This body of work has taken me to unexpected places. Through it I have explored themes of time, perception and the human experience through personal narrative. Poetical texts , journals , talks and exhibitions have fed into this process as have links with industry and specialist practitioners. Crow pulp paintings have emerged through this – the limited tonal palette becoming a counterpoint to the high key palette of the paintings. Crow symbolism has been extensively explored and led to different branches of opportunity and expression.
The creative process has been discussed and shared through peer sessions, tutorials, an exposition and blog. It has also been recorded in notebooks , life drawing/ painting and partially through photography. Questions have been asked, theories considered, reflected on and responded to; partly in the poetical art statement to share with my peers and exposition attendees and also as part of the ongoing process.
Creativity is not as the crow flies but rather as the tree grows.
Below is an adapted part of the poetical art statement in two ‘wings’ expressing the themes:
Triptych: the idea of three distinct images connected through time and meaning
Painting as an expression and archive
change over time
Birds: messengers and symbols of freedom, vulnerability, protection, shadow and light
Together, the Fine Art element of the MA put on a group exposition as a culmination of our expanded studio practice. After considering various venues, we secured a show space at Partisan. The build-up and process of developing the exposition was arduous, dramatic and convoluted to say the least. The role of social media in the process was valuable at connecting us, yet not all read the posts and information became repetitive, misunderstood and frustrated at times. The problem with the written word is that sometimes the tone and intention is lost. The name of the exhibition , I felt, was not encompassing of our practice. The only way I could concede to it was through the democratic process, in that most accepted it and also in another sense of the phrase:
However, we did use different media platforms to promote the work such as ArtRabbit and Facebook, plus physical posters that were circulated. On the day we organically curated the space and worked considerately to accommodate the needs of individuals whilst retaining an awareness of the whole show, to create a diverse exposition in the basement space. It was physically challenging because we were not allowed to have any fixings on the walls and the surface was loose and crumbly making it impossible to put adhesive forms on there. We did use the given fixtures and fittings creatively though. I was fortunate to find on my chosen wall space two parallel nails from which I could hang my clipped pulp paintings. I had also planned ahead and brought free standing easels, as had others.
When we had all set up, we were reflecting on the tumultuous process and decided it would have been a better plan to allocate roles to working parties and to spend more time on promotion. Personally, it was interesting discussing my work with those who attended as I found a distinct polarity of appreciation in that some really resonated with the paintings, use of colour and were fascinated by the crow symbolism, whereas others very definitely felt an affinity with the delicacy and tonality of the pulp paintings. I came away with a sense of accomplishment, shared experience combined with a process of valuable, reflective group and individual artistic cooperation and evolution.
Throughout this process I have been drawn to and inspired by literature; mainly poetry and journals such as:
Now on the Eve of the Exposition, I have written my own poetic crow-shaped statement, which like the work, can be read in different ways and is open to interpretation. It is printed on pulped fiction paper ( Mills and Boon) , made in collaboration with artist Alexis Reeves
Frida Kahlo’s autobiographical work has been an important key during research of narrative artwork. Her painting of The dream, the bed (1940), I found particularly mesmeric as the artist is also the viewer and death is not a taboo subject as in our culture but is celebrated in Mexico ( Day of the Dead). The vines and flowers I felt alluded to new life, creation and growth. This made me reflect on the Yew tree symbol of our ancient culture that I had infused my painting with, except mine I felt was a marker for time.
This portrait was painted by Frida Kahlo after the death of her father and she continued to work on it for over a decade. The inscription commemorates him fighting against Hitler and also suffering from epilepsy. Kahlo painted him in sepia which reflects his role as a photographer and could be read as his artistic influence upon her. This I found interesting because I had created a partner painting for ‘Crow Mother’, using a sepia photograph of my father and the idea of the battle, both internal and external with addiction that he struggled with and ultimately lost nearly fifty years ago. In some ways, I felt that he was the original wild and damaged creature in ‘Crow Mother’ that mum was nursing. There was a link. Again across time.
In the process of creating this work I used the only photograph I’d had of him as a child which was a small sepia profile shot of him looking to the left. I always wondered what the unknown side of his face looked like. As a response to this question, I decided to flip the picture and enlarge it in the digital print studio, Salford. I then used it as a source for this painting. That way, as an artist (and a daughter), I finally had ‘the full picture’; both known and unknown, yet no face is symmetrical.
The Crow helmet that I am still working on links back to the description in the book ‘Crow’ by Boria Sax , of Celtic Warrior, Valerius Corvus, ‘Valerius the Crow’ (p56). The idea of the crow being present at, and a symbol of battle (be it addiction or otherwise) inspired me to develop the crow helmet idea. The family name and my art name – Kilty came originally from Caoilte, an Irish warrior from the fianna (war band) of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. This name has changed over time and was anglicized when my family fled the potato famine. Family history has us believe we are descended from Irish giants and warriors. This is a story of our ancestral origins passed down orally through time and infusing our present.
My three paintings now evolved into a crow family triptych: Crow Mother, Crow Father and Crow Daughter.
Alongside the pulp paintings at Salford, I have been working on a canvas that I’ve lately come to call ‘Crow daughter’. Inspired by a dream I had several years ago which I recorded in a journal. In the dream, I was taken up by a huge murder of crows that carried me across a kind of surreal, seething landscape where faces surged out of the earth towards me. The feeling accompanying the dream was one of complete protection by the unlikely feathered allies and a new perspective. The end of the dream had a strange announcement that I had seventeen years left.
Following the Crow Mother portrait based on a childhood memory of Mum nursing a crow when I was younger and releasing it back to the wild, I felt that this was a natural autobiographical development and had the urge to create Crow Daughter as part of this body of work. Where mum protected, nursed and nurtured the crow; this was like a reversal where I was being held, carried, protected by the crows and shown a different dream perspective that seemed to embody the changing landscape and passage of time on Earth.
I struggled with the idea of perspective as I was essentially the experiencer of the dream. I decided to change the perspective to that of standing outside of myself as a viewer to reflect time and distance between me and the dream, to give the viewer more range and opportunity for perception of key elements such as the changing face in the Earth and myself carried by crows across the dream landscape. I had no preconceived idea of how this work would evolve and allowed it to develop intuitively. Having attended life drawing classes at Salford School of Art and Media, during which we explored colour theory and discussed classical techniques with the ‘life painting’ tutor; Chris Clements (as painting has been the focus this semester), technically, I would now describe this as a high key painting.
After a recent visit with my brother to an ancient yew tree in Beltingham, Northumberland. We discussed time, symbolism, death and the idea of life continuing regardless of process, or as part of the process. The images and experience of this great and venerable tree and connection to the moment in time where we contemplated something ancient in a place ( churchyard) that marks the passage of human time and where time seems to stop impacted us both. This idea I used in the tree of teardrops above. In some sense I felt I was creating an essence of time.
Does time exist? Is time relative? This was becoming a nonlinear work.
Over the period of this book the Yew tree at Beltingham was growing, regardless of the seething changes of humanity. Although in itself finite, it seemed to embody something of the eternal as it was over a thousand years old and stood on hallowed ground. Manuel de Landa in the above philosophical work, recommended by Jake Chapman, states that “technology won’t be viewed as evolving in a straight line.” (p.73,) I felt this related to how I was beginning to view my creative process too. Time was emerging as a theme.
I have been collaborating with technical demonstrator Sue Debney of Salford Art School. This was the third session of papermaking that had developed into pulp painting with Sue – a new area of development for both of us. It is a long, technical, creative and involved process. This time I brought in meaningful items: two 100% cotton faded black martial arts t-shirts that my son and I had worn up to brown belt grading over three years. They represented the battle, internal struggle, technical development of form, awareness of flow, family connection, legacy, evolution, strength, and growth.
To convey a sense of the complexity and length of the process involved, I have included some photos and notes made at the time:
It took several hours but finally we were rewarded with a beautiful black pulp to work with.
I had brought two reels of cotton from my mother’s sewing box that I inherited from her. To keep a limited palette I chose a deep crimson and white. I then ‘drew’ with the threads on the sheets before pressing.
In this process , discussed with Sue, I was mindful about the space around the feather shape, the flow and impermanence almost like a zen paper painting. This would become an exhibited piece and part of the group exposition.
Following the reading of the poetical work Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Portman, the consideration of the role of time healing all wounds and slowly inexorably changing perspective through it’s process; I reread through my mum’s poetry. This is a poem taken from my mum’s journal mid 1970s. It is similar to Zen poetry in that it captures something uncapturable: the moment, truth, time and being.
It resonated, as I use meditation as part of my process. It also reflects discussions on meditation I had with mum, who was a lifetime practitioner. I am currently collaging her poem onto tissue paper and board, reconsidering the flow of the words. I am exploring the flight of the moment and an abstracted fluid representation and expression of this theme.