Knowing Which Path to Follow

I’ve been thinking a lot about pathways through life recently – the different directions that we all take, for various reasons, through choice or otherwise, the paths these “choices” lead us down, and the way in which our movements influence the people and places that we ‘land’ in.

I’ve been thinking about infrastructure, about man-made routes designed to channel, and more natural routes, many of which become identifiable, and established (in some way, shape, or form) over time… which makes me think about sheep tracks in the moors that carve through the heather, and Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking, 1967.

This got me looking at political maps, and the way in which boundaries have changed (largely through conflict) throughout history. In turn, leading me to think about hostility towards migrant populations. Which set me off thinking about the migratory routes of animals, and the way in which these are so often protected; from frog crossings in roads, and newt conservation areas in construction, to positioning wind turbines in locations avoiding the flight paths of migratory birds. Many UK migratory birds enjoy latitudinal migration, flying north and south between summer and winter ranges; though there are many other types of migration taking place across the globe, such as; circuits of the land and ocean that enable turtles to return to their nests, and altitudinal migration up and down mountains as seen in North American Quails, and also in Copepods, tiny sea crustaceans that migrate up and down the oceans’ water columns… all these animals crossing arbitrary boundaries, just to get by, just to survive, and we help them to do so… because they’re not humans, who we appear to take issue with all too often when they try to do the same!

Interestingly, birds are known to use different visual landmarks, such as mountains or bodies of water, along with using the sun to navigate during daylight and the stars at night for directional purposes.  More amazing still, birds can also use the Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate, made possible using the magnetic substance magnetite (a substance that has been found in the beaks of different bird species). Magnetite reacts to the Earth’s magnetic field and allows the bird to orientate itself  accordingly.  Although each of these senses plays a big part in the ability of animals to migrate, the most vital factor is genetics.  Migration is instinctive, most migrants’ brains are programmed to tell them to set off on a specific route, in a specific direction, at a given moment of time – totally amazing, and so wonderfully intuitive.

I was watching the Disney film, Moana (based on stories from Polynesian mythology), recently with my nearly three year old daughter, and wondered what she might be thinking as she watched the Polynesian fishermen brave the high waters taking their direction from the stars… which made me think about a small body of artwork that I created recently called Shining Light.

Anyway, having studied lots of migratory maps now, having thought about the way in which animals instinctively navigate paying no attention to political boundaries, I think there’s great beauty in migrational routes, and I’m going to make a body of artwork to highlight that, in an attempt to help others identify this beauty, and the joy and richness that cross-cultural exchanges, and respectful freedom of movement can bring.

p.s. This is a very cool project – http://www.flywaysmusic.org/the-music/videos/#flywaysmusic

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A Dream of the Sea

I’ve curated an exhibition that’s currently up at The Witham arts centre in Barnard Castle. It’s called a Dream of the Sea – the title was inspired by an old friend’s email address, I was at art school with Duncan, aka adreamofthesea@XXX, and he was a dream in himself – bursting with iridescent fun and wild imagination – an amazing guy, and a fascinating artist. Anyway,  the words A Dream of the Sea have always captured my imagination, and I so when I sat pondering a fitting programme of exhibitions for my role as Visual Arts Coordinator at The Witham this title sprang to mind. Barnard Castle is about as landlocked and agricultural as rural gets in the UK, but the vast majority of us ‘dream of the sea’ and of escapism – not least when the days are cold, long and dark, yet our anticipation of  Summer and coastal adventure is piqued by the Spring Equinox.

So here we have it, an exhibition called A Dream of the Sea that opened on Thursday 2, and continues until Saturday 25 March 2017. The exhibition spans the Gallery, Dispensary Gallery, and seeps/laps into the Shop at The Witham, admission is free, and access if from 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday to Saturday.

It’s a group exhibition, and clearly I think all of the artists involved in the exhibition are talented and their works have merit; however, there are a few whose work makes my heart skip a beat. Introducing Mark Sofilas…

Mark’s sun-drenched scenes of the Mediterranean make my toes curl with excitement – I can almost feel the sand between them, feel a warm coastal breeze on my shoulders, taste the Capri Rosso linger in my mouth, and hear the hum of  grasshoppers amongst the scrub-land. His works are so fantastically evocative place; of relaxed, romantic hillside works on  balmy evenings, of a refreshing swim or boat ride out to sea, of the brightly coloured, unfamiliar, charming flora bursting through sandy soils. I adore them!

Mark Sofilas lives and works in Leeds, some more about him…

“I am originally from Western Australia but migrated to the UK in 2008.  I was an illustrator with over 20 years’ experience in the advertising industry but took the opportunity, on moving to the UK, to turn to fine art, something which I had always wanted to do.

My paintings are very heavily guided by the emotions a particular scene or moment evokes in me. It’s this feeling that I try to convey to the viewer. It might be something as simple as smoke drifting from a chimney pot or silhouette created by a particular light source. It may be the strength or history, which emanates from an everyday object or piece of architecture.

The body of work I’m displaying here [in A Dream of the Sea] is inspired by a recent visit to Italy, featuring The Amalfi coast and the Isle of Capri. I have tried to capture the intense light of day and the magic that intensifies under the cover of night, in this wonderful part of Italy.

Over time I’ve discovered that I can best achieve this by exaggerating/enhancing colour, manipulating perspective slightly and pushing shape and form to arrive, hopefully, at a nicely balanced place, where the image created has not only captured the physical qualities of the scene, but more importantly, the feeling of the occasion… I take photographs of my subjects, but like to rely on memory and imagination, the ultimate goal being, to recreate exactly what I’m feeling onto a flat surface.

I don’t do preliminary drawings, instead I prefer to adopt a more organic approach and design the paintings as I go. This helps the end product retain a freshness and feeling of spontaneity. I always have an image and mood in my mind’s eye that I’m trying to put down and I find that working this way allows me to be flexible and go with any happy accidents that more than likely will occur. It’s these little surprises that I can adopt and learn from and take into my next painting.

I enjoy the journey that this direct and unstructured approach takes me on and find that it enables me to either get close to achieving what I had in mind and heart or on occasion, arrive somewhere unexpected but as rewarding.”

Contrastingly, in both geography and medium, I also adore the work of Lee and Jill Brewster.  They are a couple who live and work in Hurworth, County Durham, and have been working together since graduating in 1991.

They’re showing a new body of sculptural furniture in this exhibition that initially appears too tactile and sculptural to have any functional merit in the domestic or commercial setting. Yet when one sits down with it, touches it, works with it, it tells a story of enjoying and embracing nature with all its seemingly restrictive undulations… that aren’t actually restrictive at all, but refreshingly comfortable, and perspective enhancing. In short, I DESPERATELY want the desk and stool in my home!

Lee Brewster studied furniture design at Loughborough college of Art and Design and is currently studying for an MA at Teesside University in Future Design. Jill Brewster studied surface pattern and textiles, also at Loughborough, and then completed an MA in Creative Multimedia at the school of computing at Teesside University.

“We design and make sculpture, furniture, structures and buildings in response to specific environments. We are interested in making sustainable and emotional connections with nature using structure, texture and pattern.

Our current work is a response to our local environment, specifically the North East heritage coast, the theme of the sea and water frequently appears in our work. We work predominantly in wood and enjoy the free workmanship it allows us, making decisions about structure and aesthetics during the making process.

We are advocates of using responsibly sourced and renewable resources to achieve sustainable futures and promote socially responsible design. Our objective is to design objects and processes that enable a sense of wellbeing, and ultimately improve people’s lives through an emotional connection with nature.

The sculptural pieces of furniture included in this exhibition areinspired by our research into coastal environments and the pattern and textures left behind by the action of the sea.”

Other works in this exhibition that really ‘rock my boat’ in a positive sense, include a series of fabulous illustrations by Katie Edwards.

One of my very first memories is of walking between gigantic sand-dunes on holiday in Morocco. I was two years old, but I guess the landscape was so far removed from my norm (the North York Moors) that the memory stuck. The above print reminds me of the Isola San Giulio, an island within Lake Orta in Piedmont, northwestern Italy (where some friends got married a few years ago). What I adore about Katie Edwards’ work is the playfulness, that awe-infused sense of the extraordinary that is intrinsic to all of her illustrative prints.

There’s a sense of child-like wonderment to her work… as a child when I thought about our place in the world, in the universe I used to wonder if the universe was merely a tiny speck of dust in a giant’s pocket. It’s THAT freedom of imagination that I love about Katie Edwards’ work!

Perhaps inspired by the fantastic setting that she lives and works in… Katie designs and creates her conceptual illustrations from her studio located at the foot of Lake Windermere in the Lake District, using traditional photographic and silkscreen printing techniques.

Katie’s screen prints focus on conceptual ideas, symbolism and metaphors, and her screen printed illustrations reflect her enjoyment for the natural world, evoking thoughtfulness and humour. Katie’s innovative juxtaposition of elements often result in a surreal, humorous or thought-provoking image.

The original silkscreen prints are created from Katie’s most popular designs and developed as a limited print run. Each one being a unique, hand-crafted piece of art, individually printed, signed and numbered by the artist.

Achieving a first class honors in Graphic Arts and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University, Katie has since lived in London and Canada, working with clients such as The Observer; The Telegraph; Economist ; Psychology Magazines; Converse Shoes; National Australia Bank; Boothes Supermarket; Arla Dairy and Delta Airlines. Katie was awarded the Bridgeman Studio Award in 2014, for the illustration ‘Joy’. More recently, Katie was commissioned by E.H.Booths Ltd to create a piece of art in the form of a triptych for their new store in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

In addition to exhibiting her work nationally internationally, Katie also enjoys success with work such as hand printed greeting cards, soft furnishings, t-shirts and tote bags stocked in galleries and arts centers across the country.

If you’d like to see these works for yourself, and many more beautiful works besides, then get thee to The Witham (3 Horse Market, Barnard Castle, DL12 8LY) before 4pm this Saturday! More info about exhibitions at The Witham here.

Mirrors in art

A lot of people I know seem to be migrating back to their homeland / escaping to the country right now, as I have recently done. The majority of these people are in their early 30s, as I am, and are making the move for a better quality of life because their circumstances have changed; namely they need more internal and external space and feel the urge to reconnect with nature in some way, and for some reason. 

This has got me thinking about the profound, inescapable effect that the great outdoors has had on so many people that I know in their early life. It’s got me thinking about the intrinsic link between mental and physical wellbeing and landscape, and how we are reflected in the landscape that we hold dear to us, and it is reflected in us in some way. This has got me thinking about the use of mirrors in art… and has prompted me to get me some mirror to experiment with – more on that soon.

An invitation for an imaginary spatial journey

Love this! Love Modus Operandi’s work – all kinds of fantastic public art in unexpected corners of the country. Check this is out

Artist: Antoni Malinowski
Title of work: Spectral Flip
Client: University of Oxford
Location: Andrew Wiles Building, ROQ, University of Oxford
Year: 2015
Image credit: Valerie Bennett

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Antoni Malinowski commented on his installation:
Each day the journey of light is registered on the two large walls facing each other in the luminous foyer. To complement and enhance this journey, I began by sensitising this background by applying a reflective paint made with mica ground to a fine pigment. Then on the south facing wall, using light absorbing pigments, I painted in colours related to the warm end of the spectrum – from red to yellow. These light wave subtractive earth pigments have been used by painters for around forty thousand years.

The wall paintings will appear very different from different viewing points and with different light conditions. The colour will oscillate between darkness and light, appearing and disappearing, showing different sides of binary complementarities. One elongated thin line in each painting will contribute to the opening of the pictorial space – an invitation for an imaginary spatial journey.”

www.antonimalinowski.co.uk 

Awesome – literally!