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Monday, 7 December 2020

Elsewhere: Messages

Messages
2020
Elsewhere, The Stove Network, Dumfries
Photo credit: Kirsten McEwan

As we all know 2020 has been a bit of a bonkers year. There have been huge challenges for us all but there have also been opportunities. One of the challenges for me (not actually covid related) has been finding the time/reason to write about my work. It's something I've really missed the past couple of years but there is, of course, a way to fix this; i.e. to do some writing. 

Messages
2020
Elsewhere, The Stove Network, Dumfries
Photo credit: Kirsten McEwan

One of the most exciting things I've been involved with this year is The Stove Network's Elsewhere project. This grew from their Homegrown project (which I was also part of with my Feathers of Hope) and is also part of their Atlas Pandemica project. 

Messages
2020
Elsewhere, The Stove Network, Dumfries
Photo credit: Kirsten McEwan

It's exciting for a number of reasons; firstly it's a really interesting project, secondly it's been a great opportunity to get involved in my local arts community and thirdly it involved actual real life happenings! In previous years that might not have been quite such a big deal but this year having the opportunity to show physical work in a physical space and to be involved in an actual event with actual people attending has been something quite extraordinary. 

Messages
2020
Elsewhere, The Stove Network, Dumfries
Photo credit: Kirsten McEwan

For my part in the Elsewhere project I was commissioned to create a piece of work that could be displayed in Dumfries town centre. I wanted to develop some of the ideas I'd started playing with during my Feathers of Hope micro commission and I wanted to look at ways of sharing our thoughts and feelings about the unprecedented times we were living in. One of the options for display was to use an empty shop window and I was really keen to explore this offer. During lock down our town centres became very different places; at once familiar yet changed and strange, an echo of so many elements of our lives this year. 

Making envelopes!

At the time I was also developing an online sketchbook making course (which is now available if you fancy making your own books) and I was making a lot of envelopes. This inspired me to come up with the idea of an installation of envelopes, combined with my drawn feathers. 


Drawing on my envelopes

I wanted to use envelopes and feathers for both practical and conceptual reasons. Envelopes are used to carry messages, to communicate ideas, thoughts, dreams, secrets and feelings. Envelope can also mean to wrap and protect and I like this dual meaning. I wanted to explore how we felt, our hopes and dreams at this strange time but I was also very aware how fragile these thoughts and dreams can be, how in need they are of protection. Similarly; the feathers represent us and our hopes and dreams, they are both delicate and strong. 

Some of my envelopes

To emphasise this duality of strength and delicacy, familiar and strange, I chose to work with tracing paper to make my envelopes. The transparent material allows us to see inside the envelopes, to see what secrets they might contain. The envelopes both protect and reveal their contents. Some of the envelopes were empty, some had feathers drawn inside them, some contained drawings of feathers and a couple contained actual feathers. 

Installation day

I love working with transparent materials, I love the delicacy and the ethereality of transparent materials. I wanted my installation to have a feeling of almost not being there, being something intangible, as our hopes and dreams often are. As much as I love them, the big downside to working with transparent materials is that being see through they're difficult to see and really difficult to photograph! Luckily for me Kirstin McEwan took some excellent phots and has kindly allowed me to use some of them.

Installing

My work was installed in an empty shop window in Dumfries town centre. I don't think I've ever enjoyed installing a piece of work so much! After months of cancellations and uncertainty it felt so exciting to be working in a space that wasn't in my house and I loved seeing people stop and watch what we were doing as the envelopes went up. It was also nerve wracking as I had an idea in my head of what it would look like but until the work goes up you never know if it's actually going to work! I was lucky to have lots of help and encouragement from Katie Anderson at The Stove and again, being able to work alongside another person was such a good feeling. The piece even made it into the local press!


My installation was just one part of the Elsewhere project and in mid November The Stove held an 'Elsewhere' event where work from the project was displayed in vennels and other spaces in Dumfries town centre over two consecutive evenings. My envelopes were hung in The Stove Cafe and I loved the way they became more and more difficult to see as the cafe windows steamed up on those cold nights. 

'Messages' installed in The Stove Cafe

Mr. Stitches and I really enjoyed exploring the town and discovering the other artworks on that cold November evening, being relatively new to the area it felt like an adventure going into tiny vennels we'd have missed otherwise. We felt that we got to know the town and it's artists a bit better and it helped us feel more a part of that community. 

Work by Simon Lidwell


This sense of community and involvement is one of the things I've enjoyed most about being part of this project. It's helped me feel connected and a part of the artistic community. Throughout the ethos has been supportive and encouraging and I hope that I will continue to be involved and part of this community. 




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