing our lives and here’s the but, those enhancements are subject to different belief systems within individuals, society’s and cultures which themselves are the products of ‘creative’ thinking.

What brought on this reflective burst of thought? Three things in particular . . .

Firstly – last week I was at the Christmas meeting of the Perthshire Care and Well-being Co-operative and we spoke about the importance of providing different kinds of care for the increasing numbers of people experiencing problems with their emotional and mental health. The shared consensus was that increased pervasiveness of technology was exposing people of all age groups to unrealistic expectations of themselves and how they should ‘be’, revisiting the perennial question . . . what makes a successful and meaningful life?

Secondly – Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Enough said.

Thirdly – the article in the Blairgowrie Advertiser early in December informing the readership that the old Hill Primary school in the town centre had been sold by Perth and Kinross Council for the grand sum of £1. Yes, SOLD FOR £1!!! To Corryard Contractor and Developer, Crieff. This was only found out after a freedom of information request was put in to the council. The request was put in because of confusion in Blairgowrie about why the council would prefer to choose a private development bid over one from The Ericht Trust. The Ericht Trust had spent a significant amount of time putting together a proposal for a local community centre for the benefit of Blairgowrie. Finding out that the old school had been purchased for £1 is an indication that central amenities for the local community are not a priority for Perth and Kinross Council. Dream Homes are a priority though. Enough said again. (Interestingly I could not find anything on the Blairgowrie Advertiser’s Facebook page about this, or on the online page of the  Daily Record’s  which owns the Advertiser

I am unable to make art which overtly engages with these issues, I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I feel that I cannot do justice to the seriousness of these events although all of this does influence my thinking and therefore, indirectly, my art.

 

[1] Stackhouse, Aileen M (2006)Trahere; the sense of unease in making a mark – the practice of drawing and the practice of thinking. University of Dundee

Art Time Flies . . . the last weeks of August . . .

I have been thinking about the fact that one day a week for one year is not enough to find out all I want to know about the River Ericht . . . I am literally only skimming its surface. The months since June have been crammed with events, thoughts and ideas, conversation and learning new skills. I could make a list of all of these however that would not communicate the intensity of the last ten weeks, what I can communicate is the abrupt changes in the Ericht’s flow. Through May, June, July and August the water levels continued to be low enough to paddle in places that were usually inaccessible, then on the night of Monday 14th the heavens opened and the torrential downpour lasted for hours. On the Tuesday morning I went out with the dog and the Ericht was in spate, racing and tumbling, churning and falling over itself in its hurry towards the Isla.  The rocks beneath the viewpoint at Cargill’s Leap were totally overwhelmed with brown, raging torrents and invisible then only two days later the water was falling and they could be seen again.  I would not like to be a form of life which depends on stable water flow although anything which exists alongside the Ericht must be able to adapt to such extremes. Interestingly, even though the river still looks high this morning when I look at SEPA’S website it is still within normal levels for the time of year. Today, for example, the water level is just beneath 0.7m which is at the lower end of ‘normal’.

If such turbulence continues it may mean the coracle I have made with willow weaver Jane Wilkinson of Special Branch Baskets will not be moored in the Ericht during BRAW 2017. Unexpectedly (for myself) I feel very attached to my coracle and am now reluctant to set it free from the Ericht’s beginning up at Bridge of Cally to see how far it floats down towards its  confluence with the River Isla. I am thinking of a way around this. . . when I first had the idea I was quite willing to let it go and see what happened. The idea was connected to my reading about David Nash’s (British Sculptor) Wooden Boulder  and I was impressed with his ability to accept that whatever happened to the work was the work. I don’t know whether the physical method of weaving has endowed this particular coracle with more meaning than if I had used an axe to hack and shape a log boat from a tree which I had felled myself.  Does the controlled and regular weaving of the willow wands with my hands and fingers mean more than the abrupt movement of wielding a heavy and sharp tool. Maybe my reluctance to deliberately leave it out in the elements is intrinsically to  weavings’ links with domesticity. Some artworks  I make do not exercise a strong hold on my imagination and I am willing to send them on their way, or even speed their destruction. My son Thomas has helped me make my coracle and I would have been lost without his physical strength – fifteen years ago maybe I could have made it myself but not now. Thomas and Jane spoke about how weaving and using coracles was an ancient and worldwide way of transport, there are writings describing them as well as drawings. The whole process took three days and even now the stitching needs completion then I will make it watertight by painting it with bitumen paint before seriously considering what to do when it is finished. By the way it has been christened ‘Theo’ by the Tibetan Mastiff of the same name when it was being woven at Eastfield House before being taken down to be handstitched at the Alyth base of Outdoor Explore in The Barony.

Midway through July  I visited the Ericht’s Witches Pool near Craighall Bridge with Danielle Muir and she had shown me how she takes freshwater samples of bugs to establish how clean the rivers are around Perthshire . . .  the Ericht scores highly with its evidence of invertebrate species living in the water including; the larvae of Stonefly, Mayfly, Midge and Cased caddis; Pond snails, Freshwater shrimp, Water and Whirligig beetles. Plant species were abundant as well including; Harebell, Pink Purslane, Valerian, Wood Sorrel, Wood Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Dog’s Mercury, St John’s Wort, Dog Violet, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Common Figwort, Hogweed, Yellow Pimpernel, Sticky willies (Cleavers Herb), Common Comfrey, Self-Heal, Hedge Woundwort, Nipplewort, Foxglove, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Golden-rod, Leopardsbane, Butterbur, Feverfew, Ragwort and Marsh Thistle. Among the birds were Dippers (the Ericht is a favourite River of theirs), Grey wagtails, a Common sandpiper (I have only seen them at the sea before), Wrens, Long tailed tits and a Buzzard. We heard noises in the undergrowth which may have been deer but the only mammal we saw was the Red squirrel. All of these inhabitants really on each other for their survival and any imbalance will have long term effects which may not be immediately visible but are there nevertheless.

There has been more, much more, and as usual I do not have enough space. Perthshire Open Studios 2017 looms where I will be showing at Cornelia Weinmann Design . . .  only nine days to go!

 

Art Times . . . I live Here . . . and I am out of my Studio

I spend so much of the time inside my studio and undoubtedly I sometimes use it as a refuge from the noise of our world. Most of us have hiding places from everyday demands and routines of work and it is uncomfortable to recognise that my own refuge is actually my work. My research project into the River Ericht has brought many personal challenges, not least meeting other people and clearly explaining what I am doing. The art of communication is precisely that, an art, and because much of my time is spent alone communicating with other people holds many complex layers and potential for misunderstanding.

There are so many people I have met in my work about the River Ericht since February and I am struck again by how genuinely giving and constructive they are with their memories and knowledge. Ideas for possible artworks are beginning to form and I have shared two or three of these with closer acquaintances,

And there is so much to do, the amount of relevant information I have already gathered is varied and vast. At the beginning of June I was introduced to The Blethers group in Blairgowrie and look forward  to going along and listening to more recollections in July. Last Thursday (14th June) I listenned to a talk in the Cateran Cafe given by Paul Adair (Perth Museum and Art Gallery) on the Laing Photographic Collection given to the archives by  D.Wilson Laing Photographers after they closed in Blairgowrie around 1993. The collection has been chosen by Cateran’s Common Wealth as part of the A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects exhibition which opens on 1st July in Alyth Museum. It was fascinating because portraits of our own children in 1992 (too recent for the purposes of the talk) were taken in the studio which was shown on the first slide and although I did not know any of the people in the photographs I recognised many of the locations. The extensive collection will soon be available to view online.

This weekend BRAN volunteers tidied up the grass and litter along the banks of the Riverside, this is hard work especially because PKC does not have the budget to commit to maintaining this resource. There are plenty of bins along the path and I don’t understand why people don’t use them, this is such a beautiful place for visitors to Blairgowrie and people who live here to relax and enjoy AND it’s only five minutes from the town centre AND Cargill’s Bistro‘s excellent scones OR Wellmeadow Cafe‘s tasty pancakes. Clare Damodaran from the Blairgowrie Advertiser came down and took some pictures of us before we all got messy and then interviewed Brian Smith, Graham Reid and myself about the Riverside Venture Group which I joined in April. Brian and Graham are working hard to rejuvenate the Riverside as an essential place to visit in Scotland given the town’s wealth of social and cultural history – they will welcome any ideas and people willing to get involved.

On Sunday I went along to the third of Leila Mayne’s Plant Study Walks along the Ericht and the first thing I saw on the freshly cut grass was a large empty plastic Co-op bag and various empty sandwich cartons and silver foil. ANYWAY!! Leila  knows so much about aspects of our relationship with our environment that Hazel and I become mentally stunned with her weight of knowledge. We learned about the health giving properties of  two types of Plantain, Plantago Lanceolata and Plantain- Plantaginaceae. Brilliant! Not only because I am learning about so many new plant properties but also because I get to spend most of the day outside by the River. It was an absolutely beautiful day.

On Saturday 24th I will be at Blairgowrie’s Community Market in the ABC tent should anyone want to come and see me drawing my surroundings in the Wellmeadow. And, if you would like to try outdoor drawing with me, then my July workshops are on the 21st and 22nd July, book on https://www.aileenmstackhouse.co.uk/courses.html   seven maximum – minimum four.

 

Art Times . . . I live here . . . close by the River Ericht

And now it is the end of March. So much is happening, so many new people to meet and to talk about the Ericht with, so much to learn about. Learning is an ongoing process for people, we have to learn to live, we have to learn to communicate and create, to make, to think and imagine how things can change or how to keep them the same (impossible). We learn whatever we do, we learn when we meet different people, we learn that they see a different world from our own, this includes the wide world around us as well as what is under our own nose. Not everyone appreciates wildness, wilderness, many cannot see beyond the undergrowth and what lives there, for some a tree is an obstruction and not a home for living things, not everyone appreciates maintained landscapes, many cannot see the green space around only what forms of life are missing.

I’m learning all this anew, not everyone sees the Ericht the way I do, as a refuge, a safe haven full of beauty. Because of this range of opinions I will say what I have learned from the people I speak to, but in this Creative Scotland funded role of Artist-in-Residence-in-My-Home-Blairgowrie I will maintain an objective distance. I will show what I see, I will not express personal opinions.

Meetings attended this month have included BRAN and then the Riverside Venture Group which is a sub group within Blairgowrie Community Council then one to one meetings with Jessie Shaw of One Voice and The Ericht Trust where I collected a Tascam sound recorder to borrow and record sounds along the river as well as interviews. I have volunteered to become their new interviewer for Blairgowrie Hour on Heartland FM so we’ll see how that pans out, Lesley McDonald from Cargill’s Bistro has a list of people she wants me to interview. I walked along the Ericht towards Kitty Swanson’s bridge with Hazel Harris and we spoke about how paths were vulnerable to landowners and farmers as well as the area’s history. Upcoming conversations include Melanie Thomson who will speak to me about the history of the mills along the Ericht’s banks and Louise Copeland who lives at the confluence of the Lornty Burn with the Ericht.

And Spring is coming . . .

Art Times Five – aspects of creative practice-12 December 2016

On drawing and talking ( Ways into Drawing One)

The six people (guinea pigs?) who have come along to this first block and taken part include a teacher, an alternative health therapist/self-catering provider, a practising artist, a photographer and a scientist. I began the block by working through ways of mark making each week and finished with each person framing one of their artworks. Create at Nest has been a good venue, small and friendly, and because it is a new venture everything is still developing and growing.

I have been feeling my way back into teaching and without the presence of an academic institution behind me I am free to work at the pace I choose, a pace which takes account of other individuals’ perceptions and experiences rather than fitting some perceptions into a pre-existing template and ignoring others. There is a different and more gentle feel about my independently organising and presenting my own drawing workshops in this space.

Because responsibility for these classes starts and stops with me, I am able to adjust what I do and the methods I use, responding to each person who takes part and according to my  experience of my own practice and its creative context. My objective is to demonstrate how powerfully drawing can influence our quality of life and for people to enjoy and express themselves.

I draw to demonstrate to the group what I mean while I talk about drawing.  The speed of talking means that naturally  people do not listen to everything I say and are sometimes reluctant to ask what I mean. If I draw while I talk everything slows down and people feel more able to interrupt, to express an opinion and to question.  It makes me think more closely about what I am doing, it reminds me of what I have done, it sends me off on a tangent, it shows me where else I can go, what else I can explore . . . drawing is a limitless and easily accessible resource for everyone.

Demonstration Images

The classes begin again in January. Information below and on my website www.aileenmstackhouse.uk

final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Times Three – Fixing Things

“How does a project mature? It is obviously a most mysterious, imperceptible process. It carries on independently of ourselves, in the subconscious, crystallizing on the walls of the soul. It is the form of the soul that makes it unique, indeed only the soul decides the hidden ‘gestation period’ of that image which cannot be perceived by the conscious gaze”[1]

These words perfectly describes how I try to make art. . .

‘ nuff said. . .

Taking part in Perthshire Open Studios 2016 was a new experience for me, it emphasised that my previous experience of exhibiting – where ideas take precedence over selling art – was not helpful in this particular context. For eight days I answered questions from all kinds of people, some artists and some not, and by answering their questions I continued to learn a different way of saying what is necessary and leaving out what is not. Because it is true that many artists talk too much and use unhelpful, opaque and inaccessible language when talking about their art. See what I did there?

When I speak about art there is a conflict, it is very easy to say too much and overcomplicate things for the listener/observer, and they will walk away if they feel they don’t understand. I understand this. The naïve part of me rebels and feels that many other professions such as builders, engineers, mechanics, doctors, shop keepers, hardly ever have to explain in detail the stages of what they have done or why, it is enough that they have done it. They can fix what does not work or what is missing and VOILA! It is fixed – it works! (Or maybe not – but that is revealed at a later point in time if they have to explain why something has gone wrong). People generally consider all off these professions to be necessary and do not question why they need shelter, transport networks, cars, their own bodies or food, water and warmth.

Other professions such as teachers, nurses, social workers and, yes, artists, are constantly asked to explain what they do before they do it, while they are doing it and why – and are often told how they should do what they are trained to do by people who are not trained. I am not saying that people should not have an opinion BUT naïve me continues to be irritated by, for example, a neurosurgeon who notices how much a square slice of human brain under the microscope bears a resemblance to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square 1913[2] then speaks about it at an international conference on design, exhibits it and  thus is accepted as a serious artist. Perhaps that is fair enough and yes, actually it is fair enough because, as Joseph Beuys said in 1972 at Documenta 5 “Everybody is an artist” [3] and I truly believe this. What bugs me though is this – if I walked into a hospital theatre where a neurosurgeon was performing an intricate operation and asked if I could have a go because I was a doctor of philosophy I know what the reaction would be.

And I certainly do not get paid as much for my art as a neurosurgeon does for their operating ability, even though my art includes science and their science requires artistic imagination which is a pre-requisite of ALL professions, and even though my formal art education lasted 10 years (not including school).  Art is still undervalued in our society and culture unless it is a commercial commodity (for a good example of increasing support for artists’ intrinsic value for everyone’s lives see https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/creative-scotland-arts-strategy-makes-commitment-to-fair-pay-for-artists). Art in retail outlets such as IKEA is more affordable and can be changed as often as furniture and interior decoration, and what artist hasn’t ever been asked if they can create something that ‘goes’ with a room in someone’s home? Does the consumer want something they never tire of looking at or something so disposable that they can throw it away with a clear conscience? (hopefully in the recycling bin)

That’s enough pontificating. I was asked interesting questions and some people were interested in what lies behind and within an artwork and how it emerges from the imagination. I listened to the other artists in the group and appreciated what they were saying, they had more experience than I of this particular environment. I did sell some work and I have a commission – I found that there is an enjoyable commercial element to my work which will hopefully begin to supply my bread and butter. What’s more it is art that means something to me since it reflects our love for others who are important to us.

[1] in Tarkovsky,A & Giovanni Chiaramonte; (2006); Instant light Tarkovsky Polaroids

[2] Basic biography see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimir_Malevich

[3] Basic explanation see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_sculpture

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.

 

 

Older posts
Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com