Over the summer I have been able to dip in to a number of galleries and exhibition spaces, though now back in Edinburgh there are many I plan on catching up with.
I went to the Pittenweem Arts Festival and prioritised the invited artists: John Byrne, Jake Harvey, David Mackie Cook and The Association of Danish Printmaking Artists.
I found the Byrne collection quirky and quite sad. Byrne is obviously counting the years and nostalgia plays a large part. So does the threat of imminent violence as dark closes and silhouetted knife wielding characters lurk in the background. The one portrait of a woman is beautifully executed and acts as a foil for the other work.
Jake Harvey's sculpture was impressive and cast a monumental presence. I enjoyed the weight of them and the polished execution of the pieces. I have just read that he is a former Head of the School of Sculpture at ECA.
David Mackie Cook - tutored by Alberto Morocco at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art - his work was incredibly vibrant - his use of yellow was quite overwhelming. Van Gogh gone mad.
As for the prints - very varied and an impressive showcase of what can be achieved by print.
Of the other artists, the ones that really stood out for me were Morag Muir and Margaret L Smyth. Both were theatrical by nature in terms of references and I thought they were quite similar to Victoria Crowe.
Whilst in Milan for a day or two, I visited the Pinacoteca in Brera and also the 900 Gallery. The first was fairly amazing - the most striking paintings for me being Hayez 'Il bacio' and Pellizza da Volpedo 'Fiumana'. I also saw work by Modigliani and Morandi. The structure was amazing and worth visiting again. The 900 Gallery was more modern and contemporary. Again so much to see. We had a coffee in a wonderfully cool air-conditioned restaurant overlooking the Duomo.
So, as the holidays draw to a close - five weeks to go but who is counting? - I am beginning to think of what next.
I purposefully tried to switch the art brain off for a few weeks in order to relax and find some balance again. This was actually a course of action recommended by Liz Adamson. Who am I to disagree? Especially after some pretty hard work. It worked and although I dabbled with a little sketch book, really I have done nothing.
Here lies the issue. Although I did nothing, the brain refused to leave well alone. I have been unofficially mulling over various options of attack so that I arrive at ECA with all guns blazing. So far I have been considering:
1. Continuing the interest in texture and composition of buildings in their twilight years.
2. Looking at narrative via still life. This seems to be an area that has not been really visited by fellow students and is one that may be tackled from a number of positions.
3. Looking at narrative via symbolism. This could involve some aspects of (2). Symbolism has always been of interest to me and may provide fodder for fourth year dissertation. It is also something I have already tackled quite successfully in the essay exploring the narratives of objects.
4. Maybe, just maybe I could combine them all? Taking a building and researching its history and usage and building up a montage of the life of the building in terms of history and people?
Areas of possible research:
Fife: Old industrial sites/Fishing villages around the east neuk
East Lothian: Town buildings/Farmsteads
Edinburgh itself: juxtaposition between old and new? Cinemas. Hospitals.
Yesterday I had an epiphany. I went in and mooched around my studio in a fug of indecision. I found a tupperware box - long forgotten containing harvested goods off beaches - shells, coloured glass, stones etc along with an odd assortment of detritus that obviously were put in the box for lack of somewhere better.
When looking at these objects I was struck by their shapes and surfaces. There, etched on clam shells and mussel shells were the trails and deposits of othe life forms. The contours of the shells were miniscule maps and path trails all forming echoes and traces of previous lives experenced by these shells and accompanying fauna.
In keeping with the development work on buildings in terms of decay and traces of narrative, here were the very same characteristics on random beach matter. A huge world of new discoveries and one easily dipped in to with the closeness to the East coast.
Additionally, at the Book Festival I went to listen to a talk by author Kathleen Jamie and artist Philip Hughes. Both in their own way focus on maps and trails and connections. Julia Blackburn had written a similar book entitled 'Thin Paths' which I had previously read. This too was based onpaths and trails, this time in Italy, which connected people, places and history. I am now excited and motivated. I have a focus at last that is refreshingly new yet based on recurring interest in narrative, texture, reductive painting techniques and colour. Must now get down to some drawing.
Carol E Duff