Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Sea Fever

A few weeks ago P and I went in to see the exhibition 'Sea Fever' at the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock.  The main artists taking part were Jem Southam, Will MacLean and Andy Goldsworthy.  Tbh, I'd never been to the Dick Institute before and was a little skeptical about it as it just didn't seem to be the kind of venue I imagined seeing such work.  How judgmental of me - it was fantastic! An incredibly inspiring experience.

Jem Southam - Clouds Descending

This work was the result of a commission by The Lowry and is a series of large format photographs made along the Cumbrian coastline retracing the painter L S Lowry's journeys there.  Southam focuses not on the beauty of the area, but on the intervention of man on the landscape, particularly the manmade remnants of the area's industrial past such as slag heaps, chimneys and harbours.  Several of the images were of the coastal erosion in the area and, rather surprisingly, I wasn't that drawn to them - think I've seen enough coastal erosion for a while!  I did, however, really love his images of Morecambe Bay (they reminded me of Simon Burch's series 'Under a Grey Sky') - empty, atmospheric and huge!

(c) Jem Southam, Cumbria 7 (Piel Island from Walney Island) 2007

Will MacLean

Although I had wanted to go to the exhibition to see Jem Southam's work, I was totally bowled over and inspired by the work of Will MacLean.  I confess I hadn't heard of him before but as well as being a painter, he makes boxes.  Actually, he's regarded as the foremost constructor of box art in the country.
"Maclean is internationally recognised as a foremost exponent of box construction art. Using found objects which he deconstructs and reconstructs in a display of visual thinking that is compelling, he has developed a unique visual and poetic language. Reductive and honed, his metaphorical art is based on the histories and mythologies of those who live and work by the sea. His deep interest in Highland culture reaches out to universal themes of navigation, emigration, whaling and fishing, and global exploration. There is always strong narrative contained in these fascinating works, though immediate interpretations can be elusive."
P and I had actually been to Irvine beach that day making some video work and I had been wondering about how I could incorporate some book and box making into my work.  I'd had an idea about collecting some of the detritus from the beach and creating fictions around them but I couldn't work out how the books and boxes would fit in.  Then I walked in to this exhibition and Will MacLean had already done it!  He'd even used a title I had thought of on the beach 'A Catalogue of Unknown Objects'!!  But rather than being dejected by this discovery, I was totally inspired by his boxes and their narratives of the sea; he's a wonderful storyteller.  I just have to work out how I can do something similar with my own work.

I was also delighted to discover that he lives and works in Tayport - Fife, not that far from my home town - with his wife Marian Leven who is also an artist.

Will MacLean Driftworks, DCA 2002

Will MacLean, Interview 1999

Will MacLean and Marian Leven


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