Tuesday, 1 December 2009

In the studio

I've been trying to find ways of expressing my interest in how a landscape might be defined by the names used for the places in that landscape. I've started in quite a basic way, using an OS map of the Tarset area, I selected place names with the word black in them. Tracing round the names gave me the starting point for this new topography, simply repeating this with paler and paler ink created a new 'map'.


At last I've started making some work from all the ideas I have for this project. Below is a drawing made using elements selected from a map of the area near to the Black Middens Bastle.

The drawing I'm working on at the moment

As usual, I started reading the newspaper that I was using to protect the table in my studio and I came across this image. It's an aerial shot of bomb damaged land in Germany. It struck a cord with me in relation to the drawing i've been working on.

craters in the German landscape

Monday, 9 November 2009

Tarset Bastle Weekend

Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October were two days packed with information, wonderful research and plenty of food for thought. TAG (Tarset Action Group) did a wonderful job putting together interesting talks, demonstrations and visits, as well providing wonderful catering throughout the weekend.

A high point for me was the lime mortar demonstration. I was really taken by the pure dazzling whiteness of the lump of lime that Richard Charlton had transported over from Bosnia. The whole idea of taking a piece of rock and (through the application of heat) transforming it's appearance so dramatically has really captured my imagination. I am thinking about how I might use this brilliant whiteness as a counterpoint to the dark and broody character of Black Middens Bastle House. On the black and white theme I was also struck by the beauty of the fungal growth (?) / lichen (?) that was growing on one of the Bastles we visited on the Sunday (see photos below).

I took some readings with my Pantone Colour Cue (a device that tells you the Pantone Colour code of any object you hold it over), and I'm still mulling over what to do with this information. I feel like I need to make some sort of system or set of rules to guide me in what I sample, it feels too random at the moment.

Apart form all the information, which I am still in the process of absorbing, I the other powerful thing about the weekend was the warmth and enthusiasm of the people I met. I hope to continue some of the conversations that I had on the Saturday evening and I am planning to visit with Jilly Morris (the current VARC artist in residence) very soon.

Boghead Bastle

The rafters at Gatehouse Bastle

A band of merry Bastlers?

colours in the landscape

markings on the bastle

beautiful lichen

Thursday, 3 September 2009

First visit

August 24th 2009, I made my first visit to Black Middens Bastle House. I was lucky with the weather and managed to spend three happy hours taking photographs and colour readings (with my new gizmo, the Pantone Colour Cue), before the rain started. Other than the two walkers I met in the car park, I had a swallow and her newly fledged chick for company, along with a few sheep and some pied wagtails. The sounds in the landscape were a mixture of the leaves of the nearby sliver birch trees rustling in the breeze, the rush of Tarset Burn and the low rumbling of the RAF jet planes on exercise in the area.

The bastle house looks out over an area of forest which is beginning to be logged, I think what I'd like to do on my next visit is approach it from the hillside opposite, walking down through the recently felled woodland on the brow of Sidwood back towards Tarset Burn. The building has been tastefully restored to allow public access up the stone steps on the front of the bastle onto a platform on the first floor. This gives a great over view of the interior, which is open to the elements due to the absence of a roof.

I am interested in the numerous openings and alcoves in the walls, be they windows or spaces where roof joists used to sit. I'd like to come back with a tape measure and perhaps use some of the proportions of the bastle to inform my work. In the meantime I'm just letting my first experiences of the building and the landscape that surrounds it swim around in my head.

close up of the wall

Friday, 7 August 2009

The starting point

I’m interested in the idea of myth making, specifically the mythology surrounding a place as a result of its name. For me the name Black Middens has acquired an air of dark intrigue over the past year. It presents the possibility of a place where colour has been consumed, as if the place with this name were a black hole, sucking colour into it, consuming memories.

I first came across the name Black Middens whilst undertaking an internship at SSW (Scottish Sculpture Workshop) in the summer of 2008. The words were written on what looked like a forestry commission sign in an area of rural Abberdeenshire near a small place called Cabrach. I was intrigued by the sound of the words the dark, sticky images they conjured in my mind in relation to the dark, bleak, peaty landscape spreading out beyond the sign. Upon further research I found that there is an area off the coast of the North East of England which also bears the name Black Middens and has a history of wrecking ships.

Fast forward to June 2009, on hearing about the possibility of some funding from VARC for an artist living and working in Northumberland I set about making some research into the area of landscape included in VARC's remit. I already had the idea I wanted to make work about colour, place and the naming of a place. When I saw Black Middens, marked on the OS map I was perusing, the choice of location for my project proposal was obvious to me. This particular Black Middens is the name of a Bastle house (a fortified farmstead), the lands surrounding this English Heritage site saw a lot of cross border conflict (England/ Scotland) in the sixteenth century.

I'm happy to say VARC agreed to fund my project and I am at present making plan for a site visit, contacting the relevant bodies for permission and involvement in the project. During this project I aim to explore the notion of a place as a store of experience. My goal is to find ways of tapping into that experience and to liberate the colour that I imagine has been absorbed by this site. Previous research into the history of colour coding has led me to consider the various layers of interpretation surrounding colour identification and reproduction. I am particularly intrigued by the 17th century notion of the “Scientific Painter” (il scientifico pittore) and would like to spend time at Black Middens developing amongst other things my own method of ‘scientific painting’.