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Making art - ideas from anytime and anyplace

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Art Times . . . there is always something new which is difficult to understand . .

This image is of a bronze miniature sculpture made last year in response to a growing sense of unease and helplessness in the face of perceived indifference towards those who are not . . . not what? Not this? Not us? Don’t belong? The two figures can be moved independently and each time create a new relationship between themselves and the observer, the intention is to create a sense of unease

Not this . . .

As alluded to frequently in Art Times there is such intensity in living . . . in being alive . . . in existing

A person has asked the question why keep learning? When will learning stop being necessary?

The answer given was . . . learning will stop . . .this will be the last time

Subsequently the realisation came that this answer was not true . . . evasive action had been taken by making a reply straightaway and often the reply is made too soon without due thought . . .

the nature of being alive and thoughtful means there is always something interesting, something not understood, a previously unseen aspect . . . the unknown . . .

And the realisation that for some advancing into that space of not knowing is unavoidable . . .the unknown exerts an irresistible gravitational pull . . . 

Since the last time of writing a different way of being has been encountered and has provided a complex new environment which demands unfamiliar behaviours and language . . . a time for learning then . . .  

The first instinct on entering this environment was to withdraw . . . to run away, this unknown was too alien . . .  this way of being was definitely painful and the default position shouted . . . stay where it is comfortable . . . stay at home

Except that the reason for entering this new environment was the knowledge that the place where  comfort exists is not secure and a way must be found to make it so

So choose between . . . change default thinking and behaviour . . . render security unnecessary for a meaningful life . . .  accept that security is an illusion . . . anything can change at any time . . .everything can be lost at any time . . . accept this


attempt to become secure by creating an object so attractive and desirable that others believe they cannot live without possessing that thing and will exchange something of their own for this object

At this time the second solution has been chosen and this is the reason for being in this new landscape with these unknown people the task for everyone being to identify ways of increasing the attractiveness of what they know enough . . . to cause others to exchange something for this unknown object/experience/way of being. . . to cause others to want what they have

Five days one after the other and then two days and then one day of becoming other has been invaluable in many ways, there is an awareness of how to move forward and an awareness that there is still much to learn and an awareness that the unknown will always be there . . .

Footnote; Art that hooks the mind’s sensitivity to the experience of other . . . not only visual but written or musical

At the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) attention is caught by an unfamiliar artist Raqib Shaw ‘ Reinventing the Old Masters’ – vivid and powerful paintings it is impossible to express how moving these works are . . .  how the eye opens wide in its search to make meaning of the sheer amount of references to his experience in the United Kingdom and in Kashmir . . . they are brilliant jewels

Reading novelist Marilynne Robinson’s three novels Gilead, Home and Lila which are theological discussions regarding faith and human loneliness . . .the passages about being alone in the world are remarkable . . .sometimes painful and always beautiful . . .

Then reading and looking further into the back story of Alex Greenhalgh who has given homeless people on Manchester’s streets an opportunity to show what they see . . .



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 Times 12 weeks Everything will never be here


Sometimes life becomes so crammed with activity that it accelerates exponentially and keeping abreast of everything is impossible, some stuff is left behind as flotsam and jetsam in its wake. Time becomes almost meaningless as a marker of its passage, there is simply before and after.

Questions for self about making art ( iterations and reiterations )

Too many questions for self about making – Why did I make this? What is this artwork? Where did it come from? When did it begin? What will it become through time? Where will it go through time?

Who am I while I make this artwork/any artwork? At points throughout it’s becoming it seems that I cease to exist as an individual and am a process, or rather, I am conscious of self then I am not conscious of self, a light that switches on and off, a tide that ebbs and flows, a day, a night, asleep, awake and so on. This process means that others’ ideas of who I am sound louder than my own silence and my unwillingness to make a sound, a mark, that fixes me in time or place. The meaning of this ‘Aileen’ shifts on through time . . . do I create myself as I go along? Everything I do and think influences the evolution of the work and I am reluctant to say ‘this is finished’ therefore all works are in progress and I am a work-in-progress.

From the beginning of February until the end of March I have been busy with Platform 2018 which opened on 24 March and ends on 31 March. Of course it will not be an ending because everything which has happened will start another wave of thinking. Here in Blairgowrie I have work showing selected from my research project ‘Exploring the River Ericht’ funded by Creative Scotland, documentation and photographs in the local library and in Cargill’s Restaurant and Bistro ‘Water works’ –   experiments in painting. The coracle that Jane Wilkinson instructed me how to weave with my son last summer was moored in the Ericht by Piotr Gudan for the week of the festival and then moved to the library and set down gently next to my documentations. Our Heritage, a local community group took over the library for the Easter weekend to mount an exhibition of local archive material and were keen that the coracle be a part.  (Interestingly  when I followed the link for Platform 2018 on Culture Perth and Kinross website all the information about platform had been taken down.)

For a week during the festival I drew for one hour each day along the Ericht’s riverbank in the sun, the rain, the cold and each day the water renewed its fascination for me. I never tire of watching its waves and ripples, eddies and currents, the changing levels, listening to the water’s sounds and the sounds of the world around, I do not tire of feeling the air the water brings against my skin, I do not tire of the scents that change along its course . . . Thursday 29 brought conversation in the person of Jim Mackintosh, Platform’s Poet in residence. Jim has been travelling around Perthshire visiting the many artists, musicians, playwrights taking part in the festival. Conversation is good when it brings someone else’s  mind to the contemplation of the natural world. We spoke about part of his childhood being spent in Blairgowrie, catching salmon, apples, berries, schools, Hamish Henderson and Nan Shepherd. I enjoy listening to the sound of voices, I enjoy words and I enjoy reading and when I listen to people talking about works I have read myself then I pay more attention, my mind does not slip away perhaps because the knowledge is being shared by a person I see, hear and occupy the same space as. Jim read from his collection The Rubicon of Ash and when he described what he was trying to communicate I wondered if every day we all cross our own  Rubicon.

(Taking notes is best if I draw the person talking, each stroke holds a sound of a voice, a sound of a voice holds the meaning of what the voice is thinking.)

And now it is the end of March/beginning of April, everything always rushes towards me, surrounds me and then passes and everything I have written since the 9th has been to do with writing proposals, filling forms, signing contracts, contacting people, designing posters, printing posters, printing them again, getting works ready and it all forms a giant ball exerting a strange gravity as it orbits within my mind. The idea of orbiting helps as it is elliptical and I know that its character of moving beyond reach and then returning to certain points will occur at the right time, to the actual date. I am organising according to another time and not my own, these deadlines are not movable which means I do stop making rather than adding just a little bit more . . .

Stand outs

reading so far this year; revisiting Nan Shepherd; The Living Mountain.

Kyo Maclear; Birds, art, life, death: a field guide to the small and insignificant.

Wohlleben, Peter; The hidden life of trees, what they feel, how they communicate: discoveries from a secret world.


Lee Lozano at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

Jenny Saville and Christine Borland at National Galleries Scotland  Modern One

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