Isle Of Iona Residency Part 3

Spring is in the air and there’s a real sense that the island of Iona is ‘waking up.’ The Argyll Hotel re-opened yesterday after the winter, the Columba Hotel is getting a coat of paint and the Garden Café is serving lunch from Wednesday to Saturday… all of which signals that my time here is nearly over.

I am giving a talk on Saturday and showing my work to the people who live here. It’s a good chance for me to consider what I have been up to and how it relates to my practice as a whole.

Needing to explain my ideas to others is helping me to clarify them. It’s time to take stock of all that I have learnt here.

Natures rhythms, constant, relentless motion, percussive sounds of the sea, thinking about notes and chords, pounding beat of the waves… passages of sound and movement… how to translate all of this into paint?

A crashing wave is both momentary and ancient, repeated throughout time. There is something about watching tides come and go that resonates on a very deep level… I think it’s a basic rhythm that we respond to as humans. The work I am taking home is the first stage of a much longer process and will inform a series of larger studio paintings all about time and motion. I want to see if I can make paintings in the studio at home that create the same resonance, something really fundamental to life. I can’t wait to work on a larger scale.

My thoughts are turning to the next stage and where all of these ideas will lead. I am interested in how to put down a sequence of movement in one painting… charting its rhythmic flow across time… some parallels with written music or dance notation. I’m not quite sure how I will achieve this and so I am being careful to get all the information I might need. In my quest, I think I may be responsible for various shades of turquoise building up on the field gates! Oil paint takes time to dry and I have to think about the logistics of getting wet paintings home again… so, as my last week is here, it’s time to embrace water based media!

The hostel has provided the perfect nurturing environment in which to discuss all sorts of ideas and concepts. Conversations have ranged from politics and world affairs to accountancy and espionage, from pilgrimage to sugar free baking. I have learnt about all sorts of things, much of it is now feeding into my thoughts… there have been lessons in pixels and philosophy, St Bridget and geology, dance notation, quantum physics, seaweed harvesting, bread making, theology, fiddle music and choral singing, making a paint brush from a goose feather, constellations, Scottish history, tides, ferries and phases of the moon, sand banks, skiffs and serpentine, orgonite domes and sharing a studio with a blackbird! All of which have helped to make this such a rich experience.

An unexpected aspect of this residency is that I have learnt to be more open with sharing ideas and thoughts about my work in the early stages and as a result I have discovered a wealth of knowledge and talked to a diverse and interesting mix of people from all over the world. I am enormously grateful to the local people on the island who bothered to stop and talk and made me feel very at home, even though I was covered in paint and quite likely had a blue eyebrow or two! I enjoyed the talk I gave very much… I really appreciated so many people coming along and their interest and questions led to some great discussion.

Pink sea, ideas flow, I love evening light on a high tide with a big swell… these four weeks will be fuelling my work for a very long time…

My aim was to gain headspace and inspiration… which I have certainly done, but I have also learnt something much greater… about myself. I was chatting to one of the local people the day before I left and she asked: “How have you got on?” I told her that I have gained far more from my month here than I ever imagined and she replied: “You always get more than you expected from Iona!”

She was right, I found my time on Iona deeply inspiring and enriching in all sorts of ways.

I have been home for a month now, and a new body of work is under way in my studio, based on all of this. Watch this space for the next blog post.