Today I'm wrapping up the second of my posts about my trip to Scotland, and this entry includes the residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath. I'm so happy that as I traveled, I could do updates via social media outlets like Instagram and, with so much support and interest while I worked, I didn't feel like I was that far away!
I departed Edinburgh on Monday morning, after resting all night in a hotel that overlooked the railway, Calton Hill, and parts of Old Town. I was looking forward to being in one place for awhile rather than moving around almost every day, dragging my bag around behind me. On the train ride up to Arbroath, I accidentally slipped while moving my luggage and twisted my ankle, which really swelled and put me in a sour mood. Luckily, I did this after the major hikes I'd planned were done. I felt sad and ashamed that I'd hurt myself, so I called my husband for a pep talk, in which he stated, "Cheer up; remember where you are. You're in Scotland!" He said other really helpful things, too, but this was what I remember.
The first evening at Hospitalfield was a sea change. I met so many new people (including other artists of the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency), saw the grounds again on a brief tour, and had a large group dinner with everyone in the galley. It was such an exciting time. I felt so much like I wanted to hug everyone, yet the wounded part of me wanted to open a bottle of whisky and go to bed. But what a bed it was! Staying at a residency in a house that dates from different eras, some going as far back as the 17th century, is certainly part of the experience.
Each of the interdisciplinary artists had space to work in that was all their own, and I was assigned the Kinpurnie Print Studio. I ended up using this space a lot less than I had originally planned. I spent a few days wrestling with the fact that my plans didn't match my reality: what was happening for me at the residency was a period of growth, collection, and reflection. I began by simply walking (hobbling) around the grounds, and feasting my eyes upon all the small things there were to observe and interact with. My first action at Hospitalfield was to make a small installation from found objects and leave it, either for someone to find or for it to fall apart.
I next worked slowly on a series of monotypes for a book I'm currently finishing in my home studio. These prints were inspired directly by the red, rich sandstones I'd explored the week before down the coast, and partially by my incessant interest in deep time and exploring ways to relate that through my print work. I consistently worked for about three hours per day in the print studio before the cold got into my bones and I felt I had to get inside the house and hug a cup of tea and work on something else. Sometimes I went to the joint mixed media studios in the evenings to see what some of the other artists, Jude Hagan and Charlie Cousins were working on, and warmed myself with a whisky and my laptop. It works.
When I wasn't in the Kinpurnie Print Studio, I used my time to go on longer walks around Arbroath and the coast. As my ankle healed up, I found I was able to make it further everyday, and by the first weekend, I had a lovely 7.5 mile walk up a very geologically interesting trail around the Seaton Cliffs. If I had continued to follow it, it would lead all the way up to Auchmithie, an old fishing village. I also had a fabulous visit from my friend Amanda Thomson who made a drive all the way out from Glasgow to see me. It did my soul some good to see her again and have long chats about prints, politics, and all things between.
I also spent a fair amount of time at the residency wandering the house and grounds, getting familiar with the different rooms and artworks inside, finding different places to become engulfed. I spent more than my fair share of time collecting rocks and sitting at the beach, observing it for all the time I could, and I found inspiration in unintentional places.
It's very difficult to put a period on or an ending to what happened at my residency. I had to physically leave Hospitalfield House after 2 weeks, but the spirit of creative freedom that I realized in that moment was a thing that has been captured, to a certain extent by my experiences with rocks that make up the surrounding coast and countryside, but also by a particular looking away from traditional methods of working. The time for reflection and writing was fruitful, and timed perfectly with the invitation by my friend Jacob Leveton to come and do a talk in Paris.
Giving a talk about my work at this stage is exciting because it culminates in so much interest in geology, memory, and the attempt to both understand and explain the earth. Concepts about deep time, the Anthropocene, and global warming are interesting, but what really excites me is how much these ideas mimic or are associated with human emotion and complexity. In many ways, printmaking is the ideal medium with which to express these thoughts, and even lends itself to talking about geological "moments." I found myself wondering how it is that I got to be so lucky to be in Paris, sharing my passion with other people.
Jacob and I ended the night sharing crepes from his favorite stand near the Fondation des États-Unis, talking not of the past but of the future. It was the best ending to a trip I could imagine.