Fine Art + Media Student DJCAD Dundee
I recently read an interesting book about death. That’s a great first line, isn’t it?
I guess my family talks about death more often than most. This is because my Dad works in the funeral business as a hearse driver predominantly, but also as a ‘transporter’ – picking up dead bodies and taking them to the funeral home. Before he started that job it just never occurred to me how many people die on a daily basis as silly as that sounds. You don’t hear about it often unless it is someone that you know. Especially as a 22 year old, mortality has never been a particularly high concern on my list.
As many of you know I had my own dance with death a couple of months back (read it here if you missed it). Since then I guess I’ve been a bit paranoid. It is only now that I have been able to take time to reflect back on what was a life changing experience. Confronting my own mortality.
During my illness I became suddenly very aware of my own impermanence – we all are living organisms constantly changing. I remember studying this concept when I researched Buddhism but until you experience it first hand it’s difficult to comprehend. The abscess in my body was slowly killing me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The only way I can describe the feeling was like losing some sort of unexplainable fight, piece by piece.
I distinctly remember lying at 2am in the hospital bed. The only thing I could feel was the abscess somewhere inside of me throbbing, slowly distributing poison throughout my bloodstream. It had swollen so large over such a short period of time that I was so terrified at that moment the abscess would rupture and kill me instantly.
A sort of uncontrollable primal panic seized me.
I wasn’t afraid of death itself, rather, everything that went along with it. Could everybody cope without me? I was sad all the plans I had might not be fulfilled.
I didn’t die, thankfully, and a few weeks into recovery I stumbled across Caitlin Doughty through her Youtube series ‘Ask a Mortician’ where she covers topics on anything from body decomposition to funeral procedures. It was refreshing, insightful and strangely relieving. Death is, after all, as natural as birth. Yet we don’t talk about it.
When I found out she had written a book on her experiences I knew immediately I wanted to read it. ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is a memoir of sorts, about her work as a mortician and her views on death and the funeral industry – albeit from an American perspective.
It’s a fascinatingly morbid yet captivating read, and I would highly recommend it.
“We’re all just future corpses” she writes with unapologetic frankness.
I guess I got lucky this time.
A super quick blog post to say you can now purchase my work online from Art Pistol’s website! It’s a great chance to own a piece of my work and I have a lot of limited edition affordable test pieces up there! You can click here to visit the site or click the link on my ‘buy/commissions’ tab :)
I was thrilled to attend the Art Pistol 2017 Best of Scottish Graduates exhibition last Saturday. The exhibition is on for 4 weeks so if you’re in Glasgow pop in to see it. I absolutely loved the way my work was laid out. I am showing my two frames from degree show as well as some development etchings. It was such a great atmosphere and I met so many people that I haven’t seen in a long time. My work will be going up on the Art Pistol website shortly, and I will link to there when that happens. It’s a really exciting prospect for my work, and hopefully this will be the start of a happy future for my future pieces!
These last few weeks have been pretty crazy after the degree show.
Yesterday I officially graduated with my First Class Honours Degree. It was a really great day and so great to finally get my degree certificate.
I still feel like I have so much left to explore of my artistic process, and thankfully I’ve been given the chance to do so. The Art and Humanities course is run by Professor Mary Modeen who won the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching, so I reckon I’m in safe hands.
It opens this Saturday (June 24th) and is on for 4 weeks. Every year they select 10 new artists from the Scotland’s degree shows to take part. Last weekend I moved my work down there and so got to have a little look at the gallery. It’s a lovely little select gallery situated in Cresswell Lane in the west end of Glasgow. I’m really excited to be showing my frames from degree show there and also some etchings that I had stored away. Here is the Facebook event if anyone is in the area I would love to meet you there – Art Pistol Best of Scottish Graduates 2017.
So that’s what I’ve been up to these past few weeks. Here are some photo highlights! I will write a blog post next week about how the Art Pistol opening went, I’m excited to show you all and it’ll be interesting to see my work in a space out with DJCAD.
I simply cannot wait to start my Master’s Degree and take you all on my MFA journey. I’ve had so much fun documenting my Bachelor’s Degree on here. It has not only been cathartic to document the week’s events but also useful as I can look back and see progress visually.
Until then, have a great week :)
So that was degree show. That crazy, week long event that these last four years has been leading up to. It’s safe to say that the last couple of months have been truly crazy, even for me. It worked out so well that on the opening night of degree show it was the last time I had to go to the hospital to get my wound packed. 40 days in total. So there was a double celebration of sorts, I was the happiest I had been in ages.
It was strange standing waiting on everyone to arrive and there was a sort of tentative moment where you think no one will come. The opening night was 6pm-9pm and it was great because in the fading light of day my frames began to truly glow. The reaction I had to them was unbelievable, more than I could have ever expected. It’s fair to say that most people were attracted to our room by the light of the frames – similar to a moth, people couldn’t seem to help themselves and some even said they skipped past other studios to come to ours first which was quite a compliment. The room became so busy at one point with so many people that the frames started to wobble a bit, but there was no chance they would fall. Still, I did a little check of all the transformers every so often and checked the soundtrack was still playing. So many people told me my work was their favourite piece out of the whole show and I was thrilled that people could relish in it as much as I did. Everyone loved to walk around them, touch them and see them shimmer which meant the next morning I was out with my cleaning spray and microfibre cloths, but totally worth every minute. I think the frames have an element of magic about them – these images are suspended in seemingly nothing with no obvious light source. One of the main questions I was asked, actually, was how they were lit – my favourite answer was ‘by magic’ and that always went down well with kids especially. At the end of the night I had a big smile on my face and two very sore feet from my new heels!
Throughout the week it was great as I sat in my studio every single day I had a chance to speak to everyone in depth who visited. So many interesting individuals, many of whom had personally sought out my studio to speak to me after seeing me on the news – which, the way here’s the link to if you haven’t seen it. I got to talk to people from all walks of life – doctors, carers, scientists and gallery owners. I was thrilled that my main message about dementia managed to get through to everyone. I had a carer tell me that I had hit the nail on the head with my vinyl words, and she became quite emotional when telling me of her sister. The main comment I had was that the frames themselves were a beautiful piece of art but that the message and ideas behind them made them all the more poignant which made me really happy.
The week was so successful that by the end of it I had 6 gallery offers and 2 exhibition invitations. In the middle of the week I had a lovely couple who came in to purchase my maquette, and I was a little sad to see it go but happy it was going to such an art-loving household.
This Tuesday I went in to clear the room and take all of my vinyl letters off which was a fairly sad moment. Considering the effort it took to place them on the wall they came off horrendously easily and I had to have a chuckle to myself thinking of the hassle it took to place them on there. My frames were packed up carefully for their next journey.
Overall I was thrilled that the whole degree show went exactly how I had planned it, despite me being so seriously ill during the month previous and run up to degree show. I can’t wait to have a bit of a break and actually rest, something I’ve not had a chance to do properly since I have left the hospital.
So what now you might be asking? Well I have some very exciting news to share with you all in the coming weeks. Put it this way, this is definitely not the last blog post you’ll read on this site that’s for sure ;)
Possibly the craziest week of my life. It’s taken me this long to write about it as I’ve genuinely had to have time to recover. For some silly reason I thought that install week would be easy, fun even. Oh how wrong I was. Somehow I managed it though, in between getting my wound packed every day and feeling like crap. Don’t ask me how because I still don’t know. All I know is that I had great help and advice from everyone around me, and that definitely pushed me through it. So here’s a run down on what happened every day during this crazy hectic week – enjoy!
On Monday there was a sense of sadness. I finally had to pack up and leave the studio that I’ve called home for the last 7 months. I was reluctant to leave it but I carefully packed up all of my development work and moved out into the corridor. I was still pretty knackered (remember I had only been in a couple of days the week before) so I didn’t stay long on Monday. Our degree show studio space (610) still had people moving their belongings out so there wasn’t much we were able to do. I also had a little mooch around DJCAD (still not really walking right) and thought about how much this establishment has given me. When I first arrived here I was quite a self-conscious 18 year old and so much has changed since then. I feel like I’ve found my voice, not only as an artist but as a person. I have learnt so much in terms of artistic techniques, research and abilities. * Cue reminiscent sighs. * Needless to say, this relaxing start to the week didn’t last long.
So the real work began on Tuesday. The partitions in our space hadn’t been moved yet, but I wanted to get cracking painting the solid wall where my vinyl lettering was being placed so it would dry in time. I was joined by third year Heather – check out her amazing resin paintings here. She offered to help me and I gladly took her up on the offer. I helped out a 4th year last year and I felt it was quite an insightful experience so I hope she felt the same, even if it was a bit manic. There was a minor panic first thing Tuesday morning as there were whispers of the matte emulsion paint not arriving, but they were soon dismissed as tubs of white began to spring up in various studios. Heather was great at painting the upper areas of the wall and I stuck to the lower areas as my post-surgery wound wouldn’t allow a lot of stretching. We made a trip to the shop after lunch to buy cleaning supplies including wire wool pads and tackled the floor. You wouldn’t believe how much mess art students can make on a single patch of vinyl floor. We cleaned off paint, resin, glue, ink and a number of unidentifiable substances from the floor, our knees and hands aching by the time it was finished. By the end of the day though the room looked almost unrecognisable and the floor was actually quite a nice shade of blue-grey, and not the sludge colour I had originally thought.
Wednesday was very much a ‘doing’ day. I arrived bright and early after getting my wound packed and let Ali in the Make Lab deal with putting the LEDs in my final frames. Before he could start on that though I used the large table to peel off the background of my vinyl letters and prepare them for putting on the wall. This took almost the whole morning and was surprisingly tricky. Out of all of my vinyl words, only one word ‘lovely’ was cut out wrong, which I felt was pretty good going. I spent the whole day in the wood workshop finishing off sanding my frames down, a bigger manual job than I had expected. The handheld sander is so heavy and in my weakened state I had to hold it with two hands and switch off the machine to take a rest every couple of minutes. I managed it though, and I had a pretty awesome sense of achievement as I guess it’s the first real physical job I had done relating to my work since the operation. In the afternoon I printed off my final vinyl word and then towards the end of the day I stained my last wooden inserts to go into my frames. Of course, had I not been in hospital all of these little jobs would have been done and I would have had much more time, but as it was I just had to get on with it.
Again I had my wound packed early on the Thursday so I could come in early to uni. Louise my tutor arrived in the morning, and we laid out my vinyl to be placed on the wall. She talked me through the basics of putting vinyl on the wall and we did the first section. I hadn’t realised there were so many steps, although I guess it is different when you are placing text on the wall verses an image. Everything had to be measured exactly. The words were placed on the wall with the backing on. Transfer paper was then placed on top and the whole thing peeled off the wall. At this point, the backing paper was peeled off and the final vinyl lettering was placed onto the wall. Luckily for me, Heather had popped in again and lent a hand because it was definitely a two-person job. This quite literally took us the whole day, but it was so worth it. The finished wall looked incredible.
Friday was a bit of a wait. I had my frames hinged and placed in the space and then literally just waited on the university technicians. In the meantime I did some painting and cleaning of the window in my space. When they arrived, the electricians managed to wire up both of my frames and the speakers for my soundtrack to one mains switch. Not as simple as it sounds. I think my heart stopped several times through various ‘oops’ moments, like when they forgot to put a fuse in the plug and were insisting my frames weren’t working (still can’t figure out whether that one was a joke or not.) There was also a major, major setback that afternoon. The power sources that I had bought turn out didn’t have enough power to light up all three frames as had originally been thought. Of course if I hadn’t been off for three weeks the solution to the problem would have been figured out week ago, but here I was just left to come up with some answer. The only answer I could find that I knew would work would be to supply each frame with their own transformer, that way maximum power would be going to each set of LEDs. This presented a new problem – the wires weren’t long enough to allow the frames to sit in the middle of the floor. Even if they were long enough, they had now become a trip hazard and were extremely unsightly, drawing the attention away from the frames. I went home that night with my head pounding, emotional and had a very restless sleep.
Saturday the 6th I had to come up with some kind of solution and fast. With help, I figured out that I could buy longer figure 8- 15amp plug cables which would allow the frames to be situated in the middle of the room. Luckily my parents (who have been a life-savers throughout this whole process) rushed up to the local light store and were able to pick them up before they closed. Thank goodness when I tried these they worked, and the frames lit up well. I was now faced with the task of trying to cover up this wiring as much as possible. In the afternoon I managed to put my soundtrack on the Ipod Shuffle that the AV workshop had leant me (they’re difficult to work after being used to an Ipod touch.) There was talk of me hiding the speakers behind the door so I spent ages trying to find wiring and cables to manage that, but as it happened the AV workshop didn’t have the cables and I was far too tired to mind. I actually quite like the idea of being able to see where the sound comes from, so it didn’t bother me. Right at the end of the day the electricians came in again and announced I would have to find some kind of boxes to cover up the power sources with as I wasn’t allowed to have them exposed. This prompted a panic trip to B&Q to buy wood and other necessities such as duct tape and cable ties. I spent that evening measuring out the boxes and drawing this onto the wood, ready to be made the next day.
I knew the wood workshop was going to be busy as everyone needed last-minute things. My Dad kindly offered to make the boxes for me at home while I went in to uni. I spent the day basically cleaning. The floor had become grimy again since the electricians had been in drilling and walking about, so mopping it was the first order of the day. This was easier said than done however, as all of the sinks had been boarded off, meaning the only source of water was the women’s bathroom which was downstairs. I think I made genuinely about 20 trips up and down just to wash my patch of floor as I had to change the water every time it got dirty. If I had no muscles at the beginning of the week, I certainly had them at the end. The rest of the day was spent putting finishing touches to the room – tidying up cables with clips and ties, masking cables on the floor and washing windows. I also spent a good while polishing and cleaning my acrylic which hadn’t really been looked at since the wood workshop and was in desperate need of some TLC. Once the sawdust and marks had been polished off they ended up looking really great, I was super pleased with them. On arriving home my Dad had made the perfect boxes to cover the transformers, and I have to take my hat off to him. Apparently I had also done the measurements all wrong but he (somehow) managed to fix it. He’s a miracle worker.
Internal marking commenced on Monday morning (8th) and I was able to put the boxes over the transformers in time. External marking begins next week, we receive our final grades on Wednesday then opening night is on Friday. There has also been a couple of setbacks this week such as my speakers packing in yesterday and having to be replaced. When I was in hospital I thought my hand in might not happen, but here I am. I’m really knackered and can’t wait to have some time off, but I’ve never been so proud of an achievement in my life.
So Week 27 was pretty much the same as the last couple of weeks. Struggling to walk, a lot of pain and hardly eating.
Week 28 however was a different story. My open wound is still huge but it has stopped showing signs of infection and is running clear. I started to feel much better, my walking is great now and my muscle is building up again slowly but surely. My appetite has come back and I can now sit without it hurting a lot. I’m trying to have a lot of protein and calcium to put weight back on as I’ve lost a lot after the surgery. Unfortunately I will still need to have the wound packed every day for probably another 4 weeks at the very least. On a positive note though it has stopped hurting as much and just feels like a strange sort of pressure now, so a lot more tolerable than the nail-digging pain I’ve had up until now.
All of this of course, means that I was able to get back into uni. I’ve only been going in for a couple of hours at a time (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.) At first I really struggled because my muscles weren’t used to the stairs but now I’m getting a lot better. I had meetings with Eddie and Louise my tutor, but I don’t think I will need extra help with anything as my work seems to be on track.
On Thursday I managed with the help of Rob the Make Lab technician, to cut all of my vinyl letters ready to be put on the wall of my degree show space. I’ve also sorted out where all the electrical points are going in the space.
This week coming is exciting as I should get into my degree show space towards the end of the week, meaning I can start (with my helpers) to paint the space and clean it ready for install. Tomorrow I am having my wound packed at 12pm then heading straight for uni to work on getting my frames all finished for this week.
I also got in touch with the doctor who saved my life – Dr Anjali Patil – this week. It’s pretty exciting because hopefully she’ll be able to come and see my work at degree show – something which, if she hadn’t recognised the symptoms of sepsis, I would never have been able to attend. I think it’s really began to sink in that I will make it and will hopefully be feeling great by the time opening night arrives. I’m so excited again for the show, I can’t wait to see my work all finished.