Influences from- Beneath the Surface, City Art Centre, Edinburgh including Sara Brennan, Callum Innes, Karlyn Sutherland, Michael Craik and Alan Johnston

The Beneath the Surface exhibition features work by nine contemporary artists based in Scotland of which I have selected several preferred artists whose work resonates with me and my own creative thinking and process.

Sara Brennan weaves tapestries and her work is focused upon generating a quiet response to a sense of place. Her emphasis is suggestive and beyond representation in the landscape. I like this idea of representing a line, shape, a part of a whole through your textile work. I have been increasingly influenced by such ideas but of generating louder responses to the underlying narrative of natural extinction through colour, shape, line and scale. Her work echo’s a timeless quality and a perception of a created landscape.

Sara Brennan Old Blue Band I (Series II) Woven Tapestry (2019) Old Grey Band I (Series I) Woven Tapestry (2019)

While my tapestry weavings continue to explore natural forms and objects abstracted and reimagined there is an increased colour content with line, form and shape. I can however relate to/with Sara Brennan and her use of surface qualities and the manipulation of line, of exploring a surface or a mark for the translation into tapestry and screen printing albeit from different original sources.

Sara Brennan Small Old Grey Band III, Small Old Grey Band II and Small Old Grey Band I Woven Tapestry (2019)

With Callum Innes’s work there is a deep concern with the process itself, of the process of painting with a concentrated understanding of colour and its use. There is often the layering and removal of pigment within his work. I could relate to this process with the use of printing inks and discharge in screen printing. All his works highlight the interaction between presence and absence, addition and subtraction, making and unmaking. I was influenced by this paired back approach, of the use of paint-its close examination and of using paint to explore related narratives of presence and absence. I am increasingly interested in using paint especially acrylics and watercolours within my sketchbook work to use such created paint imagery and its effects for textiles.

The artist uses monochrome colours and clean bilateral divisions of the picture plane in both oil and watercolour. Working on revision where layers of paint are often scrubbed off especially dried paint with turpentine to see the gradient of pigments below… represents a central process for Callum Innes.  There is a continuing flow of ideas to aid development, of gradually evolving and progressing through the completion of each painting, to build on what went before. The artist noted that resonance is built up through this layer upon layer approach with the colours being placed on top of each other then dissolved whereby the residue left acts as the layer to be worked on. 

Callum Innes Exposed Painting, Charcoal Black/Red Oxide (2000) Oil on Linen
Callum Innes Exposed Painting, Pewter/Violet (1999) Oil on Linen

Within the glass work by Karlyn Sutherland the material itself has the capacity to convey and evoke emotion. The artist uses glass in an autobiographical way, to illustrate her response to significant memories and specific moments which have been important to her. Light and shadow have been communicated through the architectural forms to add to the overall narrative of people and place. Often geometric sheets of glass represent cross-sections of paths of sunlight which can frame the site or space the installation inhabits. There is an aim to bring added awareness of spaces and places which envelop people. The importance of wall-based work within a space continues to be focused upon which has made me think more deeply about my own wall hangings and how such textiles inhabit a space and their overall effect as a piece of textile art in their own right alongside their relationship to the space.

This hands-on approach of making is seen as contemplative which I can relate to… which builds a deeper relationship with the context of my practice as well as the work itself. I focus on making by hand which helps to develop a closer affinity with what I do and the process involved.

Karlyn Sutherland Light Study, Toyama (4) Kiln Formed Glass (2019)
Karlyn Sutherland Light Study, Toyama (3) Kiln Formed Glass (2019)

Michael Craik’s acknowledged the interplay of colour, material quality and process. There is a continuous process of applying paint and removing it to create a reductionist effect of erosion within landscapes. I could readily relate with his analogy involving erosion of rock and this relationship with geology as it is also a specific interest of mine…shifts and changes within natural forms through natural and man-made forces through time and pressure.

Michael Craik Vestige 2019 43,44,45 Acrylic on Aluminium (2019)

The artists paintings may seem minimal on initial appearance, but a complex technique is used involving saturated colour with alternating hues at the outer edges of the aluminium or wooden blocks. This depth of experimentation with colour naturally interests me given my own relationship with colour throughout my textile work. This work has encouraged me to experiment further with different materials when painting with colour… like this artist my decisions about colour can be intuitive and based upon emotional responding.

As stated by the artist… My practice is mostly a process-led approach. In simple terms, I create paintings by repeatedly applying paint and removing it again and the appearance of each painting is determined by variations of this technique. For each work, I slowly build up layers of colour by brushing, spreading and pouring paint – often a combination of all three. In between layers I sand back the surface and over time this exposes previously painted layers of alternating colour around the edges of the painting. In some paintings you find strata of paint hanging off the edges of the panel, whereas in others, you have fields of colour surrounded by softer bands. The process itself is quite time consuming and it can take several weeks, if not months to complete a painting. It’s also a very repetitive process, almost meditative, and when I’m painting, I sometimes feel like I’m creating something that perhaps only exists to document the time I spent making it Adam Reid Fox (25th February 2019) https://www.freudmonkgallery.com/interviews/michaelcraik

I find it interesting to read about other artist’s creative process to help understand my own and how to best to explain it to others.Alan Johnston’s work with acrylic, pencil, charcoal, beeswax and fixative on wood offers additional ways of working with such materials. This untitled work explores and experiences spatial contexts and relations through drawing.

Alan Johnston Untitled: Acrylic, Pencil, Charcoal, Beeswax and Fixative on Wood (2014-2015)
Alan Johnston Untitled: Acrylic, Pencil, Charcoal, Beeswax and Fixative on Wood (2014-2015)

I am particularly interested in the artists influences from Japan and use of concepts and practices such as Wabi-sabi… a Japanese aesthetic based on the belief that true beauty comes from imperfection. It is the understanding and acceptance of what is, and the appreciation of the impermanence of what is.The artist uses such a concept to achieve balance within his drawings and mixed media work.

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