Timespan's Artist in Residence programme is supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Eurpoean Community Highland Leader 2007-2013 Programme

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Looking Forward to Looking Back

Drawing ice

Making artwork involves juggling, sorting and locating all the things that I learn about a place, a landscape and a time. There are always more ideas about processes, materials, sources and stories. Then there comes a time when I have to decide which thoughts are the most important, which idea will I develop and how will it communicate all that I have learned.

When I first came to Helmsdale in Midsummer 2010 it was the Icehouse, the River Helmsdale and the sea that I was interested in. That is still so and the work I put in the Icehouse in September will reflect that. I hope it will describe how being human over the years can be hard work for most of us. Its name is The silence of the moon - this work will describe what I see and not explain what I think. Ask me when I there and I will try and answer any questions about how much being in Helmsdale has meant for me.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Graham Fagen Blog | April 16th

Baile an Or?
Field of gold in English rather than town of gold?
Lots of Garnets.
That’s what we found.
No gold this time but there’s always the next time, definitely.

Crabs, on the doorstep, greeted our return from Baile an Or.
Thanks Lorna.
More (and maybe a lobster or two?) on my return please?!

Tomorrow is the last day the Ed Rusha exhibition will be on.
Great show.
Great to see it up here.
I’ll miss it.
Great to see the national galleries working and showing with others.

In absence of my reflection in one of Ed’s works, I’ll leave you with a sign and a meal.

Until June.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Graham Fagen Blog | April 13

13 is my lucky number.

I was born on a thirteenth.

Tomorrow I’m going to Baile an Or.

Town of Gold in English.

There was a gold rush there in 1869.

You can still pan for gold there today, in the Kildonan Burn.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is where my journey up the Helmsdale River takes me.

I’m going on the 14th.

If I had sense I would have gone today, on my ‘lucky’ day.

Instead I went to film old settlements in the rain.

I wanted the rain.

When I got there the rain stopped.

13 was working for me but didn’t realise I wanted the rain to keep coming.

I think I’m more interested in what the need to find gold means, rather than actually striking it rich myself.

It’s good Ed Rusha is here to help me with my thoughts.

Here’s me, thinking of Baile an Or, reflected in Ed’s HOPE.

Thanks again Sir.

Graham Fagen Blog | Time

I’ve never blogged before.

I need to figure out who I’m talking to I think.

Perhaps that will come with time.

Time is what is interesting me here in Helmsdale.

This is my third visit this year the other two visits were in January.

It was in January after my first visit that I decided I wanted to make a video work that was about time.

The River Helmsdale will be the spine of the work.

My plan is to start at the sea, go up river to Kildonan Burn or Baile An Or, where we’ll search for gold and then back downstream, through the Strath to the sea again.

We’ll pass lots of important places.

Land that is owned.

Land that people were cleared from.

Memorials and clocks.

Trees and plants and animals and birds.

This is all on going.

I’ll be working through to July and the exhibition will open in August.

What is on display now though is fantastic.

Ed Ruscha is here.

In Timespan, in Helmsdale, in Sutherland!

He’s not here in person but in spirit through his work exhibited in the gallery until the 16th April.

It looks great and it’s a real treat for me to have caught it here.

Here is me, wondering who I’m talking / writing to, reflected in Ed’s ‘dirty baby’.

Thank you Sir!

Friday, 4 February 2011

The necessity of imagination

Snow River

Slowing Time

4 February

Last blog for now as my funding from the RSA for this residency here at Timespan has finished. It’s been a valuable experience on many levels. There are many aspects of Helmsdale that invite close inspection. In my own case it has been walking along the River Helmsdale and the shore – primarily towards Portgower – and then coming back into the village down past the Clock tower Memorial accompanied by its gang of Jackdaws. My work, apart from one piece, has always been sited inside a building and has been a response to that particular building (it’s structure and space, it’s age, it’s prior purpose - see www.sierrametro.comHow long is now? for example). In an ideal world - if I was able to make a work here in Helmsdale- the space and structure (the building, as it were) would be the surrounding landscape. The room would be the walk over the Telford Bridge into the Ice House, and then along the river passing underneath the new bridge to the shore. The return would be via the Clock Tower - where our time is struck and sounded every quarter of every hour every day. The work would invite the walker to think about -to imagine – what takes place over time. The past, the present and the future are all woven together everywhere in the world, and here in Helmsdale the points at which the world can change abruptly for people and their resulting vulnerability to others’ wishes are identifiable. Such vulnerability requires extra reserves of endurance, resourcefulness, adaptability and imagination to survive – to move on. The archive within Timespan contains many examples of how people who lived here coped with those pressures – the community who live here now are witness to continuing changes – the threat to the continued existence of places like Timespan and the local library are real. Imagination is essential for everyday life, imagination does not only exist in dreams, art or stories. It is our way of making sense of the world around us. Without imagination we could not remember, we could not plan, we would not be able to understand how other beings feel – whether they existed in the past, exist now, or will exist in the future. If I am asked to come back and make such a work I hope that it will reflect these many aspects and elements that influence our daily lives.
Thank you to everyone at Timespan and Helmsdale for being so friendly and welcoming and thank you to the RSA for enabling me to research and develop ideas.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Rocks and Waves

31 January

The stones pictured below are on the shore towards Portgower. The only stone I can reliably identify is quartz. I used to be better at it when I was a child and I suppose the knowledge is still filed away somewhere in my brain but I can’t find it. Many of the stones have markings which resemble faces, the first one below for example.

Back home in Blairgowrie for a few days I go the library and borrow ‘Leviathan or, The Whale’ written by Philip Hoare – in the first few pages I read the following and immediately think of the sea and the River Helmsdale –

To the careless, the water may seem the same from one day to the next, but under observation it becomes a continuous drama . . . played out at he edge of the shore or on the open ocean. It is a natural spectacle capable of rising dozens of feet up into the air, or lying low like a glassy pond, so mirrored that it might not be there at all, seamlessly joining earth to sky. Surging and peaking, self-renewing and self-perpetuating, it can take away as easily as it gives.

I am looking forward to traveling back tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Burn’s Night, Musical Spray Paint, Bed Rock, Fault Lines and Pebbles on the Beach

26 January No pictures yet

Ok - I've completely lost track of time now - so much keeps happening here.

On Saturday 22 after a day spent on front of the computer I was ready to spend the evening at the Timespan Burn’s Supper , organised and delivered by the fundraising committee aided by volunteers. A very good night was had by all, about 60 guests came along – there were many smiling faces and much laughter. A bowl of broth to start and then the celebrations were introduced by Jean Sargent when Jamie Kelly (extremely smart in his kilt) piped in the haggis and eating began. The haggis was announced to be eminently tasty – it was accompanied by generous helpings of tatties and neeps and lined the stomach nicely - ready for the trifle to follow. The trifles were made by the organisers and so delicious I had to have spoonfuls from at least five of them – some were alcoholic and some were not but they were all fantastic. After dinner speeches were made by Jacquie Aitken (Timespan’s Archivist) and Christine Cowie (Heritage) – both received hearty applause. Amongst other excellent entertainments Lisa Macdonald from Timespan sang and dancing was by the Kerry Findlay Highland Dancers, four young women who gave an original take on the familiar form. I was impressed by their performance in such a small space surrounded on all sides by the audience. Gerry Wood and Penny Woodley kept the kitchen going and the tables waited/weighted with food. Caroline Kelly kept the guests well watered with various beverages and Lorna Jappy persuaded people to buy tickets for the raffle which made a substantial contribution to the funds raised. (Approximately £1000!!). The raffle took place after a very popular game which involved seeing who could roll a pound coin nearest to a bottle of Clynelish Whisky (from Brora). The man who won was very very happy.

On Sunday and Monday I reflected that sometimes I spend as much time with my head down looking at the ground beneath my feet as the sky or the sea or the river. Down on the shore towards Portgower the small stones can look like sweeties, humbugs, and the like. While walking I was thinking about the Earth - how it spins and we do not really notice, how it constantly shifts beneath us and we hardly notice – unless there is an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. Here at Helmsdale an ancient fault line can be seen in places, the Helmsdale Fault means that one part of the Earth's crust slid under another part - how suddenly did it occur? Was it imperceptible or did it heave and crash? My favourite reading at the moment is The Excursion Guide to the Geology of East Sutherland and Caithness (eds N.H. Trewin and A. Hurst) which I found in the archive. It has detailed descriptions of the rocks etc between Golspie and Ousdale with a lot about Helmsdale. I understand hardly anything in the book at all, it is a poetical foreign language with classifications of these stones I see beneath my feet. It has no pictures so I can’t match what I see with what is described. Therefore the pictures of the rocks, stones and pebbles for this blog must wait, the photographs I have taken must be developed and printed. Then when I post them people can tell me what they are – instead of me describing them as mottled pinky orange or striped grey with an oblong of darkness in the centre.

Remember to come and see Dufi’s exhibition Teenage Kicks while it's on at Timespan, – and on Monday 24th Jan there was an excellent Musical Response Workshop where we all had to bring our favourite LP’s with our favourite tracks and play them on an old stereo in the gallery space. I like this exhibition, Dufi (Al MacInnes and Fin Macrae) call themselves Graffiti Artists and here I see more evidence of how Graffiti Art is taken more seriously at this time than it has been for a while. The work is highly disciplined and well- thought out. Each piece functions by itself and they all work together as an installation. As you enter - on the left wall behind you there is a shelf with cans neatly ordered on top. The wall under the shelf has narrow stripes of multi-coloured paint sliding down towards the floor and a chameleon is concealed within them – I had to be shown it! Call myself an artist or what??? On the long left wall a selection of LPs are mounted – some you can take down and play on the stereo and some cannot be played because they are now works of art. On the back wall are prints of images stimulated by the lyrics from the albums that Dufi selected from their own list of about 500. On the right hand wall behind you as you enter is a stencil work which seems to hover above the gallery wall, pale blue and as fragile looking as a robin’s egg. The stereo system in the centre is placed on a cabinet which itself is placed on a square of typical living room carpet from around the 70’s. There is an armchair to sit in and headphones to listen with.

The workshop was friendly and welcoming – the two artists invited us to eat sweeties that reminded us of our childhoods, fruit salad chews and liquorice blackjacks, cola cubes and jelly gums, Tunnocks tea cakes, caramel bars and snowballs, Kool-aid from Canada and Creamola which had to be added to water and then fizzed. That reminded me of Spacedust and Flying Saucers. We then sat down and made our art works on paper embossed with the shape of a 7”single. Excellent fun was had by all – even those who insisted they could not do art demonstrated that they could.