Northern Inspiration

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I have just returned from 2 weeks in Caithness at North Lands Creative Glass where I attended a master class with artist, Helen Maurer, who was assisted by photographers Ross Fraser McLean and Angus Mackay. There were 9 participants, artists from the UK, Australia and South Africa, and over the course of 6 days we collaborated to explore the landscape of Caithness using glass, mirror, balloons, projected light, smoke bombs and other media, using these things to create our own personal film and still images.

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Photo by Angus Mackay

This is one of my images featuring a cast glass peregrine skull and bird bones from Skokholm Island which I cast in bronze and took along with me.

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We also had half a day in the hot shop ably assisted by James Maskrey who obligingly poured molten glass into ice and onto vegetation to create steam, smoke and ghosted images we could use in our work.

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Here James is pouring dyed water into a red hot blown bowl.

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Projection through seaweed.

The value of this is in a freshness of approach and freedom of thought which we each take back to our practices in our different corners of the world. It was refreshing not to be necessarily making objects/artwork, but to be feeding our creativity. We gelled as a group and all left feeling incredibly enriched and nurtured by the experience and full of ideas for future collaborations. For many of us it was a unique opportunity to take space out of making work, making a living, or teaching and a chance to feed our own process.

Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento
Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento

Alongside our masterclass was a class lead by Petr Stanicky, an amazing Czech sculptor. Jeff Sarmiento and his other students made interventions in the landscape which were inventive and daring.

Following on from the master classes was the annual North Lands Conference, which this year was on the theme of ‘The Place, the Work’. There was an innovative programme looking at the importance of place in artwork. Joy Sleeman, Reader at Slade began with a fascinating talk about British Land Art in the 1960’s and 70s. Beginning with film footage of the moon landing, it was a great way of contextualizing contemporary Land Art practice. It was particularly resonant for me to see a slide of Robert Smithson at Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic Monument close to where I live!

Other speakers included the masterclass leaders, Helen Maurer, Petr Stanicky, Richard William Wheater and Kristina Usler, each of whom was selected for their engagement with Place in their practice, and each of whom spoke eloquently about their work. Sven Hauscher spoke about the Coburg Prize and glass exhibition in Germany, and artist, Lisa Autogena, talked about her mind-blowing art/science projects in the course of which she takes on Nasa, The Stock Exchange and Reuters to name but a few…I love her commitment and her enthusiasm in confronting, subverting and utilizing the energy of Power.

All the artists who spoke were inspirational in their fearless attitude to making their work. I am reeling from the intensity of the whole experience and will take several years to process. I have come back super-sensitized to my own environment and have already begun to work with new ideas here in Wales.

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