‘Art Beat’ Forth Valley Open Studio’s, 10th July 2021
Garage Studio, Burnbrae, Kippen
With the Open Studio’s back up and running in the Forth Valley area I relished the opportunity once more to get out and see art up close again, to discuss art with the artists and to understand something of their creative process. One of my longer term and consistent favourites continues to be Mary MacKay whom I managed to meet and chat to in her beautiful gallery in her garage.
Mary Mackay is an artist based in Stirlingshire who often exhibits in Edinburgh. She became a full-time artist after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art with Honours in Painting in 2014.
Mary Mackay often specialises in mixed media painting including more abstract pieces, in which there can be a mix between what seems like line and chaos, order and form however her compositions are beautifully composed and distilled through colour and mark making which appeals to me as a textile artist.
Her abstract work is built up in layers where unexpected combinations of colour and form can reveal the direction of the work and the original idea might only be glimpsed as ephemeral elements in the finished work. She creates a metaphor on canvas of a journey in the literal and temporal sense from her surroundings. http://www.marymackaystudio.co.uk/
Mackay has travelled through some of the wilder parts of Scotland, but it is West Stirlingshire that resonates most and provides ideas. These experiences as well as involvement with biological sciences provide a broad and rich tapestry from which her visual imagery can be realised. Creating a woodland garden in her Stirlingshire home has recently fed into this narrative.
Of particular interest is her use of acrylic paint with a range of mixed media especially inks, charcoal, varnish, and pen. Mary MacKay seems to bring disparate elements to life through their assimilation onto paper, card, and canvas. I feel that her paintings with several hand printmaking techniques would translate well into textiles given the broad range of mark making, materials, techniques and colour used. I aim to be increasingly freed up with my own use of mixed media going forward.
On some of the more recent mixed media work on paper, Mary MacKay revisits techniques and ideas from previous years, in which she prints, collages, and draws. Often the artist is inspired from what is in her own garden and from the nearby woodland. Mary MacKay often uses seed heads and flowers from plants in her beautiful Stirlingshire Garden as inspiration, to use visually but also as tools to create and make marks, which she refers to as ‘Plant Calligraphy’ from what is known about flora and fauna.
Mary MacKay acknowledged a reciprocal relationship when creating art, of a fully immersive process whether working on paper or canvas, of the physicality of making for her is entirely satisfying, of stretching canvas and intuitively pouring, dribbling, dragging, and choosing, rearranging, inanimate substances, making marks with hand, eye, and mind until the work reveals itself. Small intimate marks reveal detail and glimpses, often fleeting, of something that is recognised and has meaning.
As I enjoy using watercolours regularly I also prefer using inks with their intense colours, transparency and fluidity alongside layers of watercolour wash. I like the translucent effects and vibrancy which can be realised through various mark making processes with ink as evidenced by Mary MacKay. Ink can be used when balancing brightness and darkness, density and light, line and tone for both clearly defined line work or broad washes of subtle colour. For me ink works best in mixed media work used as washes to unify areas in drawing, collage, painting, and pastel or within defined areas. A favourite for me is the use of indian ink and acrylic paint on rice paper and watercolour paper with collage using a watercolour technique including building up a range of transparencies and intensities. I intend to keep on experimenting with application using pens, pencils, traditional and Chinese brushes, pipettes and sprayers. I aim to continue to use mixed media in larger scale work to be increasingly experimental and less constrained to allow the watercolours and ink to flow more readily with a greater variety of collage work and spontaneous mark making in process.