Touring the schools on the islands of the Outer Hebrides
Written on the 8th of May 2014
Today we performed at the last school on our schedule, as part of the Vija Celmins ARTIST ROOMS public outreach project.
It’s been a tremendously rewarding experience touring all the various schools across the many islands that make up the Outer Hebrides. There are clear differences in culture, religion and geography that help me to distinguish the experiences. Some of the schools had clearly been there for some time and some were brand new. The constant throughout was the reaction from our audiences of pupils and teachers.
Wherever we went, we were met with warm welcomes and occasionally some lovely school dinners.
It made me think back to when I was in school, and of whether I would’ve reacted as strongly to the performance if I was a child in the audience. For some of these children (especially the Primary 1s and 2s) they would’ve never heard anything of the sort about the Universe and our place in of all this. It’s a particular positive to think we might have ignited that spark of fascination about the Cosmos.
So we thank all of the schools that welcomed us in and took part in the ARTIST ROOMS project, we’re glad to have come and talked about Space.
Let’s Talk About Space
Sometimes it is quiet work that moves us most intensely. Starting out as a painter back in 1960’s California, internationally renowned Latvian artist Vija Celmins is perhaps best known for her meticulous and detailed renderings of ‘found’ imagery. Paintings, drawings and prints of ocean, moon, desert and snow reflect the artist’s long held fascination with surface. Drawn from the Tate Gallery’s ‘Artist Rooms’ project, this exhibition, (curated by Emma Nicholson of Atlas Arts, through ‘Broad Reach’ -with Taigh Chearsabhagh), presents a number of Celmins’s drawings and prints, selected to resonate with aspects of the natural environment here in the Uists. Most depict star-filled night skies mapped through tiny points of light within fields of intense darkness, evocations of infinite space. In other works, the cosmos presented in reverse appears at first glance to be a delicate, apparently random graphology. Closer consideration reveals − counter-intuitively − an equally absorbing visual echo of deep space. There is something profoundly moving and wordless about these quiet works. A subtle, yet powerful dynamic is at play, engaging and distancing us in turn. Celmins attributes this to the ability of an image to ‘invite you in’ − into the space depicted, whilst the visible actuality of making, (described by the artist as a ‘mapping’ of the original), ‘keeps you out’. Our recognition of the surface on which the image is made, negates the spatial depth portrayed. It is, she says, to do with ‘intimacy and distance’. The utterly captivating, ‘Ocean Surface Woodcut 1992’, a year in the making, provides a magnificent example of this contradictory dynamic. Typified by a restrained and subtle aesthetic, Celmins’ practice is self- evidently skilful, labour intensive, and highly accomplished, but great art does not reward merely through impressive commitment and technique. For Celmins the work is about looking, intense looking. Resist the urge to seek or project meaning, engage with that intensity of looking and this remarkable work has the capacity to synthesize something of what it is to be here on earth. Friend and fellow artist Robert Gober, in conversation with Celmins, recalls the following quote, (but not who said it), ‘Art is the thing that makes life more interesting than art’. (Vija Celmins, Phaidon, 2004 p.26). What better position from which to appreciate this beautiful and enigmatic exhibition?
Celmins quoted from the ‘In conversation’ event held April 23rd 2014 at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Centre.
Sophie Morrish is a Uist based artist who takes the landscape she lives in as inspiration, not for romantic or nostalgic reasons but for the opportunity it affords of visceral engagement with the ‘more-than-human’ world.
View her current project here http://sophiemorrish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/1730pm.html