Art Making Art Thinking

Making art - ideas from anytime and anyplace


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



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.



The North Wind Doth Blow – River Ericht in January 2018

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