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Edinburgh Art Fair

This year I’ll be showing with the Limetree Gallery at the yearly Edinburgh Art Fair (EAF), which runs from the 17th to 19th November at the Corn Exchange.

It’s Scotland’s premier art fair and the largest in the UK outside London, so I’m excited to be a part of it. It includes around 60 galleries from around Britain and admission is £5 per day, but if you want to attend the preview evening, it’s £15 on the door, or you can buy tickets for £12 here – Tickets

The Limetree Gallery will be showing four of my Canalscapes series, and ‘Hawk, River Tweed’ which is one of my larger works (image and link to video showing the process of painting ‘Hawk’ below)

‘Hawk, River Tweed 3’. 40×40 inches

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

Video –

Portrait of Richard Demarco

Above – one my sketches today of Richard Demarco (at the Demarco Archives, Summerhall).

Some more sketches from today, and a previous longer one from a video still …

 

 

 

 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be creating a portrait of Richard Demarco. So today I’m introducing a series of blog posts in which I’ll share the process, and I’ll also be introducing and exploring the work of Richard Demarco.

A few weeks ago, after seeing the moving and inspiring performance of ‘The Artist as Explorer’ by Aletia Upstairs, which focussed on Demarco’s unique vision and artistic legacy (see my earlier post: ‘The Artist as Explorer’ – Here ) I contacted Richard Demarco to ask to paint a portrait of him. I was delighted when Terry Newman (Deputy Director of the Demarco Archive Trust) replied to say, ‘He’d be honoured’.

Needless to say, I am honoured! In this blog I’ve mentioned Richard Demarco’s extraordinary work as an arts impressario, teacher and artist a few times. He’s doubtless done more for the arts in Edinburgh than anyone else alive.

Sketching today was an absolute pleasure. As an artist and art teacher himself, Richard has a keen understanding of an artist’s perspective. He invited two of his colleagues – Fernanda Zei, and Jack Kausch to observe the process (it was a pleasure to meet them) and volunteered several interesting, at times playful, creative poses.

From feeling somewhat trepiditious at the start (how many outstandingly talented and renowned artists has Richard worked with over the years?!) I really began to enjoy the experience. I will return next week to develop further ideas and sketches…

These photos from today are of Richard in front of the excellent portrait created by David Mach. (the two other well-known portraits of Richard Demarco include those by Barbara Balmer and Peter Howson).

 

 

 

 

 

In the process of sketching and talking, it transpired that my first drawing tutor, Bill Gillon, was in fact a pupil of Richard Demarco. What wonderful synchronicity – Bill Gillon was an excellent tutor – he enjoyed his work and his criticism was incisive, constructive, never harsh or (far worse!) indifferent.

Today’s sketches are the start of a larger portrait I’ll develop in the next month, which I’ll be gifting to the Demarco Archives. It’s one way of honouring my connection with Richard Demarco, which began back in the early 90’s when several people I knew had become connected with the Demarco Gallery.

Of course I’d heard of Richard Demarco (everyone interested in the arts in Edinburgh knew of him) but it was only a few years later, after I’d studied for my degree in art that I decided I’d like to work for the Demarco European Art Foundation.

I remember the conversations I’d have with fellow art students about what we’d do after art college. I was pretty sure that getting my work into a prestigious corporate collection wasn’t the pinnacle of human endeavour, nor was working for a standard gallery, whether commercial/independent or publically funded, not if it simply reflected a well-worn path that reduced art to what’s ‘cool’ – passing trends or fashion, or simply further commodified the arts.

Anyone who takes an interest in the Demarco Archives and drops in to see Richard is made welcome, so in 1999 I began working voluntarily on the Demarco Archives, and assisting with his exhibition programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I didn’t exactly see myself as an artist at that point – I was quite self restricting on the basis that I didn’t have anything new or important to add to the world of art, therefore I’d decided to contribute towards enhancing the work of those who did. (I was younger then, and in later years I came to realise it’s not always about changing anything or attempting a work of genius so much as responding authentically to your experience of life, I relaxed a bit into my experience of making art!).

Nonetheless, in 2000 Richard Demarco generously invited me to participate, alongside many other artists, in a major show at Edinburgh’s City art Centre in 2000, called 70/2000: The Road to Meikle Seggie (curated by Charles Ryder, then curator of the Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University) which charted his journey in the arts through images and documentation of the archives.

That journey involves so many meaningful innovative projects, collaborations, adventures and encounters that it’s impossible for me to do it justice in one post, so I’d recommend exploring the following links for a start …

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Demarco

http://www.demarco-archive.ac.uk/

A shorthand outline though, would certainly include Richard Demarco’s pioneering approaches as one of the founders of The Traverse Theatre, the first person to introduce the work of Joseph Beuys to Scotland, and his lifelong dedication to the founding vision of the Edinburgh Festival – to heal post-war Europe through cultural dialogue in the arts. That dedication has led to myriad and profound projects abroad, often in war-torn countries across Eastern Europe.

This is the first post about creating this portrait, so I will be including more information in subsequent posts. I hope you enjoy the process, but above all I hope it’s inspiring.

Winter Series: Music and Image

Sold. ‘North (2)’. 8×4.5″ inches

Right – a painting from my winter series 2015.

(Paintings for this year’s winter series don’t begin until October. Read on, below) …

Winter Series: Music and Image.

Private View 25th November 7 – 9pm

Open studio 26th November to 3rd December

Venue – Lyne Street Studio, 5 Lyne Street, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh

 

 

This project is a development of a five-year collaboration between myself and Atzi Muramatsu. It’s a collaboration that has involved many approaches, including individual responses to shared subjects (such as the Eigg Island project at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in 2015) or Atzi’s live response to my paintings, from which I created video montages.

For Winter Series: Music and Image, I’ll be creating a series of twelve paintings in response to twelve pieces of music composed by Atzi Muramatsu, on the theme of winter.

For this I’ll respond solely to the form, mood, texture and musical references of the music. It’s going to be an exciting new challenge for me as I’ve focussed mainly on landscape painting for the past five years.

In the process of collaboration, you become immersed in the work of the other person,  more than you would if you heard a one-off performance, or visited an exhibition for one evening, for example,

For Atzi this has been at times an unusual experience where it feels as though he’s actually in the landscape as he responds to the painting. To get the sense of this, have a look at my recent video where you can see Atzi become more involved with the paintings as the performance develops, it’s particularly affecting during his improvised response to ‘Moonscape, Harris 4’, which you can see in this clip from about 3:19 onwards. (The clip shows the painting, then cuts to Atzi performing, and back again). Clip –  Moonscapes 

I found the juxtaposing medieval-sounding and folk influences most dramatic – absolutely relevant to the subject matter, which was all about the idea of living through the darkest times in a Hebridean landscape. I knew the painting was a bit dark for some tastes (it won’t be a best seller – dark paintings rarely are!) so I was gratified that Atzi went into that dark landscape so willingly!

In the editing process of making these videos and synchronizing music with image, I’ll often hear the same piece about twenty times or so. So the music really plays over and stays in my mind. Some fragments stay more than others, one of my favourite pieces is probably the beginning of Hebridean Light, which you can hear from about 3:38 in this video  –  I find it joyful.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more deeply the eclectic nature of Atzi’s influences, I think of him sometimes as a musical encyclopaedic sponge! But it’s the musical talent in expressing, juxtaposing or harmonising these influences, and the level of expression, that I find so inspiring. It’s one thing to hear all those influences in a piece that’s been composed and worked on over months, quite another to hear it improvised live.

So it’s no surprise to know that much of Atzi’s work has been created for film, his score for ‘The Making of Longbird’ being a recent example (the film won a Scottish BAFTA). Atzi then went on to win a BAFTA last year.

As someone who’s always been fascinated by film scores, music and image (in fact my art college dissertation was partly on this theme, but don’t worry I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone!) from Moricone and Herman to recent compositions by composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto who created the incredible score for The Revenant, I can absolutely see where Atzi’s ear for music traditions – from ancient  to modern in the eastern and western hemispheres, would suggest a future in film music composition. More recently I’ve been exploring the music scores by  Bear McCready for the Outlander series. It’s mostly a commercial approach – unashamedly romantic, though extremely well researched. I was particularly struck by the subtle arrangements used during dialogue which correspond so brilliantly to time and place – for example Jacobean times in 18th cent’ Scotland, or 18th cent’ Paris, post WW2 Britain, or music reflecting courtlife in contrast to country-life and folk traditions. It’s really a fascinating subject to explore, but I’m digressing!

In short, it’s going to be a most enjoyable journey for me to respond to Atzi’s music through paint. I want to honour the process and make sure that buyers of the paintings experience it too, so with each painting sold, buyers will recieve a CD with recording of Atzi’s music score, and a music notation of each piece. This means that people can experience the image/painting and music together, exploring for themselves how the image responds to music. If they’re musicians they might themselves play with the the themes too perhaps, and who knows, it might lead to new collaborations, I’m always open to that.

I’ll be sure to post the making of each painting as they progress, and to include music sounds clips here on the blog as the series develops. The main body of work will happen in October, wish us luck!

Review

Following on from my earlier post about the excellent performance of ‘The Artist as Explorer’ by Aletia Upstairs, during this year’s Edinburgh Festival, I received a link in Richard Demarco’s newsletter to critic James O’Brien’s beautifully written review (below), and was pleased to see that the show received 5 stars!

Review Here

‘The Artist as Explorer’

Aletia Upstairs performs ‘The Artist as Explorer’ in response to the Demarco Archives at Summerhall Edinburgh, August 2017

I haven’t written here in a while as I’m preparing for upcoming shows and a new series of paintings which I’ll begin in October. This time I’ll be responding to music rather than landscape – a direct visual response to music by composer Atzi Muramatsu. It will be a new challenge and I think a deeper exploration of the collaborative process.

In their small way, collaborative explorations such as these echo the approach of Richard Demarco; a watercolourist, arts impressario, teacher and, as some describe him, ‘champion of the avant garde’, now in his 87th year and still very active in the arts in Edinburgh and across many countries. (for a more comprehensive description of his work, see links at end of this post). I attended a performance by Aletia Upstairs yesterday (photo above) which has inspired this blog post.

Richard Demarco

 

 

 

 

 

 

After art college, I worked with Richard Demarco in 1999, and on several subsequent projects over the years. I could have folllowed the more conventional route of working with publically funded or commercial art galleries, but then I’d always been interested in a multi-disciplinary approach to the arts (my arts degree was in Fine Art and Related Arts, focussed on collaborative approaches).

Demarco’s work has always involved cross-overs between artforms, though far more profoundly it also explores collaboration between areas such as arts and science, health, landscape, sociology, history, politics – art interwoven with all aspects of life. This ‘spoke’ to me, it felt authentic, more in keeping with how I perceived the world of art, though at the time I was unclear of how that might manifest in my own life.

For Richard Demarco, who was undoubtedly unusually switched on to a sense of purpose from an early age, one manifestation of that approach was a series of projects, better described perhaps as creative adventures, which in the 70’s took the form of ongoing projects titled ‘Edinburgh Arts’. These involved creative people from all backgrounds – writers, artists, dancers, musicians, but also those people met as part of the journey who might be from any background or practicing any occupation or activity.

Through working with the artist Joseph Beuys (who Demarco had invited to Scotland in the 70s) this approach included working with prisons, which led to subsequent projects with Jimmy Boyle who had been imprisoned for murder. This was probably the most controversial approach Demarco had taken so far, which among other activities resulted in the Scottish Arts Council severing annual arts funding of the Demarco Gallery.

At the centre of Edinburgh Arts journeys was a concept Demarco described as ‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’. This was originally inspired by his walks in the countryside of Fife where he discovered a sign pointing to a place called ‘Meikle Seggie’ which was almost impossible to find, but in the process of searching and exploring he encountered magic and beauty in the landscape:

Discovering the Road was like opening a door beyond which lay the reality of my dreams of a world beyond the confines of the 20th Century. It promised a landscape I would wish to define with pen and ink and watercolour. Each bend and corner would be like another door opening up gradually more and more aspects of the landscape I had known in my childhood when every door and every road was an invitation to a mysterious space, forever desirable and forever new. It was the sacred threshold through which I had to pass which would reveal the space in which I would seek freedom from all restricting linear concepts of time…

… it is the space I would like to give anyone who valued or sought freedom. It is the space I should like to offer to all those who live and work in prisons where physical journeys are unthinkable.

Richard Demarco, excerpts from The Road to Meikle Seggie

‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’ became a metaphor for a way of seeing, or perceiving the world – and although it began in Fife it led Demarco all over the world, for example it resulted in projects that encouraged cultural dialogue between war-torn countries, particularly in Eastern Europe.

What resonance this has for any creative soul! It captures the essence that an artist in any form wishes to explore and show or communicate –  the way they perceive the world around them – to express meaning and share that with others. It’s the essence of being alive, of being present to witness truth whether it’s in the lines of a landscape, a face we love, or the tragedy of conflict.

Which brings me to the point of this post – a performance I atended yesterday by a singer and performance artist known as Aletia Upstairs. Those maps that form her skirt and hat are enlarged drawings by Richard Demarco, they mark his journeys across Europe and the names of people he encountered and the meaningful relationships and art projects that were born from these journeys.

 

Aletia Upstairs is currently studying for a PHD at Leeds Beckett University, and as Richard Demarco is involved with the University she decided to focus on the Demarco archives as part of her PHD. She describes how, through interviewing Richard Demarco, she wanted to understand the essence of his work, or what he might wish his legacy to be. Richard Demarco’s answers formed the lyrics for the songs she sang during the performance. I was not alone in feeling deeply moved by these, not just because she has a beautiful voice, but the sense that these archives exist in part to honour the art made by the  thousands of artists, musicians and writers Demarco has worked with over the decades.

Richard Demarco describing Edinburgh Arts journeys, with an image of ‘The Marques’ on which he was accompanied by fellow artist explorers.

As he’s now 87 it’s a stark fact that many of them are no longer with us – at one point of the performance Aletia unfolded a scroll and sang the names of some of these artists now gone. It was deeply poignant, I don’t think anyone there was unaffected.

Ultimately though, the essence of the performance, which included talks by Richard Demarco interpsersed with songs, was the legacy of a way of seeing; ‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’, and a reminder that as artists we must follow our instincts in seeking truth, and the beauty inherent in truth, rather than recognition, financial reward or success alone. It requires courage, since as Demarco might say it’s not always the easiest or most obvious path.

What I received above all from this performance was the sense of love and connections. It is a joy to understand that my path has touched at times on the same places as Demarco’s Road to Meikle Seggie – finding the meaning and magic in sacred places like the Stones of Callanish for example, or the landscapes of Iona and Lindisfarne, the wells of Arthur’s Seat, or discovering the traces of all the people who’ve been on these paths before us, in the stones of old buildings, or pathways and roads created organically by people who live with landscape, as opposed to motorways made simply to reach a destination! :

The Road to Meikle Seggie exists for me as a physical reality, but it works more importantly as a metaphor for all the roads which lie beyond it in our imagination. It also represents that land or space I should dearly like to see honoured and protected and extended in our own times, that particularly beautiful man-made landscape or townscape whether it be Giuliano Goris’s Fattoria Di Celli in Tuscany, Somserset, or the Villa Guoni-Mavarelli in Puglia, Cumbria, Sardinia, Brittany, Argyll, Pembrokshire, Venice, Salisbury, St Paul de Vense or the Trossachs.All are beyond the plans of any one generation of architects.  All are about generations of farmers, fishermen and craftsmen, knowing instinctively how to use local materials to best advantage. Not one was built as an environment for tourists.

Richard Demarco, The Road to Meikle Seggie

The performance concluded with Richard inviting us to make our mark on a blackboard (no doubt an echo of Beuy’s blackboards used during his talks as part of Strategy Get Arts) to mark the place or places where we discovered art or a way of seeing; our own Road to Meikle Seggie…

In contemporary times we add these marks whenever we respond to landscapes or cityscapes with creativity and love, and when we connect with like-minded souls on the road to Meikle Seggie, which may lead anywhere in the world and in imagination.

 

 

Link to website of Aletia Upstairs: http://aletiaupstairs.com/

If you’re interested in finding out more about ‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’ you can buy the book on this link – http://www.luath.co.uk/the-road-to-meikle-seggie.html

I asked Richard to sign my copy and was deeply touched by his inscription …

This post has been a personal response to the work of Richard Demarco, there are of course far more academic explorations and essays about his work! Click links below to find out more, or if in Edinburgh drop in the see the archives at Summerhall  https://www.summerhall.co.uk/ 

 

 

Demarco Archives online: http://www.demarco-archive.ac.uk/

General Wiki info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Demarco

New projects

Scottish Design Exchange

The rest of this year is going to be interesting, with a couple of new projects coming up, though I’m taking it fairly easy after a very busy few months which have resulted in strained elbows and shoulders and general wear and tear!

So unfortunately I’ve had to cancel the Lindisfarne workshop in September, which is physically quite demanding (carrying lots of equipment mainly, which I’m keeping to a minimum just now), but I can at least still paint.

In September I’ll be displaying a series of paintings at the Scottish Design Exchange; a not-for-profit arts retail and project space set up in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal. I’ll add more details once the works are installed there.

In late November there will be a group show at Edinburgh Art Fair at the invitaiton of the  Limetree Gallery.

I’m also excited about plans for November and December as I’ll be creating a new series of winter landscapes in collaboration with cellist Atzi Muramatsu, possibly also a poet, though I’ve not decided on anyone as yet.

The general idea is a project lasting 12 days in which every other day Atzi and I exchange music and painting in response to each other’s winter-related ideas – six paintings and six music pieces.

The idea is still taking shape, but will most likely include a preview evening at my studio with open fire and mulled wine to accompany the wintery theme. Also two open-studio days. This happens to coincide with my 50th birthday at the end of November( I almost can’t wait for winter to arrive!) But before then I think I’ll indulge in a sunny holiday abroad at some point, for a few days at least!

Pecha Kucha No. 37

Tomorrow evening Atzi Muramatsu and I will be presenting our work as part of the regular Pecha Kucha evening. It starts 6pm and the venue is the City Arts Centre in Market Street.

Pecha Kucha was first created by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham,  the first one was presented in Tokyo and the events now take place all over the world. The Edinburgh version is run by architect Gordon Duffy.

Basically it’s a way to present ideas in a less formal setting, avoiding long (possibly tedious!) lectures – hence why the format restricts each presentation to 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to talk, or in our case, for Atzi to play cello in response to my paintings which will be presented on slides.

Also presenting their work as part of the evening are a range of creative people from arts, business and music fields (info on link below)

What I’m looking forward to is sitting back and watching Atzi play without the hecticness of my exhibition openings – there may be Q&A after the presentation but essentially I can just relax for a change!

This link has all info about the event http://www.pechakucha.org/cities/edinburgh/events/59694eca3c70efce690007f3