I spent March 2021 on a residency at Merz in Sanquhar, Scotland. This was part funded by a Vacma Bursary from Creative Scotland. I decided to spend the month making collaged charcoal drawings and cardboard models. This was a new departure for me and was a response to the ethos of Merz and its links to artists Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Hoch,
I stayed in ‘The Bothy’ at Merz and worked in the old lemonade factory, now the Merz Gallery. The immediate surroundings are visually interesting, full of old sheds, wrought-iron furniture and trees and, as the weather was often quite wet and windy, I spent some time drawing in the immediate vicinity and out of the window.
I also ventured slightly further afield, down to the Euchan Water where I found a quiet spot where I could spread out my materials. I worked mainly in charcoal – something I had not done for a while. I love the versatility of charcoal and how erasing can make positive as well as negative marks. I like to work observationally, getting lost in the tangle of relationships of forms. It was important for me to get every branch in the right place, although not necessarily every twig. The reflections of the trees and how they changed depending on the weather conditions interested me.
Back in the studio, I lay out my drawings of the surrounding area and the river and decided to put them together in collage form. I also brought with me some old charcoal drawings, some dating back to the eighties, and added a few of these. In addition, I made two collages purely from old charcoal drawings. The result was four large works made from many collaged charcoal drawings; not the most sensible thing to do as they are far too large to be framed and charcoal is a messy surface no matter how many times it is sprayed with fixative.
I spent time gathering more information through drawing in a small sketchbook and would often work in the studio late in the evening making collages from old paintings, monoprints, patterned and found paper. These were spontaneous compositions with very little thought attached to them. I like to observe how I make decisions and how I take risks – all grist to the mill for later paintings.
I was interested, primarily, in how space can be broken up through collage, how drawings from different periods can be put together as a comment on how time is muddled up in our thoughts. Changes of scale also intrigued me –we look at things close up and far away and don’t always see everything as a camera does. I would like to take some of this learning into my paintings, being more radical and surprising with how I use pictorial space.