Monday, February 24, 2014

Thinking about the look of North

I have now finished The Idea of North by Peter Davidson, but thoughts which sprang up during my reading are still floating about in my head.  Whilst reading I've been browsing through images, online, my postcards, my memories, ... seeking a personal view of North with which I can work.  This is something I'm doing gently, letting the thoughts find their own way.
The landscape of Scotland is important to me, but it is a long time since I have been right to  the top - the less romantic stretches which excited me so when I was last there.  The artist whose paintings come closest to those hair-raising memories is Wendy Sutherland
Rolling hills (from the Frances Kyle Gallery where there are more images)
Water under and over (from Browns Gallery where there are more images)
Here there are interesting videos about how she works.
These paintings have got my juices flowing because they so strongly animate my remembered experiences.  I am trying to explore what North means to me, and these powerful images (just think how fantastic the actual paintings must be) have helped push me in a direction I think is right - so far.
As happens so often with my work, I move forward by looking back.  I re-use previous figures, backgrounds, even work-in-sketch which has not felt complete when made.  This is like using a personal vocabulary when sometimes the words were not yet fully understood, but now there is an appropriate context for them.
Waving paper, heat transferred cotton scrap, painted silk offcuts, hand stitched
I made Waving some seven years ago when I was exploring collage.  I was thinking about alone-ness and vulnerability, and somehow that is partly how I feel about North: that sense of being naked, needing protection from the beautiful but unforgiving elements.
Some years ago, when I was learning to draw on the computer, and inspired by a Richard Diebenkorn nude I achieved a figure which pleased me, but for which I had no specific use.  I re-drew the figure as a drypoint which I then printed, this being that manifestation.  As background I have used a pastel drawing I have used before (most recognisably in Snagged, below), but this time turned it round.  It is still a sketch-in-progress - but again, I like that feeling of vulnerability.
 Snagged 2010 (112 x 66 cm)
 The other sketch-in-progress which dates to just before I started my northern readings, but seems to fit in with my current thinking is The elusive idea - but that is more to do with the Far North, and concern about global warming rather than a personal intimacy of North.


  1. What a fascinating and beautiful post - of special interest to me with my frequent visits to the North East of Scotland. I loved the work you showed by Wendy Sutherland, with its wild, dreamy, unquantifiable quality - fabulous - and so much to investigate further. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Margaret. Wendy Sutherland's work does look movingly beautiful.

  3. I love the idea of North too, being drawn to the majesty and starkness of places like Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic though I've not visited those places. I too love to re-use older images, or vocabulary as you aptly call them, in new contexts. All your pieces here are stunnning, Olga. I look forward to seeing how you develop these ideas.

  4. Thank you Marja-Leena. I am still at the earliest stages, so I too am interesting in how things will develop!

  5. I LOVE what you have done with your figure drawings! Great idea for me to remember....

  6. Wendy Sutherland's paintings are stunning, very evocative, and the colours are beautiful - and as you say, they must be fantastic to view in the flesh so to speak. But I am also drawn to your own work here, I love the background for Snagged and the one before it, and in both, the figures enhance the work.

  7. Eirene, thank you. I'm glad that you think the figures enhance the work because I cannot make abstracts work alone. They always need to be the context for the main theatrical action.