I have started painting in earnest for the first time in my life, even though I have been learning and teaching it for decades. That is to say, I have begun to find a reason to paint.
A painting doesn't just carry the trace of a subject, of one type of matter. It is a trace of both the subject matter and the human maker, who leaves a trace of themselves in this mutable material*. It is their gestures or lack of them, they leave visible in the work. In my painting practice, by focusing on certain sites, I am observing not only what the light makes of these sites, but what I, the maker, makes of them.
My work and research has wound its way back to mining. But it’s sort of connected into a broader theme of contemporary artists’ and wider culture’s current obsession with archeology.
I’m roughly 6 weeks into my MFA at Baltic 39. I’m really appreciative of the opening up of my practice again. I had carried out all those years in socially-engaged art, completely immersed. Now, I’m in the process of digging myself back up for inspection. The hope is to find inspiration for future practice, including within the field of education.
So, through the encouragement of the tutors at Northumbria, I am embarking on a phase of practical research, exploring the archive I have of the period 2004-2020. David Campbell mentioned the word ‘cartography’ - how will I map these years, what features will I highlight? What agenda do I have in carrying out this activity, what purpose? Some big decisions, as it relates to working with hundreds of people.
I recently replied to an old friend and work colleague, Patricia Cain, as part of a conversation regarding a paper she was preparing following her conference presentation and exhibition: Body of Knowledge: Art and Embodied Cognition Conference 2019. She is exploring first-person methodologies in research, particularly in connection with neurodiversity, and valuing and enabling difference in society, including within research structures.
I hope my cheesy title brings a smile to your face - I created it for my workshops inspired by Turner’s oil painting methods. These workshops were all about giving participants a chance to ooo and ahhh at great landscape paintings of the past, then allowing them space to streak hot oranges, reds and purples across their canvases, creating the sunsets of their dreams (I’ve included some examples of their work in this month’s blog).
My first big show since my BBC appearance has now opened at Upfront Gallery near Penrith. And what a fabulous preview evening, given that it was raining stair rods outside.
So, if you’ve been out and about earlier this month, before winter showed its face again, you might have spotted an artist wearing a silly hat and a 1990s puffer. That’ll be me then. No more dressing up for the cameras at the BBC (still on iplayer until Friday!)
So, I've cleared the decks, and am now looking at new subject matter: evidence of industry in out of the way places. I have always had a fascination with industrial landscapes, having grown up with it in my family.
Back in 2007, I made a series of works based around a scrapyard. It was full of life and interesting colours and shapes. I'm now turning my eye to Cumbria's industrial identity. This is how I'm defining the project.
Pursuing an understanding of what we need to exist in the world: how do we connect with others (and the wider world and its objects), how do we understand others, What is our language.