Monday, June 12, 2006
Rising To The Challenge
Not any old challenge, either! Vernon Sims, or arashi as he is known on his blog, challenged me to make something inspired by a picture on his blog. It shows a frieze from a Mayan temple in the Yucatan.
I've said before that I'm fascinated by the very concept of archaeology, much less its discoveries. It seems amazing to me that entire civilisations and ways of life can be reconstructed from very little. And I love looking at primitive art...not that much of it is really 'primitive'; most of it has a sophistication and a technical excellence that belies the word. But, of course, to produce something that looks and feels old (much less ancient), as an artist, I have to work the other way round from the methodology of an archaeologist. They have material fragments, and a theory. I have material, and an idea. The archaeologist builds up the theory round the fragments. I take the material, assemble it and then begin to disassemble it, distress it, and otherwise abuse it. Very gently, of course.
In the case of this piece, born of Vernon's photograph, layers of polycotton which had been dyed with procions and discharged, were stitched together with the kind of patterns that appear in the frieze, with more than a nod to the kind of Celtic patterns that decorate stones in my native Scotland. This piece is a fragment of a much bigger piece, torn off, distressed, overdyed with transfer dyes and finally painted with acrylic paints. Just like the archaeologist's theory, my work refers to a much earlier civilisation. Like the archaeologist, I use the materials available today to work in. And like the archaeologist, I hope that people seeing my work will be intruigued enough to wonder what it might have been like to be there, at that time...