Sunday, 8 June 2014

May & June Blog-Past/present lives

It's June I can hardly believe it! The coming of summer with all it's beauty, colour and  growth has crept up on us with stealth. 
Wine making has prompted me to notice the growth on the oak tree in our garden and I was interested to read about the plight of some of our native bird species due to the earlier than usual appearance of the oak leaves. Apparently the little green caterpillars that populate the oak tree leaves are here too soon and the blue tits aren't breeding fast enough and won't be ready to eat and feed them to their young on time. They will suffer as a consequence, poor things. 
That said there is a noticeably higher population of birds fluttering about the hedgerows and garden due to our mild as always in nature pros and cons.

In May I took part in Art @ Ancrum exhibiting alongside Peter Hallam, another artist local to the Borders. Our work couldn't be more different but somehow we managed to make it work.

Peter  paints beautiful landscapes and portraits. His paintings often have witty titles, and the stories behind the paintings are insightful and very funny. Peter's company over the w/k certainly brought levity and laughter to the event and the Cross Keys made us feel welcome in their new side bar/ gallery for the w/k.

Since then I've been working slowly, still working on board and using the burnt earth with oil over the top. Working in a series is a useful way to go. I feel I can get caught up in the moment and get some energy into the imagery. What initially seemed like a large pile of supports soon became a stack of paintings, but still more to do. Each one offers up a slightly new approach and in the most recent three shown below I have been allowing the turps to saturate the surface ...I like how the oil,turps and soil react and I can't wait to tackle a 100x100cm canvas.

As artists, or any one that makes things you have a constant challenge in your creative life. How to be true to yourself and true to what informs what you do. Right through out my art school days, to when I left Ireland, moved to the Borders and then Newcastle,and back to the Borders and then eventually started hill walking and rock climbing I have used my experiences of the environment I have lived in as a source of ideas for my work. 

I painted urban scapes of Belfast,I made installations that fetishised chairs,slow motion videos of hands and sawdustI painted on glass with bitumen,I made drawings and  later I focused on identity finally making an installation that featured images of myself in different guises projected onto handmade clothing, a tricolour lined mans jacket with my bruised and battered madeup face projected onto the centre of the tricolour, a wedding dress etc.The bruised face was a reference to the beatings the Birmingham six took whilst in police custody.

During these years my work was very experimental I was constantly searching for the thing...I laugh sometimes equating it with Howard and Vince's search for the new sound!!
 I don't think I ever found it. When I finished my MA at Newcastle I was suddenly catapolted back to  the Borders....I had to begin that search all over again. I spent quite a while working with casting and sculpture, making panels and even a life size bronze that is still on public view at Dryburgh. 
But gradually I was spending more time out of doors in the mountains and crags and this is when landscape became my new focus.
Sketch book work on the chairs which featured in my degree show at UUB

Made the catalogue for the Royal Scottish Academy show in 1997

Installation shots of my MA show, 4 projections onto four garments, a wedding dress, communion dress, mans jacket (tricolour lined),mans overcoat. (not shown)
Group European show at The Laing in 1991

When I look back on this work I am immensely proud of it..I even had a show at City Racing in London in first and last brush with BRITART !!
Small review in Time Out magazine 1992
When I started to paint in earnest I wanted to erase the past and begin again and to an extent I have, I've  reinvented a painter. But what I have learnt is that my past creative life can't be erased and nor should it be. It is part of me and how I think,create, make. Yes it's so very different, different media, subject matter etc But there are so many similarities too. It's still about my world, I still draw and always have, my spaces are to an extent imagined they were then,I still feel that fragility I felt then and of late I have been thinking about the possibility of extending my use of media.

May blossoms at Hepburn
John on Photographic Arete at Hepburn
Little oak tree, Hepburn

Beautiful broom, Hepburn 

Rain not far away at Hepburn
So back in the present I remain very much wedded to the landscape. New challenges await though. I have along with 11 other artists  been selected for a mini residency as part of Peebles Creative Place 2014. I can't reveal my host yet but put it this way it's going to be a challenge and one that has my brain searing with possibilities regarding mixed media.
New hair colour /windy day photos, just for fun!

The Eildon Hills in the distance

Shepherds crook

Night sky from the garden

Hairy ubitt

We had a trip to a couple of crags we hadn't been to before. Kettle Crag and Black Crag. Black Crag is an easy walk from the top of Wryenose pass in the Lakes. Great climbing and such a beautiful spot. 

Prince Charming? belaying Cinderella? on Glass Slipper, Black Crag!!!

Tree bark

New holly leaves, so soft to the touch!

Red dragonfly,only live for 2 years and only 2 months as an adult.

All the new growth, so beautiful.
So I'll keep the home fires burning, a few paintings out in exhibitions with one or two more things coming up before the Art Trail at the beginning of September. And if we are fortunate enough to get any decent weather we'll be off climbing if we can.

Thank you for reading.