Jonathan Owen purveys en electrical questioning of ideas of permanence and power – the attributes so often associated with the 18th and 19th century marble sculptures that are his favoured raw material. Like Cornelia Parker, he uses ‘found’ objects as a sculptural starting point and enjoys the inherent history of the original object. It offers a way of working that seems especially relevant in the present moment when the conversation around public monuments is being so vigorously re-phrased and reassessed. As Jon says in the short film published today to mark part 50 of The Unseen Masterpiece of the sculpture he has been working on most recently – “it was an object made to project a fixed, singular world view. My intervention is an attempt to subvert and puncture this familiar defunct rhetoric, to re-activate the object through transformation rather than destruction, to make a new proposition”.
This film documents the carving that was underway in his Edinburgh workshop before lockdown began and also introduces a new group of ‘eraser drawings’ that he has been working on at home over the past few months. Like his sculptures, this is essentially a reductive process, a kind of two-dimensional carving of old photos from books – working backwards from blacks through greys to white, gradually removing ink from the surface of the page. The first of these, made some years ago, concentrated on removing sculptures from their plinths, but his most recent series have focussed on images from the history of cinema, erasing the foreground figures of Hollywood stars, and reshaping them into inanimate details of the scenes they once inhabited.
Ingleby Gallery, 33 Barony Street, Edinburgh EH3 6NX
Opening times:Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the gallery is closed until further notice.
Hello Martha, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I grew up near Loch Lomond and moved to Glasgow for university when I was 18. Moving from the countryside, I was enthralled by Glasgow’s distinctive character, warm energy and dynamic creative scene. Glasgow was my home for over 10 years before moving to London in 2015. I always thought London would be temporary thing, but after almost 5 years I’ve really grown to love the place. South-East London is my stomping ground. I’m now currently in the midst of relocating to Edinburgh. I’ve never lived in Edinburgh before but its a city that I’ve always wanted to know better. I’m really looking forward to becoming a Leith local.
When did you first realise you were creative?
As a wee girl I was very shy, but I was always interested in singing, dancing and acting. After tireless hours of performing in front of my parents in our sitting room, they ended up sending me to drama workshops at Scottish Youth Theatre when I was 11. This really helped me to come out of my shell and to grow my confidence. I also think growing up in a rural village with only 13 other kids at my school nurtured my creativity, as we had to be very resourceful and make-up our own fun. Every year we used to take part in a gala day where we would create a themed float and local farmers would tow us through the neighbouring villages and we would wave at the crowds. We spent the whole year planning our themed costumes from Vikings to rainforest animals, circus performers to pirates. It was the highlight of my year!
Can you tell us about your training?
I’ve always had quite a broad interest in both the arts and cultural heritage. For my undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow I chose to study both Celtic Studies and Theatre Studies and later went on to do a Diploma in Physical Theatre Practice at The Arches & Adam Smith College. Whilst at university I became heavily involved in community volunteering and I began working on community arts projects. I later went on to undertake a postgraduate Master of Education in Community Learning and Development which helped to inform my community arts practice. Whilst my formal training has been invaluable, I do believe much of my learning has taken place on-the-job through successive voluntary and paid job roles. For the past 10 years I’ve worked mostly within museum and art gallery contexts, working across multiple art forms.
You specialise in arts-led community participation and social practice – what is it about this aspect of the arts community that makes you tick?
The opportunity to participate in cultural life and to access the arts is a fundamental human right. I truly believe the arts play a vital role in our shared lives. The arts can be a tool for building bonds between people and communities; it can provide a platform for people to learn, grow and develop; it can be a form of expression and a tool for communication; it can help us to reimagine and reshape our neighbourhoods and cities; and it can act as a lens through which we can see our world in a new light. My passion for arts-led community participation and social practice stems from the transformative experience that the arts have had on my own life, and over the past 15 years I have witnessed the powerful impact it has had on the lives on others. In a chaotic and sometimes difficult world I truly believe that cultural experiences have the power to help us make sense of the world around us and to have some agency in how our world is shaped. It is the tremendous social value of the arts that inspires me to do what I do.
What for you makes a good piece of art?
I really struggle with the categorisation of good and bad art. I believe art is subjective. Personally, I tend to be drawn to art that connects with me in an innate way. It could be a personal connection, art that elicits an emotional response, or something that stirs my curiosity and critical consciousness.
What is LeithLate and how did you get involved with LeithLate?
LeithLate is an arts organisation that produces public art projects and creative events in Leith, Edinburgh. Founded in 2011, LeithLate has run all sorts of cool creative things over the years including the Shutter Project, Mural Tours, Leith Walkers Outdoor Exhibition and the annual LeithLate Weekends. As previously mentioned, I’m currently in the process of relocating to Leith, so I wanted to get involved with LeithLate in order to get to know the neighbourhood and to become actively involved in the local creative community. I’m also really passionate about art in civic spaces and I really love the work that Morvern Cunningham (Founder and Director of LeithLate) has done over the years. My first event with LeithLate was back in July, co-producing the LeithLate19 Weekend. I’m now currently working on LeithLate’s November programme and a season of events in early 2020.
Can you tell us about the Glow Art Trail?
The show will be an after-dark art trail in and around Leith’s Kirkgate. Bringing art to the streets of Leith, it will inspire people to explore the urban landscape and to see the neighbourhood in new and surprising ways. LeithLate is known for its public art interventions, but we’ve never done something like this before so it’s really exciting. We’ve invited five artists to exhibit existing and new artworks for this show. The featured artists include Edinburgh-based visual artist Abi Lewis, illustrator Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, film-maker and photographer Lucas Chih-Peng Kao, Dutch-born videographer and projection artist Mettje Hunneman and award-winning Scottish artist Lauren McLaughlin. The artworks include window displays, neon signage and large-scale projections. The trail is free for all to attend and will run over three evenings from Friday 15 to Sunday 17 November, 6-8pm, for people to explore at their leisure. The starting point is the Queen Victoria Statue at the Newkirkgate Shopping Centre at the bottom of Leith Walk. Our November programme has been generously supported by City of Edinburgh Council and Baillie Gifford.
You’re also collaborating with Pianodrome and Leith Theatre to produce Moon Party this year. What’s that all about?
At LeithLate we love a party. Following our sold-out club night back in July, we’re teaming up with Pianodrome and Leith Theatre on our upcoming Moon Party which will take place on Saturday 16 November. As a continuation of the Glow Art Trail, our Moon Party will invite revellers to enjoy November’s dark nights and embrace the wild spirit of the moon. It will be an immersive night of projections by Mettje Hunneman, live music from S!nk, DJ beats and glow-in-the-dark performances all set within the magical Pianodrome. For those who are new to the Pianodrome, it’s a circular amphitheatre and interactive sculpture made entirely from upcycled pianos. It’s a piece of art in itself. Moon Party is the official launch party of Pianodrome’s ‘resonancy’ at Leith Theatre which runs from 12 November-8 December. Tickets for Moon Party are £10 and are on sale now: https://ctzn.tk/moonparty
Its always advantageous to visit an exhibition at the opening event as there is usually an opportunity to meet the artist. Mackenzie was there to meet and greet along with gallerist Avril Nicol and her staff. The venue is such an expansive white space and with the typical mid grey used on art school floors it really sets off the paintings and pastel work superbly. Mackenzie understands the delicate relationship between trees and their importance in flood defence. Three of his works are called just that ‘Flood Wall 1 ‘Yellow’ , ‘Flood Wall 2’ (Orange) and ‘Flood Wall 3’ (Magenta) which are all oil paint on plywood. His work is meticulous. He systematically layers up his paintings and experience lets him know when each painting is complete. He just knows instinctively when its finished.
Walking around the gallery space you are hit with a quiet confidence that exudes from his practice. His acute sense of colour knowledge is apparent in all his works. The use of complimentary colours in ‘Opposite Shore’ (Resevoir 2) where the trees pulse against the olive green background stayed in my minds eye well beyond the experience of standing viewing it. I loved it ! The incongruous cadmium red trees danced on my retinas and brought a sense of joy to me. The colour theory was not lost on me. I could easily relate to all his colour choices and enjoyed his playful attitude while tackling a subject that is very serious and alarmingly relevant to our planets survival.
What’s interesting here is the linen like texture that permeates all his paintings. I spoke with him at length listening to his techniques which seem basic but produce such complex results due to his time investment . These are not quick paintings to make. Mackenzie’s unedited paintings include the detritus. Its up to the viewer to explore the negative space and there is an ambiguety that allows the viewer to feel that they are not being dictated to .’ Verge Revisited ‘ explores the regeneration of our woodlands.The relationship between wood and water is a symbiotic one and the execution of snow (water) in this largest painting was painstakingly painted in short pastel blue lines, each line having to be painted twice to pack the visual punch it carries giving an appliqué texture that makes you look twice to check that it isn’t mixed media.
North of Princes Street, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, hangs the work Keith Epps an Edinburgh based painter in his first Solo Exhibition. While this collection of work is a far step from his early figurative drawings, he still manages to include them, lurking within the undergrowth providing a dark and unsettling surprise to the onlooker. Epps was lead to Landscapes through his fascination with clouds.
One word would describe this painting perfectly. Lush. This is also a beautiful representation of Epp’s creative process. This is not one reference image – rather a collection of images amalgamated together to produce one cohesive and jaw-dropping piece. 3 references were used in total, the first; the luscious green valley stretching out is the Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent, the Isle of Arran can be seen in the distance at the very edge of the Horizon line and the dark section is a section of the Moorfoot Hills. Together they create an all-encompassing image that sings of birdsong, fresh air and of summer. Within the gorgeous valley lies a hidden interloper, whose presence is alluded in the title. I feel the original inclusion of a figure (in this case Miss Muffet of nursery rhyme fame) would have taken away from the nature of the piece, but having the spider hidden within the corner gives the onlooker a far more natural and menacing narrative.
In “Low Sun- Lomond Hills” we see a greying cloud gathering above the peaks of East and West Lomond, an everyday sight for the locals of Fife and the east coast. The cloud is what slowly grabs your eye, giving a sense of foreboding before working its way down towards the unusual peaks of the Lomond Hills. You initially think the painting is void of human presence until you notice the 3 dark figures in the right corner, hiding within beauty, a recurring element within Epps’ work. There’s a softness and a movement like quality to this piece, upon research the reference was taken from a train from Perth to Edinburgh and explains that flatness and lack of texture that makes it feel like a memory. I get a feeling of nostalgia with this piece as these are the hill I would play on as a child having grown up in the village at the foot of these hills, and with the absence of the street lights, the greying clouds were often an indicator to head home for cover.
Talk with the Artist
Nipping into the Open Eye Gallery, I stumbled across this exhibition. Realizing that the artist was there in the gallery, we shared a joyous conversation on cloud-spotting and beautiful countryside.
The artist, Keith, talked of ruined tanks and clouds for contrasts. He was thinking about the bad and the good, a sort of Yin and Yang. The newsreels of Yugoslavia in the 90s resonated the light and darkness of the situation, just like the classical idea of “Et in arcadia ego”.
Keith spoke of his time after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art as he drifted into working as furniture restorer till 2005. He resumed painting part-time in 2007. This exhibition is a culmination of his work from that period till now. His meticulous draughtsmanship is not to be missed.
Jo Hummel’s work is characterised by a painted and paper collaged surface on which she employs spontaneous variations of space, colour and form. Although her painting collages are physically engaged and materially driven the context is purposefully anthropological and Hummel’s works are informed by human habits and behaviour, with a particular interest in determinism and freewill just as much as formal concerns.
Hummel runs experiments where the process often determines the outcome and provides a safe arena for improvisation, a place where rational procedures can co- exist alongside intuition. In doing this she explores the unpredictable nature of intuition and spontaneity – her practice functioning as a simulation of decision making experiences which enable her to grasp, and make use of sensations such as anxiety or serenity. And it is via these conflicting emotional states of comfort, satisfaction, anxiousness, repulsion and so on that Hummel is able to tap into the ubiquitously felt state of human uncertainty. The social structures we all exist in guide and interfere with how we feel and what we choose to do on a daily basis. Our social class, religion, gender and ethnicity all play a part in what we deem pleasant or unpleasant.
The nature of collage is that throughout its creation a work is in constant flux. The artist must negotiate the canvas by rearranging, choosing and adjusting, often over long periods and having explored hundreds, even thousands of the infinite possible outcomes. In this way the creative process itself is as significant as the final outcome.
Hello Jo, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking? I’m from Farnborough and now live and work on the Isle of Wight.
When did you first realise you were artistic? I’m not sure about artistic but I had an urge to draw from my earliest memories of holding a pencil.
Can you tell us about your training? I’ve packed a lot of training in. I’ve just completed a years correspondence painting course at Turps Painting School. I graduated my 2 yr MA at Royal College of Art in 2006. Before that was a BA at Kingston university and before that a one year foundation at Falmouth College of Arts.
What for you makes a good piece of art?
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like? On our favourite beach Priory Bay, with my husband and kids, a couple of friends, cooking on a bbq and swimming.
What are the prime elements to the creation of collage? For me its using a material such as paper which is in constant flux until the end is reached.
You are bringing an exhibition of your work to Edinburgh, can you tell us about it? Transformer I & II is a split body of work which is shared between And Gallery and Nordic art agency in Sweden. The concept is a nod towards what we’re currently witnessing in politics and also references precarious social and physical experiences from childhood.
Where, when & why did the idea for Transformer I originate? The themes I wanted to address were separation, safety, and the illusion of safety. I had the two exhibition dates booked in, in Edinburgh and Malmo, Sweden, and saw an opportunity to make the delivery of the two shows central to the concept by linking them. Hence Transformer I&II.
What has been the biggest challenge about creating this exhibition? The biggest challenge was creating over 50 works in an intense, very focused time period of about 6 months. Its been exhausting at times but in doing so I’ve reached a heightened level of understanding which wasn’t there before.
How does your interest in determinism and freewill manifest itself in your work? Freewill and determinism governs our rudimentary instinct for making choices. My work is a constant process of decision making. In choosing the colours, form, size, and countless adjustments to the composition. During this process I am battling between intuition and intellect, order and disorder, freewill and determinism.
The current exhibition at &Gallery is a contemporary, conceptual, abstract mixed media ( acrylic,emulsion,watercolour paper on plywood) experience reminiscent of Mondrian, Klein and a tiny splattering of Jackson Pollock. Bright vivid colours complement the darks and acrid lemons. Not to say that Hummel went to the Royal College of Art to become a copyist.Far from it. These works have a 21century outlook in that they deal with difficulty of decision making. Its not always the easy path that is the right one and Hummel has honed this exhibition by concentrating on spatial issues in tandem with form and colour. Reinventing an older genre (modern art) she playfully rips, tears and precisely cuts her way through each collage till satisfied with this collection that tackles sensations such as ‘…anxiety or serenity.’
It’s not just the good, the bad and the repulsive that interest Hummel, but the entire human condition. She wants to delve into the social structures, the laws in place to control/interfere with what we really feel like doing. Barrier breaking has been intrinsic to quality Art and Hummel embraces her practice with aplomb as well as a sensitivity rare to colourfield work. Prices range from a reasonable £400 to good investments at £4,500. Her prices are as varied as the topics explored which are intrinsic to her interest in both inclusivity and non inclusivity, ‘…social class, religion, gender and ethnicity (which) all play a part in what we deem pleasant or unpleasant.’
That said, I went into the beautifully airy gallery without reading the text or luscious catalogue because I like to see what the paintings say to me. My initial reactions were sublime, a feeling of euphoria, a heady happiness at the uncluttered exuberant lusciousness of sheer joy in the application of colour without overwhelming the viewer. These are not quite paintings but they don’t scream for your attention either. They dwell on the pristine walls waiting patiently for you to be drawn in, fascinated at the juxtaposition of colour that sometimes mars but mainly compliments their neighbouring tones.
The colours in ‘Factor’ (£400) spoke to me of gender, displaying baby blues and dusky pinks as well as a plethora of vibrant hues thriving around the central macaron brown that allows the smaller areas of tangerine, yellow, grey and dark hookers green to sing. Although this work has not been selected for the catalogue I found myself particularly attracted to it. ‘Bathing’ (£500) in all its simple complexities also was a draw for me. I lost myself in its limited palette and the abstracted process of additive colour that float surreally on their white blue backdrop. The mind is a curious thing, there was an infantile primary connection for me to these intimate two works, the dialogue I had with them will be different to yours and also the artist who created them, such is the beauty and subjectivity of Fine Art. We are bound by the agenda we bring to it. Such is life’s rich tapestry.
Adjusting to the complexity of now, our less than brave new world , the insularity of our mobile madness, compliance and the difficulty/futility of aspiring to perfection is profoundly dangerous to the younger generation.The ongoing infantile side within our adult self and our specific histrionics create afire guard around us allowing for blissful escapism in, ‘ Transformer ‘ the exhibitions namesake, attempts to take back the power, addressing the fear bubble. ‘ Transformer ll ‘the Swedish sequel takes place at Nordic Art Agency, Malmo, Sweden from October 18th – November 23rd 2019. Mentally tough, Hummel’s eclectic investigation of the human condition will move you, guaranteed.