Monday, July 23, 2012

Work + Beyond

Sunday 22nd July and the storm we expected never arrived although we certainly inherited the atmospherics. The clouds this evening are rolling over the islands to sit on the water where the land meets the ocean. I’ve taken over a thousand photographs with the new Powershot SX 260. This is a great little camera with super macro, great HD video and on manual you can get good landscape—if you can see what you’re shooting in bright light.
Yesterday we did a boat trip from Hofsos—our nearest fishing village—around the islands that have been mesmerizing us for two weeks. The water was turquoise blue and clear as crystal with a few puffins bobbing about and colonies of very vocal guillemots nestled into the cliffs. Legends and folk tales are embedded into these rocky structures that rise so dramatically out of the Arctic Ocean. Forty percent of Icelanders believe in fairies and it is easy to see why—the volcanic rock structures carry all sorts of evocative imagery. 
Monday 23rd and the storm arrived in the night. It is blustery and damp but I will be venturing out to collect iron coated stones. I will rub the iron oxide over my paper wrapped stones to accentuate the edges and texture. I’m getting a bit better at the technique!
I have been working on a rocky formation on the beach and yesterday I peeled the mulberry paper like a fragile skin from the rock face. It is the antithesis of the rock and I’m fascinated by this skin quality as it unfolds from the dense material of the stone. I’m planning to hang the skins, spacing them from the wall with sewing pins to configure a form quite different from the ancient original—although relatively not so ancient—Iceland is one of the youngest land masses in the world:
In the studio I’m covering more small stones and rubbing iron oxide and graphite against the stone to accentuate the form and surface detail. When I unwrapped the paper skin from the first small stone it had tiny holes at the high points of the surface texture. It let the light through, adding yet another magical property.

Cloud on Drangey

cloud on sea

wrapped rock 3 on beach 

Face of Malmey known as the Cathedral

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beginning of the second week

Beginning to get somewhere with experiments—covering rocks with paper and using iron patinated stones along with graphite to rub in the details of the stone. I’m also taking active, bubbling red algae from the rock pool where I’ve chosen to work and spreading the algae over wet paper. As it dries it does very interesting things and I’m documenting everything. Unfortunately, when I brought the piece into the studio it stank to high heaven and now it's ouside in the rain getting even smellier!! We have three days of showers ahead so I will work in the studio wrapping complete stones.
On Sunday, Steinunn took the five of us on a road trip to Akureyri, the second largest town in Iceland, north west of Baer. The lighting was spectacular all day and we had many stops and photo ops. The buildings are clad in corrugated steel, painted very bright colours. With a backdrop of ever changing colour and spectacular atmospherics the coloured buildings work amazingly well. We went to a very interesting historical herring museum in Siglufyiordur, an old fishing town that has been isolated until recently when tunnels were built through the mountains. The tunnels themselves intrigued me. They curve through the mountain and somehow have an ethereal quality. Hewn out of the rock, narrow, with high arches and beautiful proportions you really feel you are traveling in a parallel world. One of the tunnels is single track where one direction has priority and oncoming traffic has to pull into alcoves. With no traffic lights to control the flow visitors have to work it out but I think ones intuition has the space to develop here. There is nothing to break the continuity.  
Akureyri, a very colourful friendly town has a good bookshop, art supplies, an art museum and a 100 year old botanic garden where the plants are even more vibrant that they are in Edinburgh. 
We got home about 10PM and of course as it doesn’t get dark I went down to my cove to check things out and actually did some work! It is very difficult to go to bed and even more difficult to get up in the morning. The Icelanders are active round the clock in the two months of summer and sleep more in the winter. The body must adapt to this rhythm whereas we guests are just lacking sleep!
End of Tuesday 17th.
We’re all busy and creative now. It’s interesting working in such a social situation. We share ideas but we’re all doing our individual thing and come together for lunch—the biggest meal—and tasty dinner of transformed leftovers! The food is amazing and I’m getting inspired to expand my jaded Boulder Creek repertoire by getting an Icelandic cook book—I’ve never eaten so much fish in my life! Our young photographer, Mark Hartman is a vegetarian but is certainly enjoying the fish! Baer is planning a cook book........
I’m spending a lot of time working outside in a small sheltered rocky cove near Baer where I’m wrapping the rocks with mulberry paper. I can spend 3 solid hours there and then I go back in the evening to check things. So far the work I’ve done is small scale. I would need extra hands to maneuver big pieces of paper and I think that would be a project in itself. Eventually, taken from the rocks to the studio they become 'impressions of Iceland' and look like 3D maps spaced off the wall with long pins.
This open landscape and the constantly changing light and colour is a gift for photography. The sun on its low circular trajectory draws a ring around the land and the shadows are very long all day. I’m incorporating this into the work as it evolves.
I seem to have forgotten about video after the first few days here and am concentrating on photography, and hands on work. I’ve been feeling the need to return to this sort of work for quite a while an am really enjoying it. 
It is completely experimental so there is always that edge of not being quite sure of what one is doing. We have to present our meanderings at an open day in two weeks time. It will be good finally to have to pull things together. 

Wrapped stone 2
All night ever changing sunset at Baer
Atmospheric Baer
Siglufjordur fishing village - Tove with wooden figures

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three days have gone by

Three days have gone by and we are gradually settling in. Following a serious case of overwhelm, the group is bonding well after a show and tell yesterday in which we were all blown away by each others creative endeavors. 
Donald began as a furniture maker and brings this aesthetic to his sculpture. I really like his work which has similarities to Richard Deacon and Martin Puryear.
Mark is an artist photographer based in New York. He showed us a series of very interesting found—in Panama—billboard montages where local people had stripped sections revealing layers of material. He searches out and photographs marginalized cultures.

Tove is a sensitive artist from Norway. Having recently spent some time in Cambodia. She is finding a way to integrate her experience of the Cambodian and Icelandic cultures in an experimental work where she combines the native materials of each country.
Linda does wonderful drawings of water and is definitely in the right place! She has been carefully observing all around her, taking photographs and has found her spot in the landscape which will inspire new work.

Our wonderful host Steinunn bought Baer with the vision to create an art centre that would provide a retreat for artists and architects to rekindle and renew creative experience in an exquisitely beautiful, tranquil environment. She is an architect and with a colleague designed the buildings specifically for this purpose. Nothing has been overlooked.
We’re all taking our time to explore to see what direction we will take individually. Yesterday I spent about 4 hours photographing the geometric rock formations—that look to me like stone flowers—and shooting a video footage of the sun on the water. The light is warm and as the sun circles the sky over the day in a very subtle sweep, the light appears to stay on a similar trajectory and it seems that only the direction of the shadow changes. I came out with my camera in the late evening just before the sun swept the horizon and got some dramatic images.
This morning some of us took advantage of the new warm swimming pool on the edge of the fiord in Hofsos, the nearest town, only five minutes drive away. It felt so good to swim and I think this will be a regular activity to be followed up when I get back to CA.
Pordarhofdi (‘P’ is pronounced a bit like ‘th’ and the ‘d’ is not in the Icelandic alphabet) is a bluff—no pun intended—at the end of a pebble causeway connecting the land owned by Baer. I spent the afternoon making my way over about 2 miles of large pebbles that lead to the bluff.

The Arctic terns are aggressively protecting their young and in Hitchcock style were dive bombing me and screeching aggressively. They have a very sharp beak and were a bit to close for comfort. I decided to film this scene as I walked. The sun was casting a long shadow and I filmed my shadow with the shadow of the birds making dives and sounding as if they meant business. I think I have some very interesting footage. I was intending to make rubbings to make impressions of the land but so far have used video and photography.
Baer Art Center. The studios and lounge on the left.

Pordarhofdi / bluff 

                                                           The lounge in late afternoon.


Black-tailed godwit

Today is the 12th and the weather perfect for another walk to the bluff, Pordarhofdi , to take some rubbings/impressions of the land.
Walking the gauntlet of the arctic terns and over the big pebbles is quite a challenge but I practiced Taji walking which put no strain on my feet or legs. I'm enjoying a new freedom!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Iceland beyond my wildest dreams!!

The five of us have just arrived at the residency. It is beyond any ones wildest dream
We five artists on the residency met for the first time on the regular bus that took us north to the Hofsos, the nearest town and a five hour drive—spectacular landscape—words cannot describe adequately. And it got better and better. The Art Center is on a fiord in an exquisite purpose built, specifically designed building with big glass windows looking out to the Arctic Ocean, with pastures, islands, dramatic skies and Icelandic horses. It is serene and expansive. The animals like everything else here are surprisingly beautiful and calm. Baer is a horse farm and the horses are half wild. They go to the valley in summer to run wild and are herded back to the farm in winter. It is amazing to see them running with the wind in their manes. As a complete beginner I get the opportunity to learn to ride one of these wonderful beasts.
The studios are 400 sq ft with a small bedroom and bathroom at one side and the buildings are painted white throughout and illuminated by a skylight in the roof. Steinunn who owns the farm is an architect and designed the buildings with a colleague. Amazingly, she is funding this herself. 

It is difficult to stop working with 24 hours of daylight. The light changes dramatically and rapidly. I have tried to photograph the fiord and I just can't do it justice. It is almost 12:00PM and the sun is low in the sky but shining brightly and it feels like early evening. I must say it is very cold and fairly windy out there and I will need all my layers when I go off  to pursue my project tomorrow. 

I was in Reykjavik for 3 days before coming here and the center of the city is very charming and colorful. A new friend and fellow artist at the residency Linda Simmel and I had met up on the 6th in Reykjavik and we spent a restorative afternoon yesterday at the blue lagoon on the outskirts of the city. It is a natural thermal pool/spar within the lava beds, surrounded by volcanoes. The pool has a steaming geyser at its center generating hot, blue/white water. White silica mud, responsible for the whiteness in the water, we daubed all over anything in need of rejuvenation. The bottom of the pool is white/black glass, black lava scree and smooth lava rock. It was very cleansing and relaxing and a much needed after the long flight—I feel 10 years younger!
There is much more to say abut reykjavik and my companions but it is definitely time for me to sleep!!

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Definitely time to get some sleep!

                                                              Detail - Blue Lagoon
                                        Reykjavik city center
                                        View from the studio building at Baer