Sunday, 16 July 2017

Chris Otley AIR 2017

I have a long-held fascination with the 18th century anatomical drawings of George Stubbs. Their pristine and clinical presentation of isolated natural history specimens give no hint at all of the environmental conditions in which the artist presumably made his observations—the maggot-ridden horrors of farmyard barn turned dissection lab. My own drawings take on similar subject matter, but have been produced in a very clean, warm, dry and well-lit studio in the middle of Oxford. I was drawn to working at Outlandia to confront this distance between subject and outcome, and be embedded in a wilder setting.

The daily plod up the steep hillside to the field station treehouse was punctuated by stops to photograph the flora and fauna: fat-headed golden-ringed dragonflies; purple-pink foxgloves; the vibrant green of ferns putting out new growth; cuckoo-spit in the undergrowth; beetles; skittish small birds. On the first day, within minutes of arriving at the treehouse, I saw the brief flash of a red squirrel in a nearby tree (sadly not repeated). Bats have taken to roosting in the interior of the walls of the structure, and could be heard scrabbling about during the day.

Initially, I found it hard to settle. The view was fantastically distracting, and my decision to lock myself in isolation against inquisitive occasional visitors proved to have the opposite effect – about once an hour, people would aggressively try to force the door or shake the structure as much as they could (later in the week, leaving the door ajar led to brief, polite interruptions from walkers every couple of hours, their curiosity quickly satisfied and the conversation increasingly welcomed). I also felt under pressure to deliver exciting or unusual work, and to experiment more than my usual practice tends to encourage, and this resulted in a series of quickly-abandoned pieces with underdeveloped (or simply bad) ideas. I became frustrated at my own impatience, and despite the anonymity of the residency, felt constricted by a perceived need to publically perform. I retreated to research reading, making notes, and planning larger drawings in sketch form. Now, with distance, those abandoned experiments already look more satisfying, and I will definitely return to resolve them back at my own studio in Oxford.

I eventually settled back into drawing beached jellyfish, which I’ve been focusing on in recent weeks. There seemed something wonderfully perverse about drawing this subject matter high up in the glen, and I began to find local, craggy, geological forms in their twisting jellies as I drew. I then spent an afternoon photographing an array of mushrooms and toadstools (the jellyfish of the forest?) in the surrounding woodland, including the scrambled-egg bright-yellow of a slime mold known as fuligo septica, known in Scandinavia as the vomit of troll cats, and in Finland, said to be used by witches: rich material for later work.

Outlandia was at its best when it poured with rain; the skylight became a diffuse James Turrell installation, and mist poured off Ben Nevis down into the treeline, turning the woodland into an even more atmospheric setting. The week was challenging and inspiring, and reinvigorated by the experience, I’m now excited to develop the ideas and sketches stimulated by such a unique environment.  
All photography by Chris Otley

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Lasma Poisa AIR 2017

Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, I used my time at Outlandia to explore the idea of getting lost as a cultural and psychological metaphor; of losing oneself, of loss and longing. Because of its remote location and the distance from home, Outlandia held the potential of losing oneself in the wilderness. 

Each day, planned in accordance with the weather forecast, I made the two hour round journey to and from Outlandia; time I used for observation, exploration and creativity. I made countless stops to record my findings, each time searching through my enormous rucksack filled with essential equipment for that day. I made journeys into the woodland in and around Outlandia and the neighbouring Cow Hill. During this time I created a wealth of source material (photographs, sound recordings and videos) to be processed later on my return to my Manchester studio. 

I picked the brightest day to experiment with off-grid cyanotype printing, which, simple in theory, turned out to be more challenging than expected; carrying heavy 2lt bottles filled with mountain stream water up the very steep Peat Track, building ad-hoc darkroom due to unforeseen skylight and then balancing the chemical reaction of the ever changing sunlight.  Eventually I managed to create a series of prints and cyanotype postcards of Outlandia that I sent out the following day.

I realise now that the work I created in my residency is about Outlandia; it is about the fantasy of withdrawing from society, the longing for wilderness and about finding somewhere to disappear.

‘For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that colour of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen form here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.’
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2005) pp. 29-30.

All images by Lasma Poisa

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

8 x artist residencies offered at Outlandia, Glen Nevis, Scotland in 2017

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN), mapping the Visual Arts goes live. Creative Scotland have today published their full Visual Arts Sector Review. You can read the full document and appendixes on Creative Scotland’s website here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Holly Muir–AIR 2016

"My week in Outlandia was more challenging than I expected, but as rewarding as I had hoped. I spent each day there reading, writing and sketching to develop ideas for my installation, the construction of which will begin this month. I began by gathering knowledge about the social history and iconic visuals of Glen Nevis, researching various ideas about wilderness and what it means for cultural identity. I soon felt overwhelmed by the situation I had put myself in. How could I succinctly capture the essence of this beautiful and complex location, a place that I had naively expected to have little human history? My answer was to frame the work around my personal experience and imaginings of the area. I have decided that my installation is going to take the form of a wooden diorama, similar to something you might find in a Natural History Museum. The subject of the scene is the idea of rewilding; the diorama proposes a historical event in which the Glen has been rewilded with Scottish Picts. It will consist of a wooden frieze - depicting a landscape sourced from my photographs and film footage taken during the residency - which provides a backdrop for two figurative sculptures that are dressed in hand-made costumes. It will be a playful work, but should provoke thoughts about real issues within the Scottish landscape. I found Outlandia an incredibly peaceful and inspiring environment and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work there."

Holly Muir is an artist who uses historical and fictional narratives as a basis for timber installations, which also often include textiles, figurative painting and printing. She is interested in romantic tropes, mass-media imagery and notions of authenticity. Holly also designs stage sets.

All images courtesy the artist

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Exhibition in the Window, Caol, Fort William

Stories from the Glen

[wish] [miann] brings together the work of two Lochaber based artists, Jen Deschenes and Ali Berardelli who have created a series of images and text in response to time spent in Glen Nevis at the artist’s treehouse, Outlandia. Exploring local folklore and examining historical objects synonymous with the area Jen and Ali have created a pictorial epitaph representing people and their stories alongside charms and votives used in the past as methods of protection. The exhibition has been showing in the Window, Caol, and is transferring to the West Highland Museum, March–May 2016.

Jen Deschenes and Ali Berardelli are both graduates from Glasgow School of Art and for the two friends this is their first formal collaboration.

Jen was born and brought up in the Shetland Isles and now lives in Spean Bridge. Jen creates sculptural work based on her origins as a textile artist using screen printing, embroidery, and drawing. Storytelling has been at the core of her work and she has a love of exploring new materials and resolving her designs with a variety of mediums.  Ali Berardelli has always lived in Fort William and she is greatly influenced by the community around her and nature and the stories embedded within it.  Ali has been coordinating art projects for many years within Lochaber and alongside this has continued her practice in drawing, collage, photography and typography.

All images courtesy of the artists

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Bethan Maddocks–AIR 2015

It is the penultimate day of the residency so perhaps it is apt that this morning was spent talking about goodbyes and loss. I am surrounded by mountains everywhere and this landscape makes me think of my father who was a keen mountaineer and died 15 years ago. It makes me wonder of how much these mountains have seen, how many passings, how much change over the millennia and epochs since they were born and shaped out of ice and fire.
This landscape is poetic and Outlandia is a place of solitude but not loneliness, a place of contemplation and connection. [Extracted from Bethan Maddocks' web site.] 
Read more here.

All images courtesy the artist