Thursday, 6 August 2015

South-Westerly


It's been quite a busy few months! I've been down to England painting Orthodox icons, over to Budapest to wander the streets and visit a friend, around Aberdeen helping to organise an exhibition or two, but mostly I've been packing boxes...

The studio you see in these photos is no more. I've moved from Aberdeen to Glasgow. In September I'll be starting a Master's of Fine Art Practice at the Glasgow School of Art. But before I moved, we snapped some photos of me in the studio for a small feature which is currently up on the website of The Society of Scottish Artists. It's nice that it happened at that time, since now I'll have some photos to remember that little room where I spent so many hours.

Also, I should mention that you can find me on instagram now. Do say hello if you are on there too!

Now that things are looking a little more settled, hopefully I'll be back with more posts soon. Wishing you lots of joy on these wintry summer days.


Monday, 25 May 2015

A Visit to the Wonderland of Ed Haddaway


Last November, just in time for the Day of the Dead, we found ourselves in Albuquerque at the home and studio of Ed Haddaway and Barbara Forshay. Ed is an artist who creates amazing sculptures from reclaimed metals (sometimes even reclaimed from his own previous sculptures, as I found out when watching this lovely interview).


I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to wander among the sculptures which were in various states. Some pieces looked like Ed had finished with them and now only the wind and rain and sun were continuing to work on them. Others were still in the process of being formed by Ed's hand. There were small sculptures and enormous ones, and everything in between. In some parts of the yard, pieces of scrap metal lay scattered on the ground, waiting for transformation.

















It was wonderful to be able to talk to Ed, and to see what he was working on. It was such a privilege to be left to wander about, to wonder about how it would all end up looking in the end, all the while feeling the giddiness of endless possibility.


Sometimes the bits left behind were almost as interesting to see as the bits taken away.


Inside the studio, a sword swallower waited in the shadows. Walking around Ed and Barbara's really feels like being on a treasure hunt.




















All sorts of thoughts came to me looking at these sculptures. I love the contrast of big rusted gears working together with the more delicate and organic details. And then there are the giant, anthropomorphised animals and the pieces that look like walking hearths with trees sprouting from them... so many incredible things standing all around made of bold colour and rust. The piece above looked to me like a little song decided to stop by the yellow autumn leaves for a while.








These sculptures are all wonderful from every side, so really I would have needed to take hundreds of photos to give you a proper impression of them!


























I hope you've enjoyed this little photo-tour of Ed's studio and his sculptures. If you want to see more of his work, then do have a look at his website. Ed has sculptures all around Albuquerque, as well as further afield, so there is a lot more of his work out there! Ed and Barbara are probably two of the nicest, most welcoming people you could hope to meet, and they are on Airbnb so do visit them if you are in the area!


Friday, 8 May 2015

Brushing at the Cobwebs


Leaves and petals are forcing themselves out from nothingness and the days are unfurling. Maybe it's a good time for this blog's long winter nap to finally end too. All the silence here has me feeling a bit daunted at the moment, so perhaps it's best to just ease back in slowly and see what grows out of it.



Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ashes to Ink

Ashes to Ink, mezzotint and etching, 30 x 20 cm

Today I'm pleased to share a print that I made for The Al-Mutanabbi Street Project. This project is a reaction to the 2007 car-bombing in Baghdad's book-selling quarter. This neighbourhood has long been the heart of the intellectual community of Baghdad, a place where people come to meet and share ideas, engage in free debate, and search through a rich diversity of written material. In its various iterations -- an anthology of essays and poems by writers from Iraq and the rest of the world, a series of letterpress broadsides, a collection of artist books, and now the contributions of artist printmakers -- The Al-Mutanabbi Street Project seeks to address this attack on intellectual freedom.

A little over a year ago I was invited to take part in this project by Catherine Cartwright, the project's UK co-ordinator, and I was immediately intrigued, though I felt quite intimidated by the prospect of a project dealing with events in a place that I have never even visited. The printmaking project came with a one-year time frame, and I spent most of that year in research and in coming up with ideas and then scrapping them completely.

I began my research by reading Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, the anthology that was created as part of this project, and which I highly recommend. When reacting to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi street, many of the contributors to that project mentioned the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258. In Iraq, apparently, it is said that in the days after the Mongol attack, the Tigris ran red with blood, and then it ran black with ink. The tragedy of such an attack on human life and ideas seems to have weighed on the collective imagination of Iraqis for a long time. Since the theme of the printmaking project was 'absence and presence', I decided to investigate the event in this historical context.

In my print, women are gathering inky water from the Tigris and distilling the ink from it. They are grinding up the ashes of burnt books to make even more ink. From all of this ink, they are making new books. Overlayed on this scene are images drawn from manusripts that would have been produced -- perhaps on this very street, as Al-Mutanabbi Street has been a centre of scribes, as well as book sellers for hundreds of years -- during the heyday of the Baghdad School's manuscript production in the 13th century. Time and ideas overlap; regeneration follows destruction.

One of the ideas behind this project is that while Al-Mutanabbi Street is a specific location in Baghdad, it is more than just that, it is the spirit of that place -- the openness to debate, the freedom to dream, the striving for understanding and expression that has been fostered in the caf├ęs and bookshops there. It is something that should be of the utmost importance to all of us. And so, in that sense, Al-Mutanabbi Street is wherever we sit down to write, to read, to talk honestly. We find it when we open up our jars of ink, or sometimes even our laptops. I hope that I have managed to bring you a little breeze from Al-Mutanabbi street today.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Visiting the Snow


A couple of days ago we slid up the street in the morning dark and caught a bus to the outskirts of town where some friends were gathering to drive out to the mountains. 


A heavy frost had grown during the night and all the roofs and branches and fields that we passed were a rich, glistening white. A few snowflakes were falling as we neared our destination, but if you wanted enough snow to lose a leg in, it was necessary to climb up into the mountains.  


And so we climbed.


It was a calm day, and we listened to grouse sounds and the little streams and burns that rushed by through the snow. 


Some of the burns had frozen enough that we could walk over them, at least mostly. Others could only be crossed by balancing on slippery rocks, or, for the very brave, taking off shoes and socks and walking through.


I took my chances with the slippery rocks, as my throat was already burning with the beginnings of a nasty cold.


Wandering up in the mountains, the light slides around in the strangest ways. 


Off in the distance, landscapes appear through a pocket of clouds, all coloured in the bright aqua blue of ice and glaciers, while just beyond that, the light appears inexplicably brownish or reddish. Though, these mysterious pockets of colour don't always come through in photos.





The exposure in the above photograph brings the moody atmosphere of mountain light to a whole new level, but it is rather lovely, I think.


We followed a stream down toward the little loch that you can just glimpse in these photos.


As it descended, the stream became a waterfall. On a little rocky shelf beside the falls we stopped and opened our packs to have some hot tea, and a surprise of homemade gingerbread.


Only a few minutes after our sunny tea break, the sky began to blush faintly pink. The light changes so quickly on these short winter days.


By the time we had reached the ground, the blue of evening was setting in. 


And the day burnt itself out across the sky. The walk finished in cold, blue darkness, the snow on the mountains glowing as it hung in the dark between the sky and the depths of the valley.


I love the little pause that comes at the end of the year, once the vigour of Christmas has passed. I hope you are enjoying the warmth of the holiday season and also some peace and stillness on the these long nights. Wishing you a happy 2015!