Wednesday, 9 May 2012


 While I was bringing boxes to storage, visiting flat after flat, riding in trains, wearing out my shoes in the streets of Glasgow, and then flying across the sea, something amazing was going on over at Clive Hicks-Jenkins' blog.  In fact, I only mention these little pursuits of mine as a way of framing an excuse for not having mentioned Clive's incredible online exhibition of maquettes sooner.  More than twenty far-flung artists took part in the show, creating a truly marvellous and extremely varied body of work.  I will just be sharing my contribution to the show here, but do have a look at the excellent maquettes that the others have made.  The show is in five parts (first, second, third, fourth, fifth) and I promise it is very worth your time.

The exhibition grew out of Clive's own use of maquettes as a compositional tool when planning his paintings.  Visitors to his website and blog were interested in the maquettes and some, notably Zoe Jordan, started to adopt the practice themselves, which led Clive to invite other artists to do the same. 

When Clive first contacted me about making a maquette I thought it might be interesting to use the mobility of a maquette to bring to life the sort of people you find carved into the sablières of old churches in Brittany.  I thought that way we could place them up in the corners of the room and move them about from time to time, to make with them a sort of slow, ongoing story written across the walls.

However, all at once we found that life had a lot of changes in store for us and that idea was put aside.  It seemed important to make something strong and changeable, something not-of-this-world, something able to overcome all adversity.  And so I took advantage of the maquette's ability to move and hide or reveal different parts of itself.

I designed it so that its cape could hide different heads, a halo, and wings, and made it so that the cape could also spread open very wide or hide extra arms between its folds.  Of course, it is easy enough to remove unwanted arms completely so there is not any trace of the extra ones at all, as I did for most of the photos.  Still, it seemed important to make it so that everything could just be rotated around and hidden away, rather than disassembled.

Just to be sure everything would work, I made a quick mock up of my maquette. I suppose that is a little bit funny, since these maquettes are generally used as a sort of preparatory study for other artworks, but still, I wanted to see how everything would go together before drawing and painting all the bits and pieces.

Even before everything was done, some of the pieces started to come together and form rudimentary people:

It was actually a lot of fun to play with all the pieces before they were attached, increasing the amount of combinations and odd poses that could be formed.  However, even attached, there are possible transformations that I didn't expect when I dreamt this maquette up to begin with.

How lucky to find that I could add horns and ears to the male and female heads as well!

This maquette is wholly a creature of change and transformation, further proof of which is the backdrop which it was photographed upon -- one of the many cardboard boxes that was taking over our living space at the time the maquette was made.  It really was so much better to transform obstacles into something that worked for me rather than getting dragged down by them.

But like I said before, this maquette is only one out of the many maquettes that were made for Clive's online exhibition.  If you haven't already, go and see the other contributions to this project and the surprising and wonderful interpretations of it.  There were beautiful submissions from some talented artists who are also friends in bloglandia, such as Leonard Greco and Rima Staines, and Zoe, mentioned earlier.  Clive himself also included some of his own lovely maquettes at the end of the show.  I hope he knows how much we all appreciate his hard work and encouragement.

Go see, go see, go see!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A Sort of Interlude

   In the time since I took these photos, around the time of my last post, a lot has happened.  Green shoots and soft fresh leaves are all over Scotland now.  But yesterday morning we boarded a plane to Canada and said goodbye to all of them.


Or rather, we said "so long", because it turns out we will only be away for a little while.  When we go back to Aberdeen later this summer, it will be for another three years while my husband works away on his doctorate.  We found out only last week that we would be staying on... before that it was looking almost sure that we were moving to Newfoundland, Canada where this is another department of folklore with a good doctoral programme. 

Either place would have suited me, I think, and so would have Brittany, where we almost moved last September.  In each place there were things I looked forward to.  Icebergs and moose, people dwarfed by the immensity of nature; little old village churches with strange medieval carvings, markets and fest noz, speaking French; mushroom hunting in storybook forests in summer, the wind roaring around in winter making our old granite house feel like a boat lost at sea, friends and all the little haunts I've grown to love.

I am grateful that we will finally have a bit of a rest from always feeling that we are about to move someplace new, as we have for the past six years.  It will be nice to feel as though we can settle in a little bit anyway.  When we get back I will be able to buy wood and start work on the paintings I have been carrying inside me for too long.

And then there were the unexpected few days we spent in France for the funeral.  Riding the train into Paris from the airport, we looked at each other and said it felt as though we hadn't left at all, another few weeks and our life in Scotland would seem like only a strange dream we had shared.  It was odd to think that even after a year and a half away, the repetition of daily routines from our years in France somehow had left such a deep mark on us that they seemed more immediate and real than our current home only a few hours behind us.  But even in sad circumstances, life seemed to sing a bit.  The flowers were on the chestnut trees, and the sun showers and hailstones ran amok.

   When we returned to Aberdeen, we searched for a new home by day and filled boxes with our things by night.  I have a set of keys in my bag to a place that is waiting empty for us to fill with dreams and tunes and the quiet talk of evening time.  Every day the sun is ticking away the hours across those empty walls and crooked floors, until we will be there to begin something new.

   But just now in Canada, the days are warm and filled with bird song and seeds floating past on the breeze.  The sun rushes down on us so enthusiastically that it is hard to open our eyes, for all the brightness.  It has been so long since we were back here to visit where it hasn't been because of deathbeds and last visits, so it is pretty incredible to be able to look around and really see everything.  At first glance it is all enormous and overflowing here. And of course, as I suppose it must always be, so much has changed, and then so much has not changed at all.