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WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES?  

'So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again.  I do not fear time.' 
Sandy Denny | Fairport Convention

 

I don't exactly fear time but I hate losing track of it when life happens so fast there's hardly a chance to breathe. Maybe I should heed Sandy Denny's words and stop counting time. Grab time instead, throttle it, make it stop for a while so I can reflect on extraordinary moments before they fly away. Unlike the birds of spring, some moments never come round again, not the same way. 

Spring 2019 was unique.  I spent most of it in the company of many vegetables and few humans,  creating 16 one-foot-square paintings to form a graphic representation of the amount of space it takes to cultivate a sustainable square foot garden that can produce enough veg to feed a person for one growing season.  

Did you ever actually feel your consciousness expanding?  I began to see edible plant life as the miracle it is. Despite being a lifelong omnivore, I wrote a vegetarian|vegan cookbook as part of the project, an exhibition for Spring Fling 2019 at Shoots and Leaves veggie|vegan cafe in Wigtown.  My relationships with cabbages, ginger root, fennel and all their relatives and friends have since been elevated to a higher plane. 

At roughly the same time, three projects with different groups of young people culminated in two publications and an original musical composition.  They were extraordinarily moving for me as a teacher and facilitator, not only because the results were impressive but because of the honesty of those who participated and their willingness to take risks and share their lives, insecurities and dreams with others. 

My own music took a back seat but not for long.   Performances at the Eden Festival (Garden Stage and the now legendary Bob's Back Passage) included an audience participation art performance making paintings of vegetables with vegetables to a soundtrack featuring the Beach Boys 'My Favorite Vegetable', Frank Zappa's 'Call Any Vegetable' and Ivor Cutler's 'Cheese & Tomato', and in one day I somehow completed a life-sized stick-your-head-in-the-hole-and-have-your-photo-taken mural parody of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs album cover with fruit and veg in all the right places so as not to frighten the kiddies.  

At Eden in June, and in Glasgow at Nice 'n Sleazy | Queer Theory in May and Spangled Cabaret | The Blue Arrow at the start of July, it was a thrill to share the stage with brilliant musicians, stunning drag kings and queens and burlesque artistes, beginning to understand the cabaret art-form, about putting your whole self out there and connecting with people, with confidence and style. 

Amidst all this hullaballoo was another miracle surpassing even the vegetable revelation, the birth of a new grandchild I have not yet met in person.  When that time comes I will savour every moment. Time is moving right along, going wherever it goes.  For all I know it could be hanging out in a trans-dimensional day-glo garden of unearthly delights, munching iridescent carrots and laughing at us.

IN THE THICK OF IT...reflections on SNAFUs & The Bladnoch Altarpiece  

The Bladnoch Altarpiece project just finished a few days ago, and I'm still recovering!  More about that later.  But while organizing files in the aftermath, I found an unposted blog written on the day everything went wrong - isn't that how the expression 'snafu' came into being during WW2 (Situation Normal All F##ked Up)?  Here's my memory of that day and maybe it'll encourage others who are in the thick of it, because we kept going and somehow it all ended well...

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HAVE YOU ever experienced the phenomenon that once you commit to a project with a deadline, it's like an invitation for things to go wrong?  

You get into the thick of it and suddenly the Wifi develops an agenda of its own that has nothing to do with yours, the printer won't talk to your laptop or phone, the car wants new brakes and the disabling sciatica you thought had gone away forever 20 years ago makes a vicious comeback.  

And then you're in the van going home with all your equipment in the back. Unbeknownst to you the back door lock is broken and has sprung open open in transit. All you heard in the front seat was a little bang, like a pothole.  It actuality, it was the door flying open and then shutting itself.  But when you get home you discover that your backpack containing a case of your best paint brushes went flying out and was lost forever - you know, those well loved extensions of your brain and hand, whose every stroke you know so well?  Just when you need them most.   Thankfully, someone finds the backpack on the road and leaves it at the local pub, but the brushes are gone forever.  

On top of that, the Scottish Government introduces minimum alcohol pricing before you had a chance to buy wine for the exhibition launch.  And as little extra added insult your laptop refuses to write apostrophes correctly any more (now spontaneously cured, as weirdly as it began).

These are trying times, the times when you either give up or persevere.  Another artist in town comes to my door with some lovely paint brushes she no longer uses, blowing me away with this act of kindness.  More replacement brushes are ordered online, not the same as picking them out by hand but they'll do.  And I move forward with The Bladnoch Altarpiece project despite pain (walking with a stick now) and frustration.   

And art is often about finding wonder in small things that often go un-noticed. I continue to be amazed by finding little remnants of the past, like this crumbling bit of paint on a doorway of Unit Three Gallery on the old Bladnoch Creamery site...

Am I hallucinating or is it kind of in the shape of a little horse? or maybe a lamb skipping through a field?   Discoveries like this are reason enough to carry on.

So was the tea party we had at an open studio afternoon at Unit 3 Gallery attended by some lovely ladies who talked about their memories of working at the Bladnoch Creamery back in the 1950s, about how all the jobs were so much in demand that you had to wait until someone retired, died or left to get married (as was customary for most women back then) to get work in the canteen or packing margarine. 

So I'm struggling on this week.  More updates soon.  And maybe I’ll even figure out how to stop that apostrophe from going rogue again.

NEW PROJECT ALERT! THE BLADNOCH ALTARPIECE 

For quite a few years I had my art studio in a building at the Bladnoch Industrial Estate in Bladnoch, near Wigtown in rural South West Scotland. The building was part of the old Bladnoch Creamery that closed in 1989 and was on its way to dereliction before I moved in. I loved it...the vast space, the peeling paint and rusty bits of leftover machinery, the atmosphere of calm disturbed only by occasional sounds of heavy metalwork and imagined echoes of the past. 

Today, the Creamery site is being resurrected in a new form by artisans, artists, musicians and mechanics. ‘The Bladnoch Altarpiece’ will be my tribute to this place and people, as a visual artist and writer/performer of words and music. Themes of abandonment and resurrection inspired the altarpiece concept, which refers to medieval European religious paintings of saints and Bible stories displayed in churches. 

As in a medieval church, sounds and images will be used to engage the senses. There will be relics, but they will be remnants of industry and workers rather than the bones of saints. Having said that, the question of what constitutes saintliness is up for grabs. The subject is secular but who knows? The result may be spiritual. At this stage I have only a vague inkling of what may emerge, and that is exciting. 

The Bladnoch Altarpiece exhibition will be at Unit Three Gallery on the Bladnoch Industrial Estate as part of Spring Fling 2018, and you’re all invited!          

SPRING FLING 2018, 26-28 May 2018 For details and directions see Spring Fling 2018 / Hope London

                                                         Doors, Old Bladnoch Creamery          Photograph © 2018 Hope London