Katie Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Category: Uncategorized

The Art of Sign Writing

At the end of last year, I took part in a series of workshops that laid the foundations for the Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad, a fledgling team based in the town with a collective love of the hand painted word. (Follow us on instagram, here)

My interest in hand lettering and sign painting has been developing over a period of about four years; it grew from a collective ambition within the Stove Network to impact on, and start a visual communication with, the High Street.

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Taking the time, taking care and learning the basics of a beautifully sophisticated craft, allows us to change the look, and then the feel and the attitude towards our town centre space. It set’s us apart from the chains and larger businesses, allows us to act playfully, quickly, responsive to new ideas and changing seasons, and to ‘refresh’ as often as we like.

As an artist working predominantly in object based or installation practice, this element of two dimensional craft/skill fit’s into a sort of awkward space with my other work, but the physical act of making/painting has a lot of similarities, and the end goal – to interact with the space and those who pass by, live and frequent the space. This is a craft that is built on a long-learned skill set, and once you begin you only continue to realise what you do not yet know.

The more you look the more you learn.

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The first signs we made were provocations – questions, hints, instructions, demands – that broke with the generally accepted language of signs into an ‘other’ category, this is not a shop called ‘in//between’, or a cafe called ‘DOWNTURN?’, a hidden sign in plain view that instructs the reader to ‘play’ in the close, ‘blether’ outside the vacant building or ‘laugh’ by the flowerpot – these signs are outwith the rules we expect our public spaces to play by.

However, increasingly the signs I take on look less like ‘art’ signs, and more in the vein of traditional signs – signs that communicate the business, indicate to open the door, cafe menus or opening times. These might look to muddy the waters of ‘signs as art’, but form an interesting example of where the artist can begin to infiltrate the language of the town centre – next level in. By opening up the invitation to work alongside business owners, we allow the dialogue about the visual language of our town centres to grow.

Many businesses aspire towards an ethos of care, quality and distinctive identity that is easily lost amongst the faster paced design and print options available, particularly when so many businesses are working to tight budgets. By creating opportunities for artists to work directly for businesses in this way, we can look to gradually impact the town centre, in collaboration with other users in a much more homegrown and grass roots approach. In other countries across Europe, many town centres have retained an identity, a sense of independence and unique offer provided by the local businesses, that is less apparent in many parts of Scotland.

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The further I delve into the world of sign writing and lettering art, the more it becomes clear that my ambition is not to become a full bells-and-whistles sign writer: the level of skill required, the depth of knowledge of design, both digital and by hand, and the finesse of detail goes beyond my level of interest. But by introducing the hand lettered approach, I hope to create more space for the dialogue to begin.

Dumfries already has a vast collection of A-frames and temporary signs vying for space of the High Street, ranging from the beautifully considered to barely legible scribbles, and the competition for blackboard space continues – I’d definitely love to see some more hand painted signs appearing about the town.

 

Art in Public [Space]

The label public art brings out a wide range of responses from people. Large scale commemorative bronze statues of colonial figures come to mind for many, gentrification and urban development art-washing, permanence, concrete elephants, community murals and ideas set in stone. It’s still deeply unfashionable within the art community, having met lots of people who give surprised looks at any genuine interest in the subject.

There is enough cause for much of this – there is plenty of ill-conceived art dotted about the place, without care and attention this is an area that can grow anything from apathy to division, alienating people from their environments.

But enough of the negativity – public art also has the ability to allow people to impact on their surroundings, have a say in how space is used, take back control and question for who and what are public spaces designed?

I began a series of open ended conversations, with a variety of interesting people working across art in public space in a variety of ways. Common topics started to emerge: environmental art, land art, art and healthcare, climate change, playful approaches to public art, residencies, outsider art, community art, David Harding and the Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art course, the Artist Placement Group, the Scottish Town Artists, architecture, education, contemporary land issues, collaboration, instagram and permission.

Conversations were held in artists studios, out in the landscape, in busy coffee shops and quiet offices. Although some similarities appeared, each conversation was unique, reflecting the broad approach of artists, architects and designers to the subject. Permanence falters, but isn’t lost. The identity of the artist blurs, but doesn’t entirely vanish. The support networks to make new work happen continue to change and adapt with the current climates.

As the project developed, we continued to add more voices, in the form of open platform discussions, and an artists booth on the High Street asking Who is it For? Who Decides?

Hopefully, this is just the beginning. You can hear some of the recorded conversations online, Part One here and Part Two here. You can download our map or permanent art works in Dumfries here. And read more about the project here.

Special thank you to everyone who participated and joined in the conversation, and to all the artists who were willing to be recorded for the project. All image credits to Kirstin McEwan.

Art in Public [Space]

I’ve spent the past two months, curating/creating a new exhibition exploring art in public in all of it’s different forms. The exhibition runs for just a week in The Stove, but forms part of a month of activity, including film screenings, discussions and pop up events in the town centre.

The exhibition comprises of a sound installation, featuring extracts of conversation with seven different creative people who are approaching art in public space in very different manners, from architects to sign lettering artists, environmental artists to sculptors and discussing everything from performance, the history of public art, community art, the inspirations and challenges behind making work within a public realm.

We’ve also produced a map of permanent artworks in the town centre which you can pick up from the Stove.

Special thanks to everyone who took the time to have a conversation with me.

Join in! Check out www.thestove.org/events for further details. #ArtInPublicSpace #ConversingBuilding
This is part of A Year of Conversation, a series of events and conversations happening across Scotland in 2019. Find out more online #AYOC2019.

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Artist Residency: Cove Park 2

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Sound Out

Artist residencies are interesting for their different-ness – few residencies seem to be the same -, but there is something incredible about the intensive nature and approach which they allow for. The luxury of time with no other distractions, responsibilities or guilts – if you can hold these at bay – is a really changing experience for getting in deep with your work. The days stretch out long, and progress meanders between productivity and procrastination, but all edging towards the heart of the work itself. They can feel extremely self-indulgent as the everyday can be thoroughly neglected, and new and unusual routines emerge quickly focused around the act of making, or sometimes the act of avoiding the work. This is all healthy and productive. Taking a walk can be really the most useful thing you can do.

That being said, this was not a gentle paced residency in lots of ways. I arrived with a long list and set of goals to reach during my seven day stint, and I largely stuck to it. I allowed the location – the place – to seep into the work, to influence, settle and change again my relationship with the work in progress.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

The piece I have been developing, Sound Horn, is a sculptural and sound installation comprised of a six speaker surround sound system, that plays through a series of large horn-like sculptures that sprout from the ground. The work looks to encourage audiences to playfully explore the site in which it is installed, for the site where it is installed ultimately shapes the nature of the work. With each site tested or explored using the Sound Horns, the work hones in a little in my understanding of it. The installation sings, reverberating a tune of it’s own making that fills the space and reaches out as it travels. An immersive meditation on the audible place, the subtle changes in tone as audience and sound move around the space, it’s come on leaps and bounds this week.

During the residency, I was able to install the work twice in two different locations, the first very poetically beautiful and almost ornate – around the frog pond, an exposed and open environment, but somehow still with a hint of the domestic. The audience for this first installation comprising of two curious highland cattle. The second, in a small section of woodland just away from the track, involving the stepping away from the path, over the ditch and through the branches felt a little more involved, and was shared with the other artists on residence with me at the time (thank you all!).

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Now, You Have Arrived

I set myself some interesting challenges for the week, to push my own comfort zones, to learn some new digital skills and to familiarise myself further with the work and the way it responds to the place. I developed three new sound sketches for the installation, all created using recordings at Cove Park including vocal arrangements and field recordings. Having lived with quite a long time fear of sharing my voice in the work, this has felt like a big step, however I’m keeping the audio under wraps for now.

It was also very exciting to meet other artists on the programme, hear about their passions and current projects, exchange thoughts and opinions and hear about their daily developments, and our collective quest to gather the best recordings of the frogs. I’ve learned a lot already from the conversations and really look forward to seeing how the works all develop, and where the Cove influences appear.

Don’t get too comfortable.

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I was spending a week at Cove Park as part of the Cryptic Artists Residency, developing the work Sound Horn. Originally conceived as an idea with sound artist Justin Prim, I’m now taking the piece forwards for a new installation in 2019.

Special thank you to the Cryptic team for an amazing opportunity, and to the Cove Park team for their warm welcome and beautiful location to be based in for the week.

Artist Residency: Cove Park 1

Day One:        Settling and Acclimatising

Adjusting to the general shock of arriving in a place so beautiful and not nearly as remote as you might think.
The soundtrack is provided by frogs.

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Day Two:        The Light Fittings are Shaking

Ok, that only happened once. But clearly Sound Horn prefers to be out of doors. The studio is beginning to sing. The frogs are still accompanying.

The guy on the Ableton tutorial videos is my new best friend. I may need to credit him in the final work. The scale of hardware and software issues combined is becoming more apparent.

I walk down to the shoreline and listen. Aware that I’m growing a new awareness for the sonic environment around me. Everything hums, everything makes noise. The rural is layered by sounds of traffic, boats, cars, farm vehicles, occasional overhead planes.

First steps feel tentative and cautious.

The nearest internet spot is at the top of the hill, so I begin a route between the cube for snacks, kettle breaks and frog watching, the internet at the top of the hill for advice and more tutorials, the studio to test the advice and find new questions to head back up the hill with.

The walking balances out my screen time, I hope.

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The view from my studio window, no really!

Day Three:     Screen Time

Beginning to sketch out ideas to push the abilities of the sound in the piece, using the installation to create, hide and share the surrounding environment. As a physical-maker/sculptor – my role in this digital world is a slightly less obvious one, as I navigate slowly and awkwardly towards an ephemeral goal.

Step beyond my own fear and start to record my voice. And listen to it. Over and over until it slowly stops being mine. This cycle is starting to feel a bit witchy, and I am inspired by both an earlier vocal workshop with Hannah Tuulikki at the end of last year, and the incredible installation Tremble Tremble by Irish artist Jesse Jones, that I was fortunate to catch at the Talbot Rice.

In the evenings, the other Cryptic artists are beginning to congregate at the top of the hill. The advantage of a large kitchen, well stocked library and the lure of the internet pulls strong. There are some exciting projects emerging from the various spaces around Cove Park!

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Scotland, in February

Day Four:       Cycles and Sketches

Assembling a series of ‘sketches’, towards a cycle of pieces that can play through the Sound Horn installation. Whether each of these will stay as the piece progresses is less obvious, but the process is becoming more enjoyable as I embrace the intuitive.

I’m making lists of next steps, bigger questions and attempting to map out both the sound and the installation itself.

The progression of the work from recording through to headphones, to the six speaker layout and on to the outdoors makes it apparent how much the sound changes through each section. It’s time to step do some testing. I scout out over lunch and hope the weather will hold for the next few days.

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I am spending a week at Cove Park as part of the Cryptic Artists Residency, developing the work Sound Horn. Originally conceived as an idea with sound artist Justin Prim, I’m now taking the piece forwards for a new installation in 2019.

Special thank you to the Cryptic team for an amazing opportunity, and to the Cove Park team for their warm welcome and beautiful location to be based in for the week.

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Creative Practice as a means of Problem Solving

I was recently asked to give a talk about starting out an art practice in Dumfries and Galloway, to a group of young artists – blueprint100 at the Stove. I’ve learned to avoid these experiences as I am usually far more coherent when written down than when speaking in front of an audience.. but the timing seemed good. Having just completed four major commissions in the past two years, and been living the full time artist dream for six years, I took the talk as an opportunity to reflect and gather my thoughts on the past few whirlwind years.

Since art school, I have kept to the idea that I will not focus on one material or craft, but on applying the right approach to each project as it appears. That said, I have a strong connection to process and material – although many of my projects are more ephemeral in content, I always yearn to include a method, a craft or skill, a process of making, into my work. This can be communal, collective or on my own, or all of these.

In the quest to understand my own directions, I have become increasingly focused on the idea of creative practice as a means of problem solving; that artists and creative people can apply an open approach, a methodology, a sensitivity and awareness towards challenges and difficult concepts that can open up alternative ways of thinking and tackling problems. Not that artists can solve all your problems, but can be part of a wider social dialogue to open up alternatives. What does that mean? What does it look like?

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PARKing Space. Collaborative project with The Stove Network in October 2014 including work from Mark Lyken and Emma Dove, Mutual Motion, John Wallace and Colin Tennant, Alice Francis, Open Jar Collective and many more besides!

For me it looks like a lot of different things. Each of them as much a part of my practice as the others, although some of them not traditionally seen as ‘art’. (No surprises there then!) I decided to try and map my practice. That map currently looks a bit like this:

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The web could be knitted a bit tighter, but for simplicity this will stand. Collective working runs through all of this, I talk about this a lot at other points, but for now, when I talk about my practice – I mean both collective and individual working. (And rarely is any of my work truly ‘individual’ – everything we do is built upon networks and  communities.)

The different elements of my work are now starting to fall into two predominant categories: Process and Narrative, and Curation and Gathering.

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Collaborative project with The Stove Network in September 2014 (a vintage year), featuring spoons created by Uula Jero and I, jam and charcoal workshops with Phoebe Marshall, spoon effigies, Alice Francis’ long distance ride, and the Secret Ministry amongst others.

Process and Narrative

My love of process and making is born out of a compulsion to fidget, model, construct – to figure out and learn through forming and deconstructing. Process is not just something I do alone in the studio though, process also plays a strong role in any collective or communal working – as a means to keep hands busy, to draw in, to create pause and gathering for people to share, learn and exchange over. None of this is abstracted. All process is about forming a narrative – about the places we occupy, about our current situation and environments. It draws ideas and methods from the past and present, and allows us to re-write them in the present and the future.

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Tattiefields collaborative project with The Stove Network and Lochside community in 2017.

Curation and Gathering

This is making, but on a bigger scale. Making space for, or creating place – place-making if you like – for people to gather and spend time. Creating activity and energy in a space allows us to work collectively with a much larger group of people, it opens up the invitation to interact to a wider audience and creates the space for change to happen within, and beyond. Taking the time to consider how we interact and move around spaces, considering the invitation, the entrance, the flow of people and activity. This is the part where I am most regularly asked, ‘but how is your real artwork doing?’ This is the real artwork. I create this with the same authenticity, the same drive and focus and consideration as I create all of my artworks. This is just focused on allowing the best opportunity for people to connect. This is my artistic contribution to a wider collaborative project.

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Tattiefields launch in September 2018, contributions from others at this event included art workshops with Design by Zag and James and Susheila, Spud poem by Stuart Paterson, and tattie soup from the Lochside Grub Club

As usual, nothing is fixed, and nothing is permanent. But as a means of focus and direction going forward, this brings some of the huge complexities and variations in my otherwise seemingly scattered practice together into some kind of cohesive whole. One of my big challenges at the moment is to find a way to bring some of this clarity into the outward presentation of my practice – in the form of artist statement and portfolio. It’s a bit of an immense load to try and neatly package into something that can clearly share the interests and direction of my work to potential new collaborators and communities.

Artists Talk

Coming Up…

Next Tuesday, 22nd January I will be giving an artist talk to blueprint100, an organisation led by young creative people in Dumfries, creating activity and promoting the work of other young creative types.

The event is open to everyone, but if you are over thirty, consider bringing someone under thirty with you!

It kicks off just after 5.30pm. I will be, “sharing some of her previous projects and experiences as an emerging artist based in the area, offering up questions, and suggesting different approaches as to what might be involved in ‘being an artist’.”

Full details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/753404465028484/

Mapping Time

It’s been a busy few weeks in the studio, finishing the last of three major commissions for the new hospital in Dumfries. This last project, is the most immersive of the set, due for both A+E and the Maternity departments. The base layer, the ground coat if you like, was applied directly to the walls in November 2017 and are familiar to anyone who is a regular user of these spaces.

These are a series of maps

a series of scales,

mapping variations of scale in place.

Land

Tree

Human

The scales of the infinite.

This final work – as yet untitled – shares an illustrative approach to a series of maps; of places through a contour maps, of trees through the mapping of tree rings, and of people, through chromosome mapping of the human genome, layers of a place and depth of being. As a playful abstraction of data, they are all open to (mis-) interpretation, and I hope they will be in situ soon for you to experience.

Each piece has been hand painted and features 52 colours, with additional mark making and lines drawing using pyrography – etching the marks in using a burning pen. There are seven in total, headed to five different waiting rooms throughout the new hospital, so keep your eyes peeled!

The contour maps on which the circular maps will eventually be displayed.

The Stories of Our Places are Hidden in the Collections We Make

Regular, or even occasional visitors to the Dumfries Hospital may have noticed a new addition in the ward areas in the past month. I was delighted to finally see the DGRI Collection Tables installed, following their completion by fabricators at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios (thanks Dave and Martyn). If you are about visiting an ill friend or relative, or are perhaps spending some time there yourself, have a look for the socialisation spaces in each ward, as nine of these contain one of our tables. There are also bonus points for anyone who spots the two tables out at Moffat and Stranraer community hospitals.

These are one of three commissions which I have been developing over the past two years for the new hospital, and comprises of a series of 11 coffee tables (nine of which are in the DGRI), filled with individual collections, filled with objects, found and gathered, and made specifically for the project.

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One of the tables in situ amongst a collection of odd NHS furniture and thank you cards

For this project I have worked with students from HNC and HND art classes at the Dumfries College, and young artists as part of blueprint100’s open workshops at the Stove. Students and artists were invited to create an object that reflected ideas of health and wellbeing, that could be a positive message for someone to spot whilst spending time staying in the hospital, or that reflected their experiences in Dumfries and Galloway. The found objects are a mixture of natural materials gathered from around the region, old postcards and curiosities linked to places around the region. We then hosted casting sessions in the Dock Park and outside in the College grounds making their objects in pewter.

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Inspiration from the Viking Hoard found in Galloway, during workshops with DG College students

I was really touched by the thoughtful and considerate approach students and artists made towards the project, and the love and care each person put into their objects. The concept of giving a gift of a positive message, or moment of distraction to a stranger who might be spending extended time in the hospital struck a serious chord with many of those participating. The generosity and creativity of everyone involved was very humbling, and a treasured part of the project.

The furniture itself was designed by Dress for the Weather and made by the GSS team from a coloured MDF material valchromat, which takes on a lovely soft and tactile finish when the medical varnish, Steriguard is applied to it.

The lettering in the casing is all hand painted, a copperplate font at a miniscule 12mm letter height, and will be etched on my brain forever.

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What is of real significance in projects like these however, is a more complex notion of ownership and association. Often, a little ‘community engagement’ is sought at the beginning of such large projects. ‘Could you just run a workshop with some key stakeholders to involve them in the project?’ This can be a great starting point. But the notions that this is the beginning, middle and end of ‘community’ involvement undermines the investment, and care of all of those involved. Whoever the community might be, in this case from staff and daily users, to patients, family and friends, and the wider community – almost all of whom will use these public spaces at various points in their life, to offer a tokenistic approach towards involving other people is insensitive and in the longterm, entirely un-useful to artworks.

Community engagement is not an afterthought.

For me as an artist, whenever I involve others in my work, by invitation, direct collaborative working, conversations in passing, or any other form, these people are then welcome to be a part of the ‘artist’ role, they too are invited to have a share of the ownership of the work, and to share in the journey of the works life. This is of course, not a requirement, but is open as a means of us creating a more meaningful artwork collectively.

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Token inspired by the histories of Lincluden and Lochside, created by Jimmy Russell

Over 60 people contributed unique works for the DGRI collection cabinets. I hope that everyone who has contributed a piece to the collection cabinets will have the chance to seek out their own contributions within the hospital, and share their individual stories. The tables hope to be there for the foreseeable future as a record of our moment of shared collaborative practice.

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Installation in progress

Ours is a transient community. But it would be disingenuous to claim credit for anyone else within this. I’m still hoping to get some form of permanent marking to tell the stories of those involved in contributing to the project, although unfortunately I don’t have a complete list of names.

Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to the work, without you all it wouldn’t have been the success it has become.

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Stag’s head by Isla Gracie

Special thanks to Jo Shennan, who leads the art courses at DG College. Thanks also to the blueprint100 team, and Matthew and Sophie for their support with leading the workshops, and the Stove for ongoing use of the Pedal Powered Foundry.

Tattiefields: Reflections

I’ve been out of habit of reflecting on work, due largely to having taken on a little too much the past two years or thereabouts. With Tattiefields having been finally installed and launched last month, I have finally had the opportunity to consider the project as a whole. Here are the first considerations:

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The process of leaving a work

I don’t enter into making work half-heartedly. Works have to spend long periods of time being mulled over in my mind and on paper long before they become communicable, never mind entering the physical world, and even then, they do so tentatively, and through a form of extended internal discussion around process and material.

Tattiefields began as a work for me in November 2016 – although the site and back story existed long before – and over the course of two years the work has lived with me more or less constantly, before arriving on site in September this year to begin it’s life ‘on site’. The production phase lasted near enough nine months, with various intensive periods interspersed by periods of waiting, and slow pace.

By comparison, the installation was a whirlwind of movement, change and finality as at the end of the day, we were required to pack up and go home, leaving the works to grow their evening shadows across the park.

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

In the run up to the final installation – a date which was unsettled and ever moving during the summer, I mused over the act of leaving a work in a place. The Tattiefields sculptures, which are intended to be permanent additions to the site, are hoped to settle into the place, to become part of the landscaping and surrounding area.

A public artwork, has certain aspects of gift-giving attached, in that I was spending large portions of time considering, and creating with the intention of then placing it within a location to develop a new, and somewhat independent relationship with the other residents of the location. But it was also unlike traditional gift giving, I was aspiring for associations of gift not to be primarily about value, or necessarily a relationship with artist and reciever, but about creating a relationship between artwork and receiver – in this case, residents of the place and the objects themselves.1

The work is also intrinsically a part of me. I have grown with the work, and developed new interests and approaches as a consequence of the project, (as well as having earned the title Princess Tattie, Tattie Lady etc.) To leave ‘casually’ the work to the elements and the place has imprinted the work into my memory. I check back regularly, driving a circular route around the site, and pausing to touch and check each element of the work.

It is settling in already.

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Image credit: Galina Walls

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Following the conclusion of this project I’ve been left with the sense that Public Art is a series of relationships between

the artist – and the artwork

the artist – and other makers and contributors – and artwork

the artist – and place – and artwork

the artist – and residents – and artwork

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Image credit: Galina Walls

Each of these relationships forms a new network that informs the work, and our on-going understanding of the place. In this way, it is not possible to claim exact authorship, even with a project that has been heavily developed independently, as each of the relationships created has grown the project in new ways.

Many of these were built through chance encounters, casual conversations with neighbours and the generosity of local residents who gave their time and efforts to support the projects development.

The relationship with other makers and contributors was a new one for me personally, as the first project where I have worked extensively with others to create an artwork. The process has been intensely rewarding and humbling, and I have so appreciated the calm, patient and sharing nature of each of these contributors.

Creating works like these draws some interesting questions about the balance between authorship and ownership. The authorship I explain a little bit more about in an earlier blog2, the ownership in that for these works to be truly successful, the ownership cannot be solely with the artist or client – in this case the housing partnership who officially ‘own’ the works. For an artwork to truly belong to a space they also need to belong to the people who occupy and reside within and surrounding the space. Each of the houses immediate to the site overlook the work, and hopefully as they become part of the place, the residents too can feel a sense of ownership towards them.

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Becoming ‘Resident’

At a recent workshop I led collectively as part of an interior architecture course, I asked the question ‘what does it mean to be resident of a place?’ How do we ‘reside’ I, or occupy place? In the development of the Tattiefields site this has been one of my on-going questions. The sculpture too will become a resident of the place, but this also asks a bigger question of us as people, and as citizens of a place, to reside are you also an active citizen, or is being resident a passive role?

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

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Public art and the monument

In many ways, this is the stereotype of public art – monuments in places (‘what do you think it’s going to be?’ ‘A giant tattie, for sure.’). In a certain way, Tattiefields is a monument, albeit to a vegetable rather than a historical figure, but it also seeks to determine an alternative approach to permanent public artworks. One that plays a close relationship with the place and the people, whilst also drawing out the less well known narratives of a place, celebrating the everyday and commemorating unique memories and identities of the places we live in. It’s all a question of scale.

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

 

1                For more on gift giving, have a look at Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, a book I have never yet finished but has influenced my thinking about gift giving.

2                https://katiejanderson.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/international-technician-day-everyday/