Flying the flag

A project from the archive, circa 2005.

In memory of my friend John McAleavy.

Experimental digital sequence. The ever transforming animation shows just a tiny selection from the myriad  styles of cloth, colour and pattern that people use to adorn their bodies and homes: to fly everyday flags that signal subtle, tacit modes of social identification.

Art Basel 2018

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IMG_5842I attended Art Basel in Switzerland, in June 2018. This huge art show takes place at the Swiss exhibition site Messe Basel, which features a hall designed by international architects Herzog & de Meuron. (Exterior views of Messe Basel, above).

Highlights of our trip included a visit to the ‘Bacon – Giacometti’ show at Fondation Beyeler, which studied the parallel, creative careers of two of the 20th century’s most influential artists. See more here.

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Below: a view of the stunning interior of the Neubau, Kuntsmuseum, designed by local architects Christ & Gantenbein.

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Above: part of Sam Gilliam’s ‘The Music of Colour’ at the Neubau.

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At Basel’s Town Hall.

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Exploring ‘Unlimited’, at Art Basel.

Unlimited is Art Basel’s pioneering exhibition platform for projects that transcend the classical art-show stand, including massive sculpture and paintings, video projections, large-scale installations, and live performances. Curated by New York-based curator Gianni Jetzer.

Thank you to Li Rui for making the trip possible and for being such a stimulating companion.

In the shadow

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24671

Image: ‘Venus Rising’

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” 

C.G. Jung, 1938.

Envisioning Jung’s theory of the shadow.

Solo exhibition of work in progress, at University of Central Lancashire, Victoria Building, PR1 2HE, UK. Throughout May 2018.

Exhibition views:

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Alchemy of atmosphere …

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The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it.”

C.G. Jung. Psychology and Alchemy.

Digital collage experiments referencing the mutability of atmosphere and the perception of landscape, also alchemical glyphs, the geometry of viewpoint, direction and interconnection.

A selection from work in progress:

Alchemy 6 small Alchemy 9 small Alchemy 10 small Alchemy 12 rotated small Alchemy 11 small alchemy 13 small Alchemy 14 small alchemy forms mixSee more about the development of this project at AA2A here

The NOW Project: time, space and place.

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Extracts from a recent landscape art submission to Morecambe Bay Partnership.

During October 2017, I undertook a programme of site visits and detailed research, in response to an open call by Morecambe Bay Partnership for permanent and temporary landscape art commissions, at sites around Morecambe Bay. The commissions are part of their ‘Headlands to Headspace’ Project (H2H), and their brief called for artworks inspired by the landscape of the Bay that will celebrate and aid people to engage in, its cultural or natural heritage.

The importance of opportunities for local communities to take part in the development of artworks through activities such as public consultation or workshops, was emphasised, to develop a sense of ownership and inspire a new connection to local heritage and heritage sites.

By tapping into the genius loci – the qualities or spirit of this place, I developed several interrelated concepts for community participation and landscape art interventions.

A proposal, The NOW Project was submitted to Morecambe Bay Partnership at the end of October 2017. 

Please note that images used in this blog entry are concept visualisations, only.

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Background

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Morecambe Bay is a large estuary in northwest England, just to the south of the Lake District National Park. It is the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sand in the UK. The rivers Leven, Kent, Keer, Lune and Wyre flow into the Bay, and their various estuaries form a number of peninsulas and islands and create an eternally changing, elemental landscape. Morecambe Bay has long drawn artists and writers who gain inspiration from its sensual spell, which has recently been described as one of co-existing opposites, where experiences are of:

…past and present, then and now, buried and unearthed, permanent and transitory, real and unreal.”

Andrew Michael Hurley, 2016

The tidal flows, rippling, shining sands; estuaries, headlands and farm lands, sacred sites and places of work, merge the enduring and the ephemeral, connect human and non human worlds.

The Bay’s register of historic assets is unprecedented, including historic promenades, follies and lookouts, Iron Age hillforts, a Bronze Age stone circle, the railway, and areas of industry. It holds a unique cultural richness; nationally important for its maritime and WWI and WWII heritage, with exciting archaeological finds, a concentration of ritual and religious sites and a traditional fishing heritage that is unique to the area.” http://www.morecambebay.org.uk/BaysPast

The creative approach and concept was inspired by the character of the land itself and the many layers of connectivity that can be seen and felt in this magical and uniquely beautiful, time swept landscape.

Here is a selection from The NOW Project. Each item/component has been designed to connect in time and space, to create future facing legacy, that is responsive and sensitive to the area’s heritage.  I wanted to stimulate intrigue and participation, and prompt fresh new stories that draw on local history and heritage.

In this blog entry I’ve included some of the core ideas from the submission, but not all, and added in some others, for good measure.

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I learnt that ‘Muchland’ was the name of a medieval manor in Low Furness on the north coast of the Bay. Today, the name seems to summon up a land of plenty. Once the seat of the Lords of Aldingham, Muchland incorporated the rocky promontory called Birkrigg Common, near Ulverston. From the Common there are stunning views all around the Bay, over Furness and into the Lake District National Park.

In Birkrigg’s Muchland I proposed vintage road signage to reveal interwoven threads of myth, legend, history and memory. The signs are deliberately ‘out of place’ with an archaic, puzzling presence, as there are no roads or any need for traffic rules in this area of common land.  Although the destinations on the signs relate to actual sites and histories, place names are intentionally cryptic. Through this blurring of fact and fiction, an atmosphere of  ‘magical realism’ will be fostered to open up imaginative interpretations, detective work and exploration, creative writing, map-making or story telling by visitors.

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So, for example, some of the cryptic directions on the vintage signpost illustrated above, refer to the following:

‘S5374′

is the unique number of the flush bracket or benchmark, of the Ordnance Survey triangulation station on the Common, whose National Grid Reference is precisely known. Trig points are slowly disappearing from the UK countryside as their function has largely been superseded by aerial photography, digital mapping, and the use of lasers and GPS.

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The example shown, is one of several suggestions to repurpose the trig point by cross-referencing it with a weather vane to sense and evidence the direction of the wind. The design integrates the silhouette of a traditional “nobby”. These inshore sailing vessels have been used as fishing boats around the coasts of Lancashire and the Isle of Man, since the 1840’s. With the addition, the trig point is transformed into a ‘shrine’ to the wind.

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Birkrigg trial 5 xImage: genius loci, the ‘Spirit of Birkrigg’ (2017).

According to Norse mythology, ‘Sol’ was goddess of the sun. The digitally created image above, is an imagined portrait of Sol that I made after walking around and experiencing the area. I adapted a Google satellite view of Birkrigg Common, by digitally adding simple elements and shadow. I placed Sol’s ‘eye’ at the Druid’s stone circle, from where networks of ‘neural’ pathways radiate. The ancient sites higher up on Appleby Hill and the limestone ridges, became her ‘forehead’ and ‘cranium': where memories lie beneath the surface. The OS trig point is situated towards the rear of the ‘head’ land. Sunbrick lies to the southwest of her ‘ear’ (see ‘Muchland’ map pins below). Bardsea can be seen to the northeast.

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This attempt to envision the ‘spirit of place’, has been influential in the approach to the project.

 

 

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‘Eye of Sol’. 

Like other standing stone configurations in Cumbria (and indeed throughout the world), the Bronze Age circle at Birkrigg exudes an ancient mystery and its functions of ritual, alignment and communion with universal elements.  

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This proposal involves the fabrication of a  temporary geodesic structure, whose geometry is derived from the dimensions of the ancient circle, to encompass the inner ring of stones.

A system of small mirrors or simple heliostats placed around the apex of the structure will allow  a moving ‘sun spot’ to form on the ground within.

geodesic birkriggDepending on the angle of the sun overhead, the movement of the spot of light around the twelve stones will draw attention to the Earth’s rotation, and convert the circle into a kind of clock or sundial, or a ‘temple’ to the light.

 

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Engaging with the present moment: mindful activities

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Research has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious or depressed.

(e.g. see http://bemindful.co.uk).

‘Bay Day’  is a proposal  for an innovative art led survey to be mobilised in Spring 2018. The NOW team, made up of a group of artists with specialisms across a range of methods and materials,  will work alongside members of volunteer networks, special interest and resident groups, to collect moments and memories experienced during a single day around the Bay:

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On ‘Bay Day’, participatory workshops and playful art making, employing drawing, craft and map making, story telling, photography, making collections of found objects and materials, audio or video recordings, will reveal ways that this unique environment shapes people’s lives.  Symbolic communication, cross-reference and geometric alignment will be additional generators of process.

The NOW team of artists and community volunteers will continue to work together to distill the Bay Day material, turning heritage into art. A series of linked exhibitions will present the resulting artworks  at unconventional venues around the Bay, indoors, outdoors, and online, during the H2H summer festival in 2018. The exhibitions will convey a multifaceted, kaleidoscopic ‘moment in time’, by sharing contributor’s experiences, collected on a single day, here, and NOW.

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‘NOW’

Taking a lead from the ancients and from recent research into mental health, a new, permanent landmark is proposed, whose legacy will be to celebrate the NOW Project’s ethos of mindfulness: of being more fully present in the moment.

Referencing the area’s geology of limestone, sandstone and slate, three stone monoliths will be placed in geometric alignment to specified locations around the Bay, to create a contemporary earthwork, or henge (images below). One of the stones will bear the deceptively simple inscription ‘NOW’, expertly carved into its surface by a local mason, once in situ. Via a process of creative engagement, a story or message will be devised by the local community, about living NOW. Together, we will create an ‘alphabet’ of expressive symbols to communicate the message, which will be inscribed into the other stones.

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The monoliths, each standing over 15 feet high, and their site, will become catalysts for multi-context observation: a landmark from which to make new connections, both spatially and metaphorically, and to engage with the poetics of time.

They will also act as reminders to passers-by, to be mindful and to more fully  inhabit  the present moment. Especially those who may be feeling weighed down by the past or fearful of the future. We intend that the ambiguous sense of alignment, the awesome size, weight and enduring qualities similar to those of ancient standing stones, will activate inventive readings and contemplative, spiritual encounters.

By embodying both transience and permanence, the landmark will become an enduring memorial to the present moment.

In the concept sketch above, the location is a National Trust area close to the summit of Arnside Knott where there are views across Morecambe Bay in one direction, and the Kent estuary in the other. Soft, sunken landscaping referencing archaeological dig technique, emphasises the geometry of the site. A winding, paved pathway, incorporating the three types of local stone in a series of stepped sections, will lead up to the site.

The example below, indicates how the community inscription,  made up of bespoke symbols – contemporary ‘hieroglyphics’ – will have the potential to connect over thousands of years, and convey an enduring message celebrating life, in this place, NOW.

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(NB: the symbols used in this visualisation have been chosen at random, to give an indication of the scale and possible style of engraving, only)  

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Going back in time… a chance to look at two projects from the archive.

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Back in April 2006, I asked a group of local craftsmen to create the three contrasting houses of folklore, in a gallery setting. The project was stimulated by council plans for urban renewal at a site nearby. The research stages of the project  brought valuable opportunities to observe each craftsman at work, to document their embodied skills, and listen to their opinions about relationships between art, craft and making a living.

The ‘pig’ scale of the finished installation allowed each perfect little house to be experienced close up. People could pat the thatched roof and sniff its grassy scent, slide their hands along the cool elegant surface of the polished wood, examine the slate’s veins of fossils, or count the run of the dry gritty bricks, as they imagined living inside each space. To add tension and context, a looped film sequence of the recent demolition of three 1960’s residential ‘slum’ tower blocks nearby, was also shown.

Here is a short video about building the houses over 3 days in the gallery.

The skills of the craftsmen were self-evident and brought tacit integrity to the work. The communal familiarity of the story, and the sensual intimacy of the installation combined to show visitors to the gallery that the materiality of man-made things: in this case the houses’ qualities of construction, materials, odour, touch and feel, are our practical means to objectify myth, morality, identity, community and  social values.  How ideas, experiences and emotions are made tangible …… real.

After three weeks, I became ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ when the houses were broken up, to make way for the next exhibition.

Project Credits:

Project concept, design and management, photography and video creation by Fiona Candy. Thanks to Barry Milne, Barry Turner, Dominic Rogan, Harold Wignall; Ben Casey; John Turner Ltd; Jenny Rutter at Pad Gallery, Preston; Arts Council England. “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” played by Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra (1930).

You can see more about this project, and others at: http://www.a-brand.co.uk   (NB: the a-brand site requires Flash. Click on the hammer on the workbench for Huff & Puff)

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Harris


‘Visiting Exhibition’

Where visitors were both spectators and exhibits.

We made 100 individual photographic portraits of visitors to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery during the week before Christmas. These were later brought together at life size, to form a 35 metre digital inkjet montage, displayed on the connective central stairways of this well known, imposing public building.

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Other visitors responding  to the finished ‘people-scape’ in situ,  told us that they recognised several of the people in the photographs. They were “familiar strangers”, having previously been noticed in the building or out and about in the city. The stairway portraits revealed subtle inter-connections between the people using the building and confirmed their subjects’ mutual status as rightful visitors and members of the Harris’ community.  Each seemed to be enquiring via the directness of their gaze, about the intentions of others,  as they travelled up and down the stairs, past the photographs. A chance to politely stare at fellow members of the public.

The images also recorded clothing, jewellery, hats and hair styles. At the end of the project the Harris agreed to archive our visual study of the ‘social persona’ of this public building, within their social history collection.

 Project credits

Creative production team: Fiona Candy, Andy Mairs and Susan Rathmell. Thanks to Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Market Square, Preston, UK. Arts Council England, Artech. 2002.

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In memory of my lovely friend, Susan  Rathmell.

 

Walking in Circles

Mindful walking: revealing embodied, grounded geometries.

In the Motion Capture Studio, at University of Central Lancashire.

We used motion capture technology to transcribe walking movements,  as steps were overlaid in time and space. In this case, multiple reflective markers were attached to each foot.

The delicate qualities of the spiral form made visible in this way, appear as though ‘stitched’ in to, or ‘woven’ on to the ground, with each footstep.

Once  the palimpsest spiral is completed,  the other ‘end’ of it begins to unravel…

The first mo-cap sequence zooms in from various angles. And in the sequence below, the walking is seen from one side only:

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Standing at the Centre: connective geometries.

In Mo-cap studio.

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The Vintage Gaze

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An ongoing series of images: visualising experiences of time and memory …

I have been using digital manipulation techniques to merge printed photographs from (in these examples) late 1940’s fashion publications, archival material, internet imagery and my own photographs. This digital collage re-uses, re-edits, re-visits. It looks at world events and objects that may have been witnessed, remembered, imagined, anticipated, feared, or considered impossible, by the once youthful, once fashionable models, who appear to be gazing out, through and across time.

Please click on thumbnails to enlarge. See more examples at my AA2A profile here.

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In The Mirror

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Sensing presence via the shifting qualities of woodland light.

A series of material trials.

Fiona Candy and Andy Mairs.  Avenham Park, Preston, Lancashire and Sea Wood, Sunbrick, Cumbria. August – October 2017.

Mirror figures made in 2002; first exhibited at Designersblock 2003, Tea Building, Shoreditch, London.

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