Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Mountains meet the sky

Here I have been writing a lot more than usual, I think this is because I've had so much time to think and reflect on various parts of my life, and writing is a useful way to get the thoughts out of my head. Before I came to Iceland I was working on a series of cut ups about various moments from a particular day in July, these are now completed, and I'm planning to turn them into some artist's books when I get home.
I've also been writing on other subjects, and feel that I've refined my cut-up technique. I used cut-ups in my work during the last year of my degree, but the current ones are longer and more detailed. I find that I prefer writing in cut-ups, because they are so reflective of thoughts and feelings, and the way the clauses combine can be revealing. Sometimes the results can be more truthful than what is written in the first place.
The initial texts I write are not structured into paragraphs, and are usually a stream of consciousness on a particular subject or theme. Writing a narrative doesn't really work for this type of writing, as the meaning and chronology can so easily be distorted, and I do not want the real feelings of the text to become lost.
I break the text into lines and sentences, and then reassemble these. Putting clauses back together at random can sometimes lead to very long, drawn out sentences, which I punctuate if necessary. Sometimes the combination of clauses can form a sentence that I do not feel is appropriate to the theme of the text, in which case I will add a comma to break it up and restore the desired meaning. I also insert paragraph breaks where I feel appropriate. Aside from this editing, I allow the text to be randomly reassembled, and I am not at all selective about the order in which the text is put together. To ensure that the reassembly is random I keep each piece of paper face down, only revealing what is written once I've already selected the next line.
Currently the titles for the texts come from phrases or clauses within the work that stand out for me, or which I feel are particularly representative of the theme or mood I am aiming for.

The following is a text I wrote yesterday, entitled "Mountains Meet The Sky". This is about a walk I took yesterday afternoon in the Icelandic countryside, in a bid to clear my head after receiving some bad news recently. I have written a number of cut ups about my experience in Iceland, and am considering how these could be presented, in the form of another artist's book, or in exhibition alongside the canvasses I have made here.

I climbed a, no one else could be seen. When the path became a puddle I decided to move the occasional wanted until this point. Everything. Harder than all of the times I have seen the mountains in the world. The strangest feeling. Was strange. Uneven where the mountains meet the sky. I through puddles, and really didn’t care if I looked, how did I ever come this far?
            Me there was some comfort in the silence of the for me. Only nature. Slight crackles as the grass and weeds settled around, I have stayed by the sea. I saw the whole village, and and as my time some perspective. For just a little while. Atmosphere. I could have been the only one left all of these autumnal, the many colours that form it.
            The simple act of sitting out there alone, it was today. Angle, and appreciated it all over again. Saw something new. Nothing matters, as long as you are free. But I decided to wander to the mountains. But I had reached my own, been no sound at all. Complete privacy. But I know it is not. Trying to understand.
            Here nears its conclusion, I wanted to reassure pure silence. One. In a week, which seems so hard to believe. Car passed in the distance, but nothing and no one and for I had space. I considered where I’ll be being closer made it hit me, it’s so the ground, absolutely no noise.
            Rocky peak, excited for what may lie behind. It wasn’t even cold, I was the sea, and the mountains in the distance, topped I was the mountains over there seem ice blue before. Blue sky and the plants surrounding me. I wanted some I was truly isolated, and that was ok. Ready for home, I wasn’t ready to give up. Just nothingness. Maybe I should have done this the concentration of life in the village, a few lonely there was colours in a winter land. Think that was exactly what was needed today.
            Maybe I just needed time to myself, with no risk at all, I saw this place from another perhaps it was a need to escape. And maybe that was what I needed. Landscape, which felt so alien to all that I know. Here is not flat at all. The sea is what I like best.
            I waded through marshy grasses, and odd. I tried to understand a lot of things very far. The skyline is jagged and here only myself and the cloudless hit me. The nature of my thoughts is fairly of being interrupted. To come in, it suddenly seemed like a hub of activity.
            Content to sit on that small peak and watch over it was I was from further away. Alone. This afternoon in the sunshine. Belonged to me. With snow. At it felt both refreshing and unnerving, no one would see. Break from civilisation and reality. I am breathless here. As I am not at peace yet, but I became calmer in this wide open, exposed space, I had the concept of being outside and obvious at the present time. Maybe the space gave me think any place has ever hit me harder than I wasn’t how big the world is.
            Myself that I had really taken advantage of this it is peaceful here, but I needed more. Out of place, and really didn’t care at all. I could see everything. The sun did enough to keep me comfortable. I could never stay here, but I don’t colours everywhere. I probably looked completely a stony path that sometimes turned to mud, and I thought about how small I am, and blue sky.
            A home, but it is somewhere I have come to know, and am high above the village. All of the space had not planned this walk, but had been hit I was awestruck as the mountain a was near me. Free. And white, peeping through the clouds and the situation.
            By the time I returned to the village, tiredness starting at I could be completely alone time alone, truly alone. Far from the sea as I could be here, which is still not far removed from this place, which I cannot really say is through the tall grasses, past the stunted trees. Came closer towards me, and I could clearly see houses dotted on the outskirts, horses grazing far below. Little peak and could see clearly in every direction.

            Times this place has seemed bleak and grey, but not with my thoughts, which was never what I really, the contradictions in this village continue to I gained a new perspective on the place, and one time I decided to lie down, all I could see was me, but no people, no cars, no sources of noise. With a sudden desperate urge to just do something. Not seeing any other people is still strange to me, but I maybe the only time in my whole life when there has.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The last week

I can't believe it's the last week of my residency, and this time next Monday I'll be back in England. The week hasn't had the best start, as I've found that my final canvas was blown away during the night, meaning that only 2 canvasses have actually survived.
I'm not quite sure how I feel, as it is a bit disappointing, but it is a risk I have to accept when it comes to working here. At least I can say that I'm really pleased with the two canvasses I do still have, and I'm keen to exhibit them once I got home. It would have been nice to have come away from this with a larger body of work, and I didn't plan for this happening because I honestly didn't know that the conditions here would be strong enough to make this happen. I'm satisfied with what I have, but it would have been good to have more work.
This week will mainly be spent planning and preparing for future work, in particular the weathered fibre piece I hope to work on. I think I'll also try a couple of works of paper or wood whilst I still have the chance. I've put an experiment on wood out in place on the canvas piece, and hopefully this will last as it's a bit heavier than the canvas.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Final piece is in progress

My final canvas here is now outside, I can't believe I am going back to England in a week! On this occasion I've tied the canvas with a longer rope, so it can be carried around by the wind and moved a bit more than the other pieces. I'm hoping that this will lead to it being bashed around a bit more than the others, and will produce a new result.
The canvas has already been outside for a couple of days, which should give it plenty of time to become weathered, and then finished off before I go back to Reykjavik and then home. It does feel like a shame to be leaving, as having experienced the conditions here I feel that there is much more potential for this type of work to be made here, and unfortunately I don't have time to explore many more ideas.
However, I've had time here to experiment with using other materials and surfaces that I hadn't previously considered, and this has definitely been helpful. I was already planning to work on an exclusively fibre based piece, and then weather this naturally when
I got home, and I now feel really excited to get onto this. I don't know why it never previously occurred to me to bring together the weathering process with a fibre piece, and I'm sure this will be interesting as I have no idea what to expect from that. I've been doing a lot of embroidery recently, in sketchbooks as well as on canvas, so I'm really into that at the moment.
I feel that this experience has been hugely beneficial for me, as I am coming away with a lot of ideas and plans, as well as a body of work. I've gained exactly what I wanted to from this residency, and I'm keen to take part in further residencies in the future. Perhaps I will even find myself returning to Nes at some stage!
When I initially applied for a few residencies I was mainly interesting in visiting a completely different environment, any environment, in order to develop the weathering work. But I really think things worked out excellently, as not only is the Icelandic coast completely different to anything I'm used to, but it has been so extreme and unpredictable, and greatly benefited my work. I think this really was the perfect place to bring the work and develop in further. I'm unsure whether I will carry on working with natural weathering once I get home, aside from the planned fibre piece, as the results will definitely not compare to what has happened here. However, if I do decide to do that I have some clear ideas now on how to make the process more effective.
I've absolutely loved having a period of time to concentrate purely on my work without other distractions, in particular having a day job that takes away so much of my time and energy. It obviously will not be the same once I am back in London, but I have some ideas on how to use my time more effectively when it comes to art. This has been a very significant experience for me and my career, and I'm so grateful that I was given this opportunity, I think it was exactly what I needed. I'm sad that the experience is nearly over and that I'll soon be home and back to reality, but I am looking forward to the future.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Two more finished pieces and an exhibition!

 I'm pleased to say that yesterday was a really productive day for me, and I completed two pieces. The first is a new experiment on paper, which was placed outside whilst the paint was still wet, and I love how gravel has stuck onto the paper as a result. This piece weathered quickly, and needed to be fixed up with embroidery, and I'm very pleased with the outcome.
The director of my residency has invited residents to participate in an exchange exhibition with some artists in New York, the theme being the idea of a faraway place, and the work being a letter to the viewer. I think this piece would be ideal, as it literally contains a small part of Skagastrond, so I plan to leave it with her before I go back to London on 29th September. This particular exhibition is still a work in progress, so more details to follow.
Yesterday I also finished the second canvas I was working on, the same one I needed to retrieve from the cliffs in the morning. When I looked at it more closely it had become scratched from being dragged along the rocks, and the paint also has some fine cracks
in it. The weathering in this particular piece is more subtle than in the first canvas I completed, but I'm still happy with it. I wanted to the outcomes to be different for each canvas, and I think the subtle effects in this piece contrast well with the bolder first canvas.
This means that I have one canvas left to work on, and I hope to work on that tomorrow. At least by now I'm much more aware of the problems that working in this manner can bring, and I'm more prepared. I feel optimistic.
I'm also still working on some small experiments on paper, wood and foam board, to see if and how the results differ from my work on canvas.
I'm also happy to confirm an upcoming exhibition at Vibe Gallery in London from 25th - 29th October. Details can be found here:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

First finished piece!

 I'm so happy to say that I've now finished one canvas, and I am so pleased with how it has turned out. It has been titled "Mud", for obvious reasons!
Embroidering the canvas last night was a messy job, due to the amount of dirt of the surface, but it was absolutely worthwhile. The weathering is so clear here, and I'm still amazed by how quickly it happened. This is exactly the kind of result I wanted all along, so I'm very satisfied with this piece. In Iceland I've been working on a smaller scale than usual, due to time constraints, and I think this has also helped to speed up the process.
I love that there is balance between areas that are built up and intense, and areas such as the forehead that are less blemished, I think that really works in this piece. I also love that the dampness of the environment has caused to chalk to spread and drip in some places, that wasn't a result I was expecting but I think it works in contrast with the bolder aspects of the work.
 This piece has really confirmed for me that bringing my practice out here for a time was the best decision, I've accomplished what was not possible in London. When I originally conceived this idea, about a year ago, this was the kind of effect I was imagining and hoping for. I had to go a lot further than I expected to manage this, but I'm really satisfied now.
However, unfortunately yesterday I found that the piece in the rockpool has been washed away. This really doesn't surprise me, as in the past few days the sea has been very choppy, the waves have been even more violent than they were last week. with the waves being so big I would probably have drowned if I'd gone down to check the painting over the weekend.
It's a shame, but an occupational hazard if I choose to work in this way. I'm glad that I was at least able to document the weathering process with images and film, even though there is no work at the end of it. It has highlighted that I perhaps need to be even more
careful when it comes to securing the works, so  I'm keeping a very close eye on the piece that is still outside.
I am considering bringing it inside today, as it is already scratched, and this morning I had to climb along the rocks to retrieve it, as the winds last night had blown it further down the cliffs, along with the rock it is tied to. I obviously knew that the weather conditions would be more dramatic here, but I didn't understand just how extreme it could be. It's completely unpredictable, and whilst that it great for the weathering process I'm having to work a lot harder just to make sure that I do actually have some pieces left!
Even if the remaining works don't go to plan I'm so happy with this painting, and will be exhibiting it in London next month for sure. Yesterday I also placed a couple more paper experiments outside, and I'm also planning to try out a piece on wood, to see if and how this differs from weathering canvas. I'm so excited about the possibilities here!

Monday, 16 September 2013

One piece is back inside!

 I've just brought a painting inside, ironically this was the last one I placed outside, only yesterday! I suppose that's what happens when you put something in a pile of dirt whilst it's hailing. It still needs to be embroidered, but I am so excited about the outcome. I cannot stress enough what a brilliant decision it was to work here, the results are so much quicker and more effective than they were in London. I'm really happy, and I'm just waiting for the canvas to dry before finishing it off.
I'm so fortunate in that this opportunity has also allowed me a lot of time to reassess my work and career, and I feel that I have a really clear direction to go in when I get home in two weeks. I'm halfway through my residency now, and I've already benefited so much. I know what I want to work on when I get back home, and I have a clear idea of how to facilitate that as well.
I also have a few exhibitions coming up. One will be at Vibe Gallery in London between 25th and 29th October, and a couple of others are tbc. I'm expecting to show some of the work made
in Iceland at Vibe, and probably some older work too.
This period of time has been really productive for me, and I'm also so full of plans and ideas for the future, I feel so fortunate to be having this experience. It's really sad to think that this residency will come to an end soon, but I'm sure that the next two weeks will also be a very beneficial time for me, especially as some works are nearing completion. Soon it'll be time to worry about getting it all back to London!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Short Film of Waves

I'm not a filmmaker by any standards, but as I'm taking so much pleasure in watching the waves hit the second canvas I placed outside, I thought it might be a good idea to record some of this, for others to see exactly how the canvas is being weathered and affected. This is a very short film I made this afternoon, but one of the other artists at the residency has kindly offered to help me using a waterproof camera she has, so hopefully soon I'll have more images and some film that is a bit more intense than this.
However, I do feel that this illustrates well exactly how the canvas is working. The other piece that is outside is also progressing well, and I'm very happy with how things are going.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Amazing Experience

 Yesterday I placed a second canvas outside, amongst the rocks on the shoreline. This afternoon I walked down there to see how it was progressing. The sea has been very choppy today, and some of the waves have been huge. Every wave was splashing or submerging the canvas!
I couldn't get too close because I would have got absolutely soaked, but I sat for ages on a rock watching the waves roll in and splash the painting. It was so peaceful, and so beautiful. I grew up by the sea and feel a great affinity with it, so this was a wonderful experience for me. In these images you can just see the canvas in the bottom right hand
I really can't wait for the sea to calm down so that I can get a good look at the painting's progress. The studio has an open house event on Saturday evening, and it would be great if I had a final piece ready for that time. I'm certain that this piece in particular will be a great success. I expected my work to weather more quickly in this environment, but I'm actually surprised by just how quickly this is happening.
Sitting there by the sea gave me a chance to think and reflect on my experience over the past week. I'm so pleased with how my work is developing, and I know that bringing my work out here was an excellent decision, allowing me to achieve the results I really want. I feel that this is a really important period of time for me as an artist, and I am really reaping the benefits.
As well as successfully producing so much, I've also had plenty of time and space to think and reflect, and so I have a couple of strong ideas to work with when I get back home. I feel that this is only the beginning. I can't even explain how happy and excited I am now!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Excellent results!

 Unfortunately half of the paper pieces I left outside on Wednesday have disappeared, I suspect this is due to strong winds. The weather was particularly bad last night, and I assume this accounts for the most recent disappearance. Using paper was a good idea as an experiment, but the material is just too weak to survive here. Only one paper piece is still outside now, I've taken one in this afternoon and I am so pleased with the results. The elements have had a big impact in the space of just four days, compared to months of leaving paper outside in London and having much milder results. This piece is so obviously weathered, and this is exactly the sort of result I've been hoping for all along. This makes me even more confident that bringing my work to Iceland was a good decision, and that the canvas pieces will work well.
The strong winds last night left me quite paranoid that the canvas I placed outside yesterday would have been blown away too. However, it is tied to a rock, and the rock is wedged in between others, so this anchors it, and the piece was thankfully still there this morning. The wind and rain was extremely heavy last night, so the chalk has almost completely washed off the surface. I'm looking forward to seeing how it continues to develop, and feel sure that the results will be more pleasing than they have been in England.
I'm planning to explore the area a bit further and find some new places where I can gain varied and dramatic results. I was going to do this today, but for much of the day the wind has been too strong, and walking in some places I was planning to go to could potentially be quite dangerous. I hope that I can do this in the next couple of days. Yesterday we walked up a mountain in order to see a sculpture/performance, and this really inspired me to look a bit further than my immediate surroundings at home and in the studio for places to leave the canvasses.

Further to this, for a while now I've been working on a series of cut-up texts, about moments of a particular day in July. I've nearly finished writing, and I'm so happy with what I've done that I'm planning to produce a number of artist's books of the cut ups once I get home. I've always been quite interested in book art, but it's not something I work with very often, so this will be a new challenge for me. The books will be produced by hand, and I'm planning to produce approximately five books, all with slight variations. This is something I'll explore further when I get back to England, but I'm forming a few ideas now about how to proceed.
I'm really pleased that being here has given me plenty of space to think and formulate new ideas and plans, as I feel I'm going to have quite a lot to work with when I get back to London.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A new idea

I'm really pleased that I've only been here for a couple of days, but already I've had a new idea for the work.
When  working in London, the paintings were only ever left on my own property, meaning that the chances of someone actually stealing the work were negligible. I've walked around the village this morning to check on the progress of the paper pieces, and two have disappeared. Whether they were deliberately taken or were blown away by the wind is anyone's guess, but it got me thinking that, although I can tolerate that with the paper works, I really don't want the canvas paintings to disappear. As I'm due to start working on the first portrait today, this is really something that I need to resolve.
It's obviously essential to securely fasten the canvas wherever I place it to prevent it from being blown away, and that is easily done. Preventing the work being deliberately taken or moved is more of an issue. I could leave the works in the immediate vicinity of my home and studio, but that will limit the results I have. I cannot really stop anyone from taking them, but maybe they'd think twice if they knew why the work was there.
So I've concluded a good way to deal with this may be to attach a note to the back of the painting somehow, explaining who I am, what I'm doing, and inviting people to contact me if they do decide to take the work. If anyone did contact me I could offer to let them keep it if they let me finish the work.
I feel that this idea kind of works, as my practice has often been concerned with relationships, and still is, as I use images of people I know to paint from. Being open and dealing with the issue in this way could potentially form new relationships with people in Skagastrond, and means that my work is influenced by the people who live here, as well as the town and the environment.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

My residency has begun!

I arrived in Iceland on Tuesday, and in Skagastrond yesterday to start my residency! I really am so happy to be here, and just having a proper studio space again after quite some time is inspiring me to get working. As soon as I arrived yesterday afternoon, despite being exhausted, I got started on my work, and already I've manged to get a few things done. This is exactly what I want, as my time here unfortunately is limited, and therefore I don't want to waste a moment.
So far I've done a few sketches in preparation for the first two paintings I'm planning, and have made several abstract pieces on paper, which have been left in various locations in the village to become weathered. Already, after less than 24 hours, I've noticed that most of them are becoming damp, and hopefully this will have an affect on the surface. Working in this manner is also giving me an opportunity to gauge which locations work best for what I want to do.
As I was walking back from the studio last night I unfortunately found that one of the pieces had been torn up! It would appear that this was done intentionally by an unknown person, as the conditions have certainly not been extreme enough to cause this naturally, and none of the other sheets have been affected at all. This morning I gathered the ripped up pieces, and got to work. As I stated in my proposal for this residency, I'd be keen to look into embroidery as a means of repair where necessary, and this was certainly necessary. The paper may not have been weathered naturally, but there was certainly an effect. I suppose that's a risk you take when leaving work in public.
I've spent a good few hours today reassembling the paper - working out which piece went where was surprisingly challenging. I find the result quite interesting, even though it was not what I had initially had in mind. I'm looking forward to seeing the progression of the other five works that are outside, and looking forward to getting canvasses outside too. I'm planning to start the background for one or two pieces this afternoon, meaning that I can complete the portraits soon.
All in all, I've been here a very short time but I'm already so glad to be here. Although I wouldn't choose to live in Skagastrond on a long term basis it really is beautiful, and I'm really enjoying myself. The other artists here are all really nice, and I'm so grateful to have this time to focus on my work, and to think and reflect more generally. I hope that my whole trip is as successful as the past couple of days have been.
For more images of the work I'm making here please visit my Facebook page.