AIR, SEA AND SOIL: DRAWING WITH PLACE

AUGUST 2023
PLACE: BIRSAY, ORKNEY, SCOTLAND


The one-week Group Residency DRAWING WITH PLACE launched The Museum of Loss and Renewal’s residency programmes in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, in a new partnership with the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness. The Group Residency took place at Linkshouse, Birsay and at sites of natural and archaeological importance in Orkney.

DRAWING WITH PLACE was devised by Tracy Mackenna for The Museum of Loss and Renewal and was lead by Tracy with invited partner Danica Maier, American artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University (UK). Between us we activate diverse skills and expertise when we employ drawing (in an expanded sense), publishing and performative modes of working to investigate place(making), (un)belonging, memory, (personal)narratives and imaginary futures.

Applications were welcomed from creative practitioners who think through drawing and for whom drawing is a way to investigate and understand place, and from practitioners who have a strong interest in drawing as an area of practice. Creative practitioners may be working in art, animation, archaeology, architecture, communication industries, dance, design, fashion, film, theatre, performance etc. Applications from other fields where drawing is used as a means to develop, document, explore, explain, interrogate and plan were also invited.

‘Drawing’ is understood as creative, critical and situated, and as an area of practice in its most expanded sense. In other words, drawing that is experimental, inventive in its form, and responds to place.

SEE THE ACTIVITIES AND THE MATERIAL GENERATED DURING THE PLACE, PEOPLE and TIME: DRAWING INTO BEING GROUP RESIDENCY, 2022

FOCAL POINTS

– Immersive experience
– Semi-structured programme
– Expert facilitators and guest contributors
– Supportive, caring, non-hierarchical environment
– Fully catered
– Drawing, and drawing in an expanded sense
– Experimentation
– Interdisciplinarity
– Technologies
– Co-learning
– Individual practice
– Collective platform for encounters
– Location specific including Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site
– Natural environment of exceptional significance
– Collective reflection (digital) published by The Museum of Loss and Renewal

CONTEXT

The Group Residency was devised around the relationships of ‘Air, Sea and Soil’, encompassing the Orkney Islands’ remarkable natural environment. Residents were welcomed to the historic Birsay area, where the bespoke programme took place in the excellent accommodation and work facilities of the Pier Arts Centre’s Linkshouse, and through accredited-guide visits to Neolithic Orkney’s World Heritage Sites. Expert introductions to land and spectacular wildlife was provided by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) ‘Species on the Edge’ Project, paired with an artist’s talk.

AIM

The aim of the Group Residency was to develop drawing and approaches to drawing that are experimental, inventive in their form, and that respond to place by collectively investigating a site of global importance. Bringing together residents from a range of areas of practice and research, the potential to create an international network was made possible.

Guided sessions such as ‘Visual Dialogue’, ‘Slow Looking’ and ‘Listening Environment’ focused residents’ attention to detail. The group was connected to the residency location and out to the wider world, in consideration of what one brings from a place and what is subsequently left in a place.

The Group Residency provided opportunities for creative practitioners and researchers to share and establish a bank of knowledge and creative strategies, both globally interconnected and hyper local, digital and analogue, for imagining new responses to places and the multiple, layered and contested histories they hold. Residents had ample time to pursue and share their individual projects.

APPROACH

The Group Residency programme was designed around a bespoke itinerary, with carefully crafted indoor sessions that focus on historical and contemporary ways of drawing, discussion, presentation, making and sharing. Outdoor sessions introduced residents to the stunning natural landscape and world-class archaeological sites. By walking, listening, looking and making, residents activated drawing, a sophisticated means of thinking and communicating, to investigate sites. Working across drawing practices residents from diverse cultures and creative disciplines focused on different ways of responding to place through drawing in its most expanded sense. Adaptive approaches to working were stimulated to consider experimental and organic ways and means of making; potentially working with the materials provided by Orkney’s air, sea and soil.

Residents stepped out of Linkshouse on to the St Magnus Way pilgrimage route that is inspired by the life and death of Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint. A few minutes walk from Linkshouse at the Atlantic Ocean, Birsay Bay’s 400 million year old spectacular rock structures reflect how landmasses have moved, and how glacial erosion has sculpted the islands that we know today as Orkney. Intricate and immersive patterns drew us in whilst helping us consider climate change in the past, to help us predict future scenarios. These locations along with RSPB reserves and world heritage archaeological sites were the positions for a series of tailored drawing exercises.

The Residency was designed to be supportive. The partially-structured and hands-on programme enabled residents to develop their skills and understanding of drawing across a range of approaches and technologies. The residency experience stimulated new ways of thinking and experimentation through production, research, co-learning and presentation. The programme provided a framework and acted as a catalyst for deepening observation and expanding awareness in life and art, by engaging with the non-human world through creativity.

Residents worked collectively and individually. Value was given to the individual knowledge and experience of each resident, exploring the act of drawing as a fundamental means to analyse, document, record and translate the worlds we inhabit. Participants investigated, shared and connected their ways of working through ‘drawing’ in their own place in the world, in this new environment and with others through facilitated co-creating and co-presenting modes. Over shared meals, residents and facilitators expanded the time for exchange and developing relationships and networks.

A key focus was exploring human relationships with the non-human, and imagining new ways of considering and connecting with what is regarded as ‘wild’. In order to foster receptivity to the world around, a decelerated pace was be encouraged. Whilst simultaneously inhabiting and exploring, we were alert to the precarious nature of the environment. A key consideration was how important knowledge about the human past is gathered and preserved through practice and research, acknowledging that insights cause environmental change and threaten futures. Mediating between human experience and the environment, residents were encouraged to express and share their observations about landscapes’ temporalities and mobilities, and their spatial and cultural instabilities in the uncertain times in which we live.

LOCATION

Orkney is an archipelago of about 70 islands (16 inhabited) off the north coast of Scotland. The highly respected Pier Arts Centre is based in Stromness and curates a year round programme of changing exhibitions and events, and its permanent collection is a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland. Orkney is famed for its natural beauty, archaeological sites and its First and Second World War heritage. It contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe and the ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney’ is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Orkney also has an abundance of marine and avian wildlife, and the sea is almost always visible wherever you are located. Orkney is home to a significant number of artists, writers, musicians, archaeologists etc. and to University bases and a research campus that hosts Orkney’s wide range of energy and low-carbon expertise.

The Group Residency will be centred in the area of The Palace, Birsay, Orkney’s ancient capital, in the islands’ West Mainland. Birsay has sustained communities of Neolithic peoples, Picts, Vikings, and Scottish Royalty and today is home to a multi national community. Outstanding sites include prehistoric and Norse settlements on the tidal island of Brough of Birsay, and the ruins of the Earl’s Palace in the village.

FACILITATION

The residency will be lead by Tracy Mackenna, and Danica Maier.

Tracy Mackenna (Professor Emerita; SCO-IT) & Edwin Janssen (Dr; NL) are the founders and co-curators of The Museum of Loss and Renewal. Their collaborative art practice is a creative and discursive site where production, presentation, exchange, co-learning and research meet. Drawing is a core component of their artistic practice and is made public in the form of artworks, exhibitions, printed matter, books and journal chapters. Tracy & Edwin work with international partners to devise and present multifaceted exhibition projects that address issues of societal concern such as well-being, care, (personal)histories, (in)formal collections, land use / land futures, habitation and sustainability. Tracy and Edwin are highly experienced, award winning educators who have devised and lead multiple group learning projects situated within the international museum and gallery sector, and higher education. In her individual practice and research Tracy employs drawing, video, walking and writing as dialogical processes to activate playful, provocative and non-linear properties of language within visual art practice, giving new and refreshed voice to collaborators and subject-matters.

Danica Maier is an American artist and Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University (UK). Her research interests are in the un-repeating-repeat and the glitch and line, using subtle slippages and moments of detail to transgress propriety. Her work takes the form of drawing, installation, sound, music and 3D assemblages. Exploring dualities of material and site she explores ideas of expectations, traditional values and labour. Her publication Grafting Propriety: From Stitch to the Drawn Line was published by Black Dog Publishing Ltd (2016). She co-leads the No Telos research project which seeks to explore the journey of artistic process rather than that of outcome. Experience includes founder and coordinator of the artist residency programme Summer Lodge; workshop coordinator and tutor at London Printworks Trust and studio assistant at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia.
 

photography: Studio Niro

FACILITIES

Residents were accommodated at Linkshouse, the Pier Arts Centre’s residency facility that is a bequest from Barbara and Edgar Williamson, whose son artist Erlend Williamson drew inspiration from Orkney’s landscape and environment. Linkshouse is situated on the St Magnus Way pilgrimage route, on the Atlantic Ocean and amidst farmlands.

Linkshouse is fully equipped, and comprises twin and double bedrooms, one of which is partly accessible. Work spaces include ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ spaces.

The residency programme took place in Linkshouse and at sites of archaeological, cultural, historical and social significance in Orkney, accessible by foot and minibus.

PARTICIPANTS

Carla Angus

Lost Lands

My work examines personal but universal experience of belonging, loss and identity. From these kernels I work instinctively and responsively. My pieces are sensual, often made to be touched and examined close-up and/or be site specific. I am also moved to make pieces that draw the viewer in through an initial sense of play. I understand that past narratives always retain relevance to the present and my work embraces formal and informal heritage collections, historical buildings and more elusive qualities of personal and collective memory. I am instinctively draw to Deep Mapping as a process of research and production.

Trained as a theatre designer, I worked on drama and dance productions (UK) from 1991 to 2000. I was then co-director of The Creative Retreat, North Aberdeenshire. In 2022 I decided to return to study; I am currently a Contemporary Arts Practice MA student at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.

Catherine Fraser

Cicada Madness, mixed media, 22 x 30 cm

Catherine has painted professionally since 1983 with art studios in Victoria and the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, BC Canada. She has a love of nature, superimposing, and layering images, and plein air painting using watercolours, charcoal, pen and acrylic paints. Drawing and expanding drawing is a strong interest and practice. Catherine has exhibited in Canada, US and Europe. She has an interest in traveling and finding new venues to exhibit. Catherine’s work is inspired and informed by an interest in colour, design and exploring inner and outer sacred space with a strong narrative.

She has a BScN, University of Victoria, diploma Art Therapy British Columbia School of Art Therapy and Certificate in Fine Art From Vancouver Island School Of Art and divides her time between careers as an artist and an art therapist. In all aspects of her life she weaves threads of spirituality and creativity.

Caitlyn Maine

Caitlyn Holly Main is an artist and writer concerned with care, intimacy, notions of romance and consumption. Her practice is multidisciplinary, involving drawing, sculpture, text, printmaking and moving image, to form assemblages that are tenuous, fragile and densely layered. Her work is currently focused on disembodiment, emotional labour and desire through motifs of ghosts and food: a consideration of the allegorical entwinements of lust and hunger, with attention on states of longing.

Recent project include ‘catastrophe soup’ which was a publication and solo show produced at Peacock&the worm in November 2022, and ‘Rubbing Up Against the Edges of Experience’ a collaborative exhibition with Jake Shepherd. Caitlyn currently works at Grays’ School of Art, Aberdeen as a lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice. 

Justin McIntosh

Justin McIntosh is an artist, activist, and creative from Scottish and English lineages. His early life included very little formal education; outside of a structure he developed a deep curiosity about the world and a passion for learning and researching on his own. Feeling comfortable pursuing a diverse range of topics has led him to work in many creative fields including international film, television, radio, photojournalism, public relations and digital and new media.

Alongside his creative work he also has a strong interest in history, nature, mythology, culture, and the human struggle for justice and liberation. For the past decade he has explored technical practice and personal meditation through learning traditional gilding and has taken up a focused study of traditional iconography, natural pigments, and tempera painting under the iconographers Dmitri and Vladislav Andreyev. He currently makes his home in Cambridge, MA on the lands of the Naumkeag and Massachusetts people, USA.

Christine Stevens

Christine Stevens PhD is Director of Clay Studio, Nottingham, and is involved in arts-based social engagement work. She regards her practice as trans-disciplinary, informed by social sciences, and engaged in artistic enquiry and psychotherapy practitioner research.

She is Editor of The British Gestalt Journal and is a Gestalt therapist, supervisor, international trainer and writer. She is a member of the EAGT Research Committee, and Research Liaison officer for the IAAGT. She worked for 16 years on the faculty of the Doctorate in Psychotherapy programmes at Metanoia Institute, London.

Mark Stevens

The art teacher at secondary school discerned too much in a clay model I made, and after that I felt art was too revealing and I felt ashamed and unsafe. Later when travelling I wanted to capture the places I was seeing; and drawing was a way in to seeing what was really there for me. On a cycling trip round Europe I made drawings most days on Airmail paper, one for myself and one to post home to my parents, for them to know that I was still alright even though the post took 10 days.

My interest in perception threaded through my career as a GP, as part of diagnosis and understanding the patient’s perspective, as well as the system in which medicine operates. This has been augmented by my training in Gestalt psychotherapy, which invites a creative approach to framing processes being explored in a non-linear arena.

Antonia Thomas

I am an archaeologist based in Stromness, Orkney. My research explores the relationship between art and archaeology, using these as reference points from which to explore creative engagements across and beyond a range of different disciplines. I am fascinated by mark-making and inscription and have been analysing the neolithic carvings from the Ness of Brodgar for a number of years. This involves detailed drawings and photography, focussed practices which both inform my archaeological interpretations, and inspire my approach to the MA in Contemporary Art and Archaeology which I lead at Orkney UHI.

Sarah Tutt

Barrida, 2023. Charcoal on paper, 291 x 177 cm

My artistic practice spans thirty years that includes performance, writing and drawing. My original degree was in performance and visual arts and my drawing practice has grown out of this multi-disciplinary approach.

My practice leans towards devising processes/engagements/gatherings that result in drawing(s). I work with materials such as graphite, paper, clay, charcoal, the body, ice, soil and breath. I also make installations, performative works and films.

I completed an MA in 2021 and I am currently undertaking a PhD at Nottingham Trent University. My research is situated within the field of Expanded Drawing.

GROUP RESIDENCIES

INDIVIDUAL RESIDENCIES ITALY