I’ve learned quite a bit over the last few years about the composition, structures and processes of the Earth, mostly through pouring over geological maps, cross sections and textbook diagrams, and I’m passionate about communicating my new understanding of the landscape to others through my work.
Up until now my pieces have largely been interpretative of an aerial view, drawing inspiration from the shapes, form and colour found in maps - Two dimensional flat diagrammatic representations of an area of land or sea as viewed from above - The aerial perspective interests me greatly as it unlocks the landscape, provides the ability to see places from a rarely observed perspective and features which would otherwise be hidden from view. Especially true of a geological map which uses shapes and colours to show the different types of rock that make up the Earth beneath our feet.
I’ve always veered away from making art that might be deemed as a ‘traditional’ view of the landscape. In fact you could probably say I’ve actively avoided it. Maybe I’m even scared of it? My choice of materials and practice could be perceived as old fashioned, people often see sewing and embroidery as an ‘old lady’ pastime, so I guess I’m mindful of the possibility of my work being seen as ‘twee’.
In 2015 I began making work referencing the type of cross sections and diagrams often found in geology textbooks, different from the aerial view but telling the same type of story. Works inspired by cross section diagrams like ‘Section, Buachaille Etive Mor & Beag’ or ‘Section, Slioch’ are probably the closest I have come to a ‘view’ you might recognise, with the image being created from a place within the landscape rather than from above.
Through these works the seed of a new idea was planted and has been slowly growing since. What if I use the basic shapes and forms of a classic view but combined it with what I’ve learned about geological forces, data and the graphic aesthetic of a map or diagram? I was able to explore this theme a little with some open-minded commission clients and was pretty excited, yet daunted, by the prospect.
I also loved working on my 'Processes' series earlier this year, using simple colour and form to produce fourteen small studies of earth forces which shape landscape.
As I work through these new ideas, I find myself really excited by the possibilities. Which is huge for me. I still am completely obsessed with maps, geology and geography, aerial views still feature heavily in the upcoming pieces I have planned, but I’m very much enjoying finding new ways of expressing this in my work.
I go through a bit of an internal struggle with myself before I make any piece of art. I feel strongly that whatever the final image may be, I must learn as much as I can about the subject first. This learning, study and what it might communicate to the viewer, essentially the point of what I want to create, is massively important to me. I’m not content or fulfilled by simply recreating an image, the struggle needs to be part of it.
My aim is of course to make beautiful images but ultimately, through these images, I hope to encourage people to see the world we live in a bit differently, find out more about how landscapes were formed, create conversations about place and through a deeper understanding foster a connection and sense of stewardship.
On this note, and following the completion of my work for The Argyll Collection exhibition, I have made a new piece. You may remember I wrote about a geology excursion I went on last year with Lochaber Geopark, to the remote Rhue peninsula near Arisaig. This was a wonderful opportunity to spend a day with a group of people, all from different backgrounds and with many reasons for joining the excursion, exploring the landscape.
I took many photographs that day, mostly close ups of rocks, striations and intrusions but I also captured the view.
And so, as well as the geological story, it was the memory of this view that I wanted to use in this new piece. The huge jumble of rocks, lush green machair, pristine white beaches, turquoise waters and scattered skerries. The sky was heavy that day and rain did fall but it didn’t dampen our spirits and only seemed to only make the colours more saturated, the patterns in the rocks more pronounced.
Reducing the view to these abstract geometric shapes, I approached the image in exactly the same way as I would a geological map.
Sketching the individual shapes, working out how they interconnect with each other, using paint to explore how the colours will work, hand cutting the cloth, arranging all the pieces together and stitching them in place.
The image could be a geological map, it tells a very similar story, uses very similar components but in addition it conjures the view to my mind.
So, there you go. The inner workings of my brain. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.