I have a brief hiatus between projects at the moment, so I’ve been able to give a lot of thought to where the next projects will develop…
As an artist, one of the things I find most challenging is stating in words or facts what it is I’m doing, or what’s inspiring me. It’s not that I have any difficulty with words, and I know instinctively what I want to do with my work, but writing that down as a concise summary for a funding application is mind-bogglingly difficult!
It has to be done though, if I’m going to attract public funding for a planned trip to Japan with cellist/composer Atzi Muramatsu. We hope to stay on one of Japan’s volcanic islands (Sakurajima, pictured above – the volcano is live) where we’ll create work in response to the island’s landscape, and our experience of being in unpredictable terrain.
This is a develoment of the creative process that’s happened as a result of visiting Eigg and working with Atzi and poet J.L. Willams. I’ve been deeply inspired by the way these collaborations have developed ideas and inspiration.
Visiting Sakurajima, the site of a live volcano, makes sense after our experience of the ancient volcanic landscape of Eigg, which was created by lava flows from volcanos whose remains now form the Isle of Rum. It’s interesting to compare the worn down volcanic shapes of Rum with the relatively recently formed volcano of Sakurajima, above.
Our ideas about landscape melded in interesting ways this year; Firstly, in September last year, Atzi and I met with geologist Prof. John Hudson, and poet Norman Bissel of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics while on a geology tour of the North end of the Isle of Eigg.
While he sat below the cliffs, Atzi began to write his new music piece Gaia Metempsychosis. This was his response to being there in a moment of time and the fact that we too eventually become part of the landscape again, like the fossils in these cliffs that formed 47 million years ago, slipping into the sea.
In ‘North – Transmigration, I painted Atzi on the north cliffs, which slant down towards the sea, in a deliberately loose style – his feet appear to become part of the rocks below. This was the most experimental of my Eigg paintings, I became quite lost in the process of throwing down layers of white paint and applying clumps of paint mixed with salt to form the cliffs. I wanted to capture the shifting sense of atmosphere, and the vulnerability of being near the unpreditable sea.
Poet J.L. Willams then wrote three poems in response to the Eigg paintings trilogy, and Atzi wrote short cello pieces in response to J.L. William’s poetry readings which they recorded together.
After the live performance at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, I created a six minute video showcasing our collaboration (below). The part of this video I find the most moving is midway, during North – Transmigration; the precariousness of Atzi’s position on the cliff in the painting echoed in his tense cello piece, which builds then falls in a cadence that echoes the cliffs falling over time, alongside Jennifer’s poem which captures this sense of grasping life, of being present and making sense of our experience in the ways we can; ‘because we are what we, you, me, have to be…’
I often feel that painting is a way of distilling, or slowing down my experience of what I see and feel around me, I find echoes of this in Jennifer’s line – ‘…tipping the system’s vertical coil horizontal..’
I hope you enjoy the video, it starts with West – Sining Sands, then the second piece is North – Transmigration, followed by East – Harbour. You can view the three paintings more clearly, Here (Below the video I’ve copied the poem text)
A hot bright burst of light
tight on the heel of the day
plays into what we cannot
not undo – the small screw bent,
spent, buckled, the driver’s metal arm
farmed out to jink up the heart’s
start or non-start, the cap or cup
chucked because we are what we,
you, me, have to be: makers,
breakers of bread, shakers of salt,
fault all ours or our parents’ or god’s
rods of light hurled now like javelinthin
slaked mica flakes white-gold
sold minute after mi-nute minute to pay
grey time her due. The notes we hear
clear as light through glass
pass through the air of the studio,
show how tipping the system’s vertical
coil horizontal makes the harp’s strings
ringing piano, makes the heart’s sunset
We’re now applying to the DAIWA Foundation for a grant to continue our project through an arts residency in Japan. Wish us luck!