Katie Anderson

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

Tag: Dumfries

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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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/

Tattiefields: Developments

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Experiments with concrete

Sandblasting and stencilling in the detailed work for the new pieces going to the tattiefields site next month.

The patterns reference the original landscaping design, the artwork locations and the wider map network that makes up the tattie map of the world! (With Lochside at the centre, of course).

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Special thanks to Alistair of Grit ‘n’ Polish, highly recommended for any shot blasting requirements you may have. The stencils pick out really delicate details, with sharp edges and great focus.

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The particularly beautiful surfaces of the concrete are in the casting, made by the extremely talented Billy Teasdale, caster-extraordinaire based in Govanhill who has put so much time and work into completing the pieces in time for the installation.

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Final surface preparations to go ahead of the grand unveiling, on Thursday 13th September.

Postcards from the Past

As part of one of my ongoing projects for the new DGRI hospital in Dumfries, I have been gathering collections of objects, with connections from across the region. From artist made objects, to found stones and pebbles from across the Solway’s beaches, forgotten tourist tat and old memories of Dumfries and Galloway past, to new visions of the region as viewed by young creative groups in Dumfries.

I first stumbled across old postcards on an extended eBay hunt, and have since become a bit of an avid collector. As it turns out the inscriptions on the back are every bit as exciting as the images on the front, however in the final installation, the inscriptions will be sadly hidden to keep the postcards safe and in good condition for the future, under glass. The earliest card is dated 12th August 1903, and the most recent ones from the 80s.

Here are some of my favourites before they become hidden in their new homes:

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‘Just here for the day – the weather isn’t too good.’

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‘Have enjoyed relaxing while it rained’

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‘I went down for a bath’

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‘one good turn deserves another’

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‘We are hoping to go to Stranraer before we come home.’

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Collections: Part One

As human beings, one of our more interesting traits is that of collecting, from the gradual process of gathering and selecting, through to our individual approaches of cataloguing, organising and eventually displaying. These can of course, be on a large scale, and done on behalf of communities and peoples, such as in museums, galleries, and shop fronts of many different kinds – and now the online purveyors of exactly-what-you-might-want-to-purchase-for-your-home, but the more interesting collections are those of the everyday, the individual collections of pebbles from the beach, mementos from previous holidays,fridge magnets, wine corks, postcards, pogs.

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This man apparently owns the worlds largest yo-yo collection, of over 6,000 yo-yos. Thanks internet.

We live in an interesting time, so overwhelmed by materialism and disposable culture, that I see the objects we chose to keep, collect, and save as imbued with an innate special-ness. These collections can come to represent us, to our friends and families, and to those who may find the collections after us, as representations of our place in this time. Even the smallest, and most insignificant of collections has a story to tell. Collections don’t need to be fashionable, they just have to be curious and loved. I’m slightly fascinated by the now highly unfashionable thimble collections, cases for which can be found in most charity shops, along with a large collection of mostly uninteresting thimbles from obscure British towns and faded seaside resorts.

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I’ve also held a long term curiosity about Cabinets of Curiosity, or Wunderkammer, (thank you University of Cumbria..), and collections that are neither ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, that have been gathered, grouped and collected in a manner inspiring and pleasing to the gatherer, creating an individual narrative rather than an accurate depiction of natural history etc.

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According to wikipedia*:  Ferrante Imperato’s Dell’Historia Naturale (Naples 1599), the earliest illustration of a natural history cabinet

But where is all this going? As part of an ongoing project I have started to assemble a collection of objects, made, found, gathered and bought, that will hopefully encourage a little closer examination, a little conversation, and a little curiosity as to their reasons for gathering and placing. I’ve also been working with artists from blueprint100, and students from the Dumfries and Galloway Art and Design courses to create some of the works for these collections which has been a really exciting sharing process. All the participating artists and students were invited to make objects that related to the region, and that were suitable, caring and mindful for a healthcare environment.

DSC_2196_lowres.jpgPewter cast object, by artist Agnė Zdanavičiūtė

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Slip cast conker from my studio collection
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Salt, gathered from the North Sea. Studio Collection

DSC_2203_lowres.jpgPewter cast key by artist Liam Templeton

It hasn’t stopped there. I’ve since been drawn back to eBay, madly collecting old, used postcards with curious snippets of tales on the back, cream pots and milk bottles, scrounging charity shops for old tourist tatt (whilst trying to avoid excessive mass produced plastics), my medal celebrating the last dip at the old Dumfries pool has gone in, as have other curios, pin badges, beach pebbles and seed heads.

The collections will be housed in bespoke designed cabinet-topped coffee tables, by Glasgow based design company, Dress for the Weather, and will hopefully be under production shortly.

If anyone has an old curiosities from the D&G area you’d like to see repurposed into a permanent artwork locally, from items of local history to tourist tat, please get in touch. I’d especially like to find some milk bottle tops – the kind that had the name of the area on them – or some pogs. Just because.

Mapping

After a hectic couple of weeks, a series of five wall murals have now been completed for the new Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, with huge thanks to painters Louise Todd and Kirstin McEwan for all their help. Each one is hand painted in colours complimenting the existing ward and departments palette.

The murals, which will form the backdrops for the main artworks to arrive in the New Year, have been placed in both A+E and Maternity, and are based on contour maps of various locations around Dumfries and Galloway, from Kirkcudbright, to Galloway, Annandale to Criffel – I’ve hopefully gotten a reasonable spread across such a large region, and happy with how they are looking.

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This project is part of Staying and Waiting, a commission by Dress for the Weather to create new artworks for the waiting areas around DGRI, with support from the Holywood Trust.

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