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’.

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