Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Ignorant School Teacher

I was reminded of French philosopher Jaques Ranciere's book The Ignorant School Master during last week's drop in art session using clay. This book describes the emancipatory education of Joseph Jacotot, a post-Revolutionary philosopher of education who discovered that he could teach things that he himself did not know! After a first week of folk playing with the clay I was unnerved to see two or three of the group heading down the figurative route. I hadn't done any 3D figurative modelling since primary two when the teacher told me I was 'making' a very nice dog when infact I thought I was 'making' a very nice bird...

Perhaps since Duchamps Urinal in 1917 Art has been a contested practice. It may be that there is most agreement about the negative - what Art is not and hasn't been for a while. And that is representation. There is a broad (but not universal) consensus then,  that modelling from life as an end in itself is not-Art.

Fair enough, but that left me in a precarious position vis-a-vis my art group who were looking to me for to the Fine Art Library then on George IV Bridge to seek out some helpful 'working with clay' manuals.  Tentatively I started following instructions for a simple figure using six balls of clay. Quite quickly  however, I started thinking, or rather feeling yoga - one of my favourite poses - Upavistha Konasana to be precise.  I proceeded with pleasure, enjoying the process and content that the result, although rough, did communicate to me anyway, some of the tranquility of the pose.  

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

View From My Window

I've recently moved back to Inverkeithing after a fifty two year gap! This is part of the view out my window - a contour drawing without looking at the paper, which is a brilliant exercise in quieting the bossy side of the brain. In the background Arthur's Seat leads on to the Castle Hill, Blackford Hill and the Soutra Gap behind. Then on to the Pentlands, not all drawn, but I can see the whole range. Then in the middle ground Corstorphine Hill and Cramond Hill are a backdrop to tanker and tug in the Forth. The defunct paper mill chimney dominates the foreground, with Inverkeithing Bay behind. Rooftops of flats and houses lead me back to my window seat in a Glasgow style tenement built about one hundred years ago to house paper mill workers. Further right tucked in from view is the cemetry where all my grandparents are buried. If I chart a line from the cemetry through the flat and on to the north I come to my grandad's small holding where I moved too when I was three. All my cousins on both sides cherish memories of the smallholding and helping my grandad with his pigs, hens, bullocks and heifers.

There is a strong feeling of homecoming after a long journey.

In art there is a recurring tension between being nomadic and being settled, as I guess there is generally. I remember in the late 70's after I completed a mosaic mural with some children in Lerwick, Shetland, I pondered the possibility of becoming a wandering muralist, relying on the generosity and hospitality of residents in places I would end up. I wasn't brave enough to even try it...something I've mildly regretted over the years.

Now I find I have a strong sense of belonging in Inverkeithing. I ponder the possibility of artistic interventions without the discomfort of questioning my right to intervene 'in other people's business'.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Desire Lines

I met with Zoe Fothergill from Talbot Rice Gallery a couple of days ago. They are developing an 'off site' exhibition entitled Desire Lines for the first half of next year, and have commissioned six artists to create site specific works in and around the university. We are discussing the possibility of developing a project with a local nursery, where the children visit some of the works, then get the chance to make their own work inspired by what they have seen, and in doing so, chart their own desire line.