This exhibition finishes on the 4th of May at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh and includes works by Rachel Barron, Miranda Blennerhasset, Paul Keir, Kevin Henderson, Lorna McIntyre, Andrew Mackenzie, Jo Milne, Neil Nodzak, Malcolm O’Connell, Eric Schumacher and Alan Shipway (email@example.com / www.facebook.com/talbotricegallery) A catalogue with an essay by the curator James Clegg is available from the gallery.
If you know the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland, even just a little bit, then it’s not too difficult to imagine that a few minutes after taking these pictures at Lochan Mor the temperature dropped another couple of degrees and it started to snow on an off for the rest of the evening … made for a chilly night in the tent for spring! I’d been out last Friday on a recce in advance of a group arriving from Belgium next week for three days of mountain biking. As Nan Shepherd writes in The Living Mountain, ‘Summer on the high plateau can be as delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge. To those who love the place, both are good, since both are part of its essential nature. And it is to know its essential nature that I am seeking here’ … As I rode on my own for those four or five hours, I journeyed “outwith” the mountain, and once more into my own life; momentarily beyond desire. As I mull over that afternoon riding, I’m beginning I think to understand what Shepherd means when she ends her book with the line: ‘To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain.’
A few pictures from my weekend on the Elizabeth G; guiding in Sunart. Highlands and Islands Adventures organised a “FAM(iliarisation) trip” showing industry representatives the scope of what is possible with multi-activity adventure (walking, mountain biking, sea kayaking, nature watching …) in and around the coastline of Scotland when you bring a reconditioned Norwegian rescue ship and its RIB into the equation … and of course, a landscape and seascape that is dangerously sublime; on the second night aboard, while we were at anchor in Loch na Droma Buidhe – sheltered by Oronsay – and after a meal of fresh scallops – the skipper dived for these in the afternoon while the group was out walking – I read from books by John Burnside, John Glenday, Kathleen Jamie, Sorley Maclean, Nan Shepherd, Ian Crichton Smith, Kenneth White, Kevin Williamson and from the magazine of new Scottish writing, Gutter 08 … a pretty special and unforgetable place to give a poetry reading.
Near the end of last year I received a set of questions to consider in relation to my paintings, the subject of ‘abstraction’ and the exhibition, Drawn Away Together: 11 Scottish Artists on Abstraction soon to open at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh: “What is it that you think you do when you’re making your art?” and, “Is abstraction part of the process of making the work or something in the form of the work itself? How do you understand the term?”
This is how I replied: I listen, or perhaps more accurately, eavesdrop on my psychic traffic, on my fragmentary and absentminded seeing; on the light, the half-light and on the darkness; on memory; on my subject matter: views through windows; landscapes; farmland; weather; remembered conversations and emotions of all kinds … Painting (the abstraction – drawn away) from these things – of things seen, events, memory – involves transience. I was once somewhere, somewhen, and I have made an image from it – not of it – from life. A motif moves into memory when the eye leaves it – the shadow-play of a sheet drying over a lawn; snow on a bird table; stacked hay bales; pools of floodwater drawing blue sky into a field … and painted marks (and words, sentences) move into memory as the eye returns to the motif. But this drawing away – in time – is what must happen, and is only part of what I do. Each painting is also a return, expressed through fragments and instances, an imagining towards the motif, drawing closer to memory, less a retreat from it. (One simply cannot remember. One must remember something, otherwise the picture would be facile). Memory comes with the making of the painting – the abstract painting – not with its viewing. And if during this making I am imagining towards the viewer, viewers are after the event – with the now and the elsewhere of their viewing.
The exhibition runs from Saturday 16th March until the 4th of May at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh and includes works by Rachel Barron, Miranda Blennerhasset, Paul Keir, Lorna McIntyre, Andrew Mackenzie, Jo Milne, Neil Nodzak, Malcolm O’Connell, Eric Schumacher and Alan Shipway (firstname.lastname@example.org / www.facebook.com/talbotricegallery) A catalogue – documenting the work in the show, and with an essay by James Clegg – will be launched on the 17th April and available from the gallery thereafter.
On a related matter, Gutter, issue 8 (due for release … there’s a link to this journal for new Scottish writing in the ‘blogroll’) will publish my poem, The Light Is Soft This Morning As I Write You This.
… A girl with kindling in her arms stops at a gate to a field and turns her head into the wind, letting the wind blow her hair across her face … The gentle voice of a woman calling “Bella, Bella”, is muffled by falling snow … And from the kitchen window where one afternoon in winter last year I watched a fox with a damaged front paw, exhausted, likely starving and near to death climb the hill and disappear into a blizzard I now absentmindedly watch two girls from the village scream and laugh their way down on a sledge …
Between Ephemera and Passing Place, The Object of Drawing and Painting; the first, First Year Art and Media project which asked new students to consider what they thought might be “the purpose” (the object) as they saw it, of making paintings now, in their time. The aim of the project was to explore this field of practice, ‘in response to the notion of “wholeness” and the experience we sometimes share of “being objective” – seeing, thinking and acting in a particular way – and the role that “description” plays in forming such notions of objectivity.’ Reference – by way of a short list of ‘interesting things’ – was made to Henri Barbusse, Hell (Panther, 1969), John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket (Bloomsbury, 2001), Paul Klee, Pedagogical Sketchbook (Faber & Faber, 1953), and Andrey Tarkovsky, Time Within Time: The Diaries 1970-1986 (Faber & Faber, 1994).
… Learnie Red Rock. The Moray Firth spreads like warm camembert beneath a slowly lowering cloud. I’m here with Euan and Alex (Highland and Islands Adventures mountain bike guides) and eleven American strangers, our clients for the week at the start of a six day coast-to-coast mountain bike tour … The sky, our sky (Ratushinskaya) is vast, and in it has congregated the sodden portents of the next few days.
… By Wednesday, despite freezing cold and wet weather conditions, we had worked our way into the extraordinary wilderness space that is Torridon, spilling exhausted into Annat late in the afternoon at the end of a fast, grin-inducing 9km descent … at dinner I read aloud, poetry by John Burnside, Raymond Carver (USA), John Glenday, Louise Glück (USA), Kathleen Jamie, Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley MacLean and Kevin Williamson … poetry about deer and transmigration, field mice, the Clearances, colour, landscape, poems about flowers, speirin, Scotland and its people, independence (and my love of this “gilded cage”), and humour … lots of laughter …
On Monday after my return to school we started the second Art and Media project, Construction and Time. The aims of which are twofold: to give students the opportunity to explore the creative possibilities of construction in relation to the idea of time within a context of modern and contemporary sculptural practice; and to ask them to consider meaning, function and history as implicit in objects and materials themselves; and to make a temporary art work with these considerations in mind. The main historical moment or context for the project is Arte Povera, a term introduced by the Italian art critic, writer and curator Germano Celant in 1967. (Celant used it to identify a group of artists from Turin, Milan, Genoa and Rome who were working in radically new ways; entering new dialogues with trends elsewhere in Europe and America. As opposed to endorsing a distinctive style Arte Povera described a process of open-ended experimentation—an unfettered situation in favour of complete openness to materials and processes. The artists sculpted, took photographs, made performances and installation and worked in many different ways, creating works of immense physical presence as well as small-scale ephemeral gestures). Further references include – by way of a short list of ‘interesting things’ – Ross Birrell and Alec Finlay, edited, Justified Sinners: An Archaeology of Scottish Counter-culture 1960-2000 (Pocketbooks, 2002), Emma Bolland, Tom Rodgers, Judit Bodor: http://youwillhearmecall.wordpress.com/, Richard Layzell, Enhanced Performance (Firstsite, 1998), Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York University Press, 1976) and Giuseppe Penone, The Bloomberg Commission Sept. 2012- Sept. 2013.
… we started with over seventy single sheets of paper (each one, the same size and the same colour as the next) and we made paper boats … and I think now as I write of Glenday’s poem, A difficult Colour, which I read on Wednesday night at The Torridon Inn, and of a boat pulled up on a shingle beach, crofts burning in the distance and of a drizzle, ‘preserving the sanctity of desecration … … it’s that sort of colour’.