Metaphor as Material. Materail as Metaphor. Introduction and Part I.

Introduction.

This Magister Litterarum degree show takes the form of two parts and a poem, but it is unified in its process, pigments and sociopolitical commentary.

My experience and knowledge of the landscape come from being embedded within it. By being in that direct relationship with place that I am brought into dialogue with the complexes of identity; as artist, insider, outsider tourist and landscape’s own mythology.

This is unstable and uncomfortable discourse of place, knowledge, cultural geographies, physical landscapes, codification, consumption and colonization that is both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy.

I have worked and researched the idea of material as the metaphor of the sociopolitical observations, and use the metaphor as the material. Such that, it is both process and the chosen materials are congruent with the subject matter. These paintings are made by the same process that formation of landscapes and trees are made. Landscapes are made, shaped and coloured by water and minerals. Trees are water and minerals.

The Scottish-Americal naturalist John Muir in his diary entry on 27th August 1869 wrote about the movement of the different states of water and the sediment it contains.

Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing–going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks both in solution and in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles, and boulders.

‘My First Summer in the Sierra’ (Published in 1911. Chapter 10.)

In art critic and writes James Elkin’s in his book ‘What Painting is’, he writes about the alchemy of painting. Elkin’s concluded that as painters we are trying to change the sludge brown of Materia Prima to alchemical gold. As such, in Elkin’s eyes all painting can be reduced to the foundations of stones and water.

Part I.

I have explored the geopolitical history within Argyll, Scotland and the early formation of the United Kingdom from a detailed knowledge of place. The place is Boneawe and Furance, in Argyll on Scotland’s west coast. I have used water, pigments,hand made paper and wood.

Water is the fabric and history of Argyll, Scotland. Living with water in its various forms is the tenant of life in Argyll. Glaciers formed Glen Lonan’s geography; the tops where smoothed and placed erratic’s like ‘clach na carraig’ (Diarmid’s Pillar, Glen Lonan.)

Trees, to be more specific the Argyll forest was the North Oil Field of the 18th and early 19th century. Argyll’s wealth lay in its natural resource of Trees. Scotland new colonizers mined this wealth.

I have used water, watercolour, ink and gouache on paper with hand made wooden frames to explore the temporally of these trees and the geopolitics. Watercolours natural action on paper becomes landscape. A watermark blur of colour on paper become the shape of a specific tree in full summer foliage. I then draw the winter skeleton of that tree in side the blur. I have made the frames around the watercolours from native wood of that specific tree sourced in Scotland. The titles come from the Gaelic, the native tongue of Argyll and English. Behind this work are many pencil etches of trees. One could say that I too am ethongraphically mining Argyl’s recourses. However, I see it as an acknoledgment of their majesty and place in histroy.

Detail. ‘That river is as aged as dark port’.

A Tale of Metaphor as Material.

Metaphor as Materials

 

I have not lost my metaphor

I am just finding it

It’s in my bones

suck the marrow:

spit it out;

voyeur

flanneur

 

Pictures within pictures.

Frames of intimacies.

 

The ambassadors of our frontiers are not our statesmen

But our prospectors

Dug dynanite dredged

I am the law

Dust to dust

Lindal Moor’s raw ore

Shipped to Bonawe

Slipped into reduction

Not with Quaker Coke’s efficiency

but exhumed trees.

 

What greater way to supplicate a nation

than through the consumption of its chattel.

Having exhausted his native Lancastrian trees,

Frustrated by their lack of fecundity,

he slipped into that other union with a dowry of trees.

The forest had no escape.

Forced into marital rape.

Consummated in fire, a funeral pyre.

All that green reduced to black

Where should we wear our cross on that Jack?

 

Men in furnaces need their beer

Highland water tasted too queer

They brought the seeds that remain as Betty’s hops.

No flowers as it’s not too hot.

 

What was the ballast that those Lancastrian ships took back?

It was the body of Bonawe mountains themselves

Strong evenly fragmented

Perfect for cobbles

Pretender of Tar Macadam

 

Bellicose Britain’s Bonawe baked canon balls

That Slag burnt to heat to pig iron.

Franc-allies of Jacobites drowned.

A cannibalization of its once allies.

Bravo.

Enlightened.

Let us discuss this in the age of reason not treason

Let us define a man’s work, his property as secular not sacred.

 

Rio Tinto Alcan have the world, they are the world

Australia, China, Canada and Brazil have Alumina.

That river is as dark as an aged port

Whisky ages in port casks

Japanese whisky from Lidl is cheaper

 

Vassal of water, of captured latency of Treig, Spean and Spey

Captive hope, latent hope

Flowing not free, dialed to fleetingly heat hot air.

Count this point of refraction and reduction

Captivating heat as pressure

Sintered aluminum cinders

Smelted ore frames the shadow of the

old God man mountain to tèarnadh his wife

the wind frame capture rapture

 

Of course it is the last that is most deadly

Scotland to a T

Forrest comminuted Tennets gold in cycanide

Those triple bonds waiting and wanting to fuse with our flesh.

Bayer Boyles Hall, Heroult Deville, Soderberg,

MacArthur and Forrest are long since dead.

 

The names of those scientists, the spare heir, the non apparents

Eponymous names of diseases suffered

inflicted on the stratified animals.

Bayer Boyles Bauxite

Alumina Gibbsite Boehmite Diaspore

 

Aluminium as beautiful as the wooded glens once were.

Soft skin of youthfull irridescent purity

Seduction of surface.

 

Scientific developments the later part of the 19th century

allowed painters to have

Vivid, light fast colours.

What was once Lapzi is now sodium aluminium silicate

Red iron oxide gives English red, the colour of Argylls rust.

Reassuringly, lamp gas is the soot of petrified trees.

 

My beloved translucent turquoise cyan cyanide

Hedbridean seas, Lorn and Awe

Let me hex phthalo triplet around the floor

A reel of what name?

The wheel of all our life

Blood’s heam and chlorphyll’s green.

 

Extruded from Aluminium.

Extruded from metal

Mixed poured brushed dropped cajoled

Sits vulnerable in its refined state

the hidden material latent memory.

Slow thought stops

Revealed slope intent and sag

Slipped silently sideways

Like all good oil redundant to perfection

 

Dust sticks to the apparent slick surface

brighter and more saturated

Revealed by great transparency

the action of light

The sun keeps giving.

 

The monoculture that is the forestry plantation drowns the land

burns in its acid sterility.

Decorative deciduous borders do to not fool animals.

 

Funded by feudal centuries.

The same people that drew down that asset,

profited from that original sin that union

the devalued fettered thistle

Hunts shoots balls reels wait as their assets grow.

Trusts pays less dues to their Crown.

This slip still stays distilled.

 

Are we enlightened now?

Product, commodity

Futures never restore hope but apparent empires

Domains never return satiated sanity

But meters and packing

Desire is fire

And so we return to trees.

I have been many things to many people.

What do they call me now?

 

Metaphor as Material. Material as Metaphor. Part II.

In Part I of ‘Metaphor as Material. Material as Metaphor’ I’ve talked about choosing the material of the painting to be the metaphor of the subject matter. In Part I  was using watercolour, ink and gouache on paper with hand made native wood frames to explore the temporally of trees. Not only in the seasons, but within the geopolitics of  Scotland and the early formation of the United Kingdom.

Here, in Part II of ”Metaphor as Material. Material as Metaphor’ I’ve taken that same idea that the materials and the process of making the paintings are in keeping with topic. The topic here is still landscape and Scotland, but on a bigger scale. The large employers in Argyll, Scotland are now the multi-national giants. The land is owned by Trusts and the Hedge funds. Such is the result that no one individual is responsible for the land or for the people who have lived on the land for centuries. As I write this, I am aware of the seduction that making money has, of the challenges that it presents to ones authenticity and being in the world. I  pay into a UK Civil Service pension but have no idea what they money is invested in and how they in turn treat landscapes. I am minded of the anthropologist Michael Taussig essay ‘ The Sun gives without receiving’ in his book
Walter Benjamin’s Grave. (Chicago Press, 2006.)  In this essay the tale of awesomely scaled consumeristic enterprise is endowed with the ability to destroy life as well as bestow riches. Taussig reminds us that it is a materialist knowledge that offers a crucial alternative to the increasingly abstract, globalized, homogenized, and digitized world we inhabit.

For these painting I’ve worked on a larger scale and with oil paint on aluminium. What better way to express the notions of the multinational than with oil. I used the same process of making the paintings that is analogous to the formation of landscapes. The paintings are one metre squared. The aluminium has a beautiful fine grain and a subtle iridescence. They are seductive and sit somewhere between abstract and expressionist landscape, but take the form of figurative painting.

I have used the same pigments as in Part I ‘Metaphor as Material. Material as Metaphor’ on paper and translated the idea into oil paint. These are turquoise, ultramarine, London red, lemon yellow. I have substituted the watercolour lamp black for oil Madder. Oil paint uses the same chemical pigments to watercolour but oil uses different resin and mediums to suspend the colours. The colours and mediums form sedimentary layers and interact with each other and the aluminium to become something other than what they started as.

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Material as Metaphor.

It is by being in the landscape; by being in that place that I am brought into dialogue with the complexes of identity; as artist, insider, outsider tourist and landscape’s own mythology.

It is this unstable and uncomfortable discourse of place, knowledge, cultural geographies, physical landscapes, codification, consumption and colonization that is both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy.

For my M.Litt  Graduate 2016 show I have worked with the idea of material as the metaphor, and the metaphor as the material. It is process as well as the materials used must be congruent with the subject matter. For example, a paintings process of formation is analogous to the formation of landscapes. Watercolours natural action on paper can become landscape. A watermark blur of colour on paper become the shape of a specific tree in full summer foliage. I then draw a winter oak tree in side the blur. The frame around the watercolour is made by me from native oak sourced in Scotland.

 

IMG_4395

Bliss: Glasgow in Sunshine.

For the past two day we, in Glasgow have had warmth and sunshine. It’s been utter bliss. 

Since I’ve been here I’ve made a small garden from bits and pieces from Poundland. It’s 1.5×1.0 m by 6 inches deep. 

I’ve had flowers from April and a good crop of strawberries. The star of the patio has been the poppies called Shirley’s doubles. The petal have stayed on despite the torrents of rain and wind! God Bless them.