Wednesday, 6 October 2010

"what have you been up to since the masters finished?"

find a studio/ work in the kitchen/ spend too much money/ tighten your belt/ go to bed early/ wake up late/ think about the future/ put coppers in a jar/ borrow a car/ lust over a salary

i've been thinking of my masters show in two parts.
half was studio work, there were conclusions and adaptions, final shapes and playful relationships. the other half was (in my mind) more like a thesis show. i struggled so hard with my undergrad dissertation, it felt joyless and flat. writing a masters dissertation was oddly pleasant. for me, to write or even read on a topic i need to be excited by it. i have struggled, failed and given up with many art texts because i can't find anything exciting in them. it's about getting excited about something.

but your idea of exciting is probably different to mine. whatever floats your boat, you know?

He said, (but i can't quote, so i'll tell you in my own words, with some of his words), he said, Technical skill is good, and impressive but not exciting. That's what he said.

for a long time i thought that my work before the masters wasn't conceptual, i thought i couldn't work conceptually and i focused on learning skills: casting, welding, plasterwork. it wasn't until the 4th year of my undergrad that i was able to vocalise my ideas. it was commented to me that, my degree show was the making of me. that was strange to hear. on one hand it was a great compliment and on the other it felt like a massive pressure - the 'making of me'!?!? if this made me, what was i going to next? had everything before been utter shite?

now, i realise that i had my concept very early on. i toyed with things i found interesting, cubist bananas/ obsessive patterning/ non-art objects/ automatic drawing...
a year ago, while speaking to anna, i realised that my work was, and always had been, autobiographical.

but for me, being autobiographical wasn't enough. daily life created fuel to make work, but it needed something else. this led beautifully into fluxus >>>> fluxus allowed me to celebrate very ordinary everyday events and objects, not blowing them out out of proportion or using them as something else, but just enjoying them. in the lulls between creative outbursts i can consider daily life performatively >>>> performatively. is that a word? >>>> sculpture needs a performer, whether this is the maker - the artists hand that alters an object, the viewer whose presence is required for theatrical scale, the mannequin that stands in for the human body, an interaction or exchange that makes an object function. without a performer, i find sculpture a little flat.

"what have you been up to since the masters finished?" - the question on everyones lips.

"lots of things, but nothing really worth telling you about. just surviving, you know?"
"i went on holiday..."

Friday, 27 August 2010

Sunday, 15 August 2010

you know those moments when everything shoots out from below your feet and you feel sort of suspended somewhere between the wall and the floor?
masters show install starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

CRUEL TO BE KIND : a battle.

As a child, I was walking in the countryside, I found a rabbit caught in a snare, badly injured, bleeding and dying a painful slow death. My fathers friend told me to keep walking, as I walked away he stayed with the rabbit, he gently stroked its body a couple of times before quickly breaking its neck. Cruel to be kind.

Businessman versus caveman.
Luxury and pleasure versus survival.

Websites deliver brand new dishwashers to our door in cardboard boxes and endless parcel tape.
Keep it or throw it away?
Cardboard boxes are essential for survival to bed down with at night, if you sleep rough.

Do what you have to do in order to survive.

Monday, 26 July 2010

seven months ago, i had a compression fracture in my spine.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

500 Miles North

500 Miles North opening at the Hannah MacLure Centre, Abertay University, Dundee.
Erin said that I look the perfect mix of both my parents, but as I have my back turned to the camera, you may never know...
Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to sit by the beach with my wonderful boyfriend and a glass of strawberry wine.

Friday, 23 July 2010

more images at:

more images at

Sunday, 11 July 2010

false positives/ false conclusions

There was a big importance placed on resolved work for the Postgraduate Diploma assessment. At this time parts of my work were partially resolved - Oil on Cardboard was finished, TOUGHEN UP LIGHTEN UP in cardboard said 'TOUGH', CRUEL TO BE KIND was documented in photographs as it was in The Outbye Gallery, i had the sledgehammer and cubic zirconia pieces, flyswatter was hiding in the sculpture department for repairs, the bird whistles were sitting in the studio - there were lots of little conclusions.
I've spent the last two and a half weeks out of the studio, trying to rest, recover and find some clarity.
I had some big ideas: an anti-performance stage - a stage that would be unusable due to being too steep to physically stay on, or too flimsy to hold a performers weight. An untitled work that i toyed with calling WALK IT OFF (the title comes from being in the A&E department of Ninewells with a fracture in my spine that the doctors didn't find for 3 weeks and I was told to 'walk it off') although I also call it Smash Piece - is a work in which I smash handmade porcelain trophies with a sledgehammer.
I thought these ideas might be my Masters Show works, but now I realise that this is an artificial conclusion. In my last tutorial, Graham said that that I had to go back a couple of steps and resolve works that were unfinished, that I had stopped making so that I could start making something else. So, this week when I return to the studio, I will finish TOUGHEN UP LIGHTEN UP, which needs ENUPLIGHTENUP in order to conclude. Then I think I will turn my attention to making some of the objects that are in my paintings. I never work in sketchbooks, instead I make large-scale drawings or floor based drawings or large paintings, in order to work through ideas and document them. I have been wondering if I can make the objects in the paintings as sculptural objects - the pill bottle already exists in ceramic and the flyswatter grid is in the acrylic painting, as the oil rig legs - I imagine these to be similar to the legs of the stage pieces. Oil on Cardboard has the lightbulb and plug object and the triangular shapes that I imagined the stage to be shaped like. Both paintings have the black and white checkers and stripes that I wanted to paint the stage surfaces with...
So, tomorrow morning I need to get into the studio and hang the paintings, and start playing with the objects that are inside them. I need to collect the pill bottle from the sculpture department and drop off the trophies. I need to speak to the technicians about what i what to build. I need to move a painting into the new studio. I need to find a stack of cardboard boxes to finish the text pieces.
I need to get back into it.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

you see? I'm still functioning.

The general consensus is

that one must resist the temptation to urinate in a Duchamp fountain…”[1]

Functional objects communicate usability: blowing a whistle, playing an instrument, smashing that fire alarm, pissing in Duchamps fountain. The Duchampian idea of a Readymade removes this use value and instead projects a high art status on the useable. Unable to perform the object we must admire it from afar, commodities become objects of desire.

A disposable income buys luxury goods. It seems that, the less we can afford them, the more we desire them. Attaining objects of desire requires an exchange: money swaps hands. Fluxus says: "Hey! - coffee cups can be more beautiful than fancy sculptures. A kiss in the morning can be more dramatic than a drama by Mr. Fancypants. The sloshing of my foot in my wet boot sounds more beautiful than fancy organ music.”

Caught somewhere between the desire of the unattainable and finding pleasure in the everyday, there is a harsh realisation that life may just be about surviving: smashing fire alarms and pissing in urinals.

[1] A. Satz, ‘Sculptural Fits’, Henry Moore Institute: Sculpture and Performance Conference, 2010

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

porcelain blues

This morning I bought 3 bags of porcelain and 5 kilos of glaze (on my credit card/ dreadit card), it was delivered at half four this afternoon and I piled it into the wheelchair (it also functions as a trolley) and wheeled it to the new studio - I moved studio.

And now I'm ranting and swearing to Michelle about what a bastard porcelain truly is. It's not gritty and strong like grey clay, it's spongy and brittle, but it smooths beautifully under a palette knife, but also collapses in your hand.

It feels like some unrequited love between me and porcelain. I regard it so highly, I think it is perfect and beautiful and I am utterly seduced by saying the word and rolling it around in my head and writing it down and typing it into the keyboard. But oh porcelain.... you bastard.

Friday, 4 June 2010

he said...

He said, (but i can't quote, so i'll tell you in my own words, with some of his words), he said, Technical skill is good, and impressive but not exciting. That's what he said.

Monday, 24 May 2010


Today was the semester 2 presentation for MFA. After a little sleep and a lot of snoozing the alarm I made it into uni via a peanut butter, banana and almonds breakfast, for last minute presentation swotting. After our last assessment, I was told I needed to work on my presentation skills. I'm not so sure about presentations and presentation skills. I was speaking to Ross about this earlier. He finds that there is this horrible tension where it begins very academically, but lurches back and forth from completely informal into art discourse. I don't mind this so much. My thoughts and ideas are often scattered but overlap heavily and therefore seem quite suitable for this chaotic and unsure structure.

Semester 2 is ending. I'm terrified. It feels far too soon to be over. The dissertation ate so much studio time, but in turn gave me an incredible amount of clarity in my research and huge inspiration to get back into making. Graham commented that there had been a creative burst in my studio. I find it so funny that most tutors comment that I should tidy my studio space, but Graham comments on how productive the space feels. I tidied for the assessment. The floor was covered in cardboard boxes and stuck together parcel tape (you know that way that it sticks to itself the minute you have bitten it off the reel and it won't unstick to matter how hard you will it to?). But straight away after I tidied I thought I should have left it the way it was. In undergrad we would take assessment so seriously- painting the walls white, whiter, whiter. Not that I haven't taken these assessments seriously - of course I have, but it feels so different. I don't want to edit my studio space. Like in Berlin- the gallery walls had the last exhibitions screw holes left uncovered, pencil marks for hanging and peeling paint and lino. It was beautiful. And everywhere you turned was graffiti on graffiti, in restaurant toilets, in stairwells, on studio walls. Lettering, text... everywhere. Inspired? Maybe....


Sunday, 23 May 2010

shot to shit

My concentration span is TERRIBLE.

I'm trying to:
demonstrate my conceptual skills;
prove the quality of my finished work (but I guess that speaks for itself either way);
provide evidence of visual and intellectual enquiry related to finalised work, work in progress and research interests;
demonstrate awareness of the historical and theoretical context of my practice.

I am also trying to coax the cat through from the bedroom for some cat milk and cuddles but she's having NONE of it. In all fairness she isn't my cat and we don't often cuddle, only when I've fallen asleep and she has fallen asleep on my feet as they are on her side of the bed.

I know that I can tick all these boxes, I've been working on this all semester. I even enjoyed writing my dissertation. Well, parts of it. The parts when I wasn't hating it. Parts.

And I've just realised that I've written all my notes on the back of an unopened envelope of Michelles. But she'll forgive me. Maybe not when she realises it's in permanent marker and it has most likely bled through....
Sorry bella.....

Friday, 7 May 2010


Cardboard boxes + parcel tape + cubic zirconia + warbling bird whistles + gold spray paint

Thursday, 29 April 2010

I'm still here

Today, in the land of Dissertation, I have:

decided on new structure
copied and pasted into the new structure
copied and pasted into a newer structure
eaten 6 falafels
found clarity on my research topic
drank 2 bottles of fanta
pretended to be an international student
accidentally pulled out 3 eyelashes

Monday, 26 April 2010

head over heels

My concentration span is terrible. I can never sit still or stay focused on one thing for very long.
Dissertation writing is traumatic - where to sit, where to read? I like writing on trains, but that's an expensive seat.

With 4,000 words committed to paper, I'm back in the studio, which is a terrible place to write - far too many distractions. I spoke to Louise today about making new work. I worry that in tutorials I get very quiet. I get ideas very quickly but never want to vocalise them, the ideas are too young and undeveloped. Louise has this calm reflection when talking about work, she asks the right questions and draws out potential problems and then possible solutions.

Today was a 6am start after 3 hours sleep. It's funny that a lack of sleep can bring an odd sense of clarity. I always leave things till last minute, but it works for me. Most of the time. I'm getting better at it...

Sunday, 25 April 2010

“By placing an object of productive labour (the urinal) in front of an art audience, Duchamp produced a kind of mimetic short-circuit. The actual object of perception now stood in for the object of representation.”

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

"In a process well-articulated by Peter Osborne, contemporary (or 'post-conceptual') art both rejects matter as radically insufficient, insisting on a conceptual dimension that transcends the object's physical articulation, and, at the same time, requires a spatio-temporal presentation, albeit an anti-aesthetic one."

Friday, 16 April 2010

Friday afternoon on the studio roof.

Sean (the painter) just asked me what the point of my dissertation was...
"um... to defend objects... sculptural objects... the arrogance of objects...." uh oh.
So instead, I decided to wind him up and tell him that it was a declaration of the end of painting and a celebration of the objectness of sculpture, then hit him with some lovely 'death of painting' quotes from chapter one.

I realise that my dissertation introduction is pretty lame and needs a lot of thought before committing some vague ideas into words, which might just be what I've been doing. And I realise that Stuart is right, but I knew that anyway.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Lighten Up yeah?

Sometimes, you know you are in the company of someone really amazing. Then these strange little things happen. Then I said how I really felt about sculpture and performance and KYTN and being a visual artist, and I didn't do my laugh afterwards, which was really amazing, because that laugh never leaves my side.
I was silently cursing myself for saying too much about something too personal, to a perfect stranger, then he told me about his divorce and then all of a sudden what I had said didn't seem so bad.
Then he read something I had written last week:
And bloody hell, it turns out he does the same thing. He told me about his imagined mentor who gives him a hard time, and I couldn't stop thinking, 'I know her name, I've read this' and I whip out this library book and there they are, talking in it. He mentioned a piece of work they made called 'Lighten Up' and I couldn't stop smiling, it was so WEIRD.

And then chatting with James outside on the studio roof got me all fired up... it's back, something worked. Birds singing, live performance, parcel tape, being a VISUAL artist and MAKING THINGS.

I feel shaky and breathless and it's really fucking good. That's what it is.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

fluxing around

Its been a funny week.
I think it's quite universal that, after an exhibition opening/ performance/ essay hand in, this odd feeling sets in and becomes very hard to shake off. After Murmur Murmur, I became very unsure of my studio work and questioning why I was doing it, what I was making, if there was really any merit in making finished work. Dalziel & Scullion have been talking to us about the importance of finishing your work and how much you learn from this process. And it's so very true. Then, I worry that the only work i have finished is SWATTER.
I took a break from the studio for a few days. After a really good chat with Louise, I tidied the studio (a little - but it made a HUGE difference) then headed over to St. Andrews, walked on the beach, bought some books, got treated to a lovely dinner, kept avoiding the studio then went to work for a massive mail out, teetered around some exhibition openings - Lower Foyer Gallery, DCA then Tayside Recyclers before drowning myself in red wine and whiskey till 4am and walked home with the birds singing. And it WORKED. Something changed, I have the oddest sense of clarity.
My friend, Ashley Nieuwenhuizen, commented that my work in the studio is exciting because it has changed so much during the MFA. And it really has changed, I'm like a broken record - "I going to constantly challenge myself during the MFA", "I'm going to leave my comfort zone", "if you showed me a photograph of my studio now, I would NEVER have believed that it was mine 6 months ago", and the old favourite - "TOUGHEN UP", my new favourite "Lighten Up" and something that I heard very recently which is PERFECT - "I'm sincere, but not always serious".
It's hard to do this practice-led research/ research-led practice when your practice is fluxing around and your head is off in the clouds, but I'm coming back down and - bloody hell- I'm really looking forward to spending long days in the library. Me and Mac are gonna be B.U.S.Y. yeah.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Friday 5th March | 7-9PM | Crawford Building, Duncan of Jordanstone

Find us between the General Course Studios & the Fine Art Workshop
Join us for an evening of Printmaking, sound, video and live performance interventions.
And then for drinks & discussions from 9pm in the Art Bar.


the Britishness of British art

I'm researching the Britishness of British art - a working title that I've pinched from Julian Stallabrass. On the MFA, we're told that our dissertation should inform our studio practice and vise versa, my written and art practices are closely linked, but today... I felt like my research wall was lagging behind.

Here's to Vivienne Westwood, Pulp, 1970s childrens television, seaside resorts, Danny Boyle and the BBC.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Problems with permanence

During a recent studio group discussion with Dalziel & Scullion we discussed the concept that NOTHING IS PERMANENT: we are living in a state of flux. If nothing is set in stone, then why make permanent work? I read that Anthony Gormleys Angel of the North will only last in situ for 70- 100 years before it corrodes to the point it becomes unstable. I wonder if Gormley is giving a big two's up to the future? Going by the current practice used by museums and heritage organisations: we are incredibly precious of things that we deem to be from the past, we attach a huge nostalgia to inanimate objects. Will the future conservators attempt to stabilise Angel of the North from further decay? In a recent studio conversation we were discussing a sculpture of a large metal sphere that would self destruct in 100 years. We were unsure of the maker or the concept, but we found it hugely exciting - would the ball explode? How would it explode- is it computer controlled? What if the computer stopped working, as technology is so incredibly unreliable? What if the documentation was lost and the sculpture suddenly exploded in a gallery or museum one day? We found the idea of this happening very funny, which made me wonder, have we become art nihilists?

All around the art school, students are being overly precious of their art, imagining that they will keep these sculptures forever, that their paintings will find a place in an incredible collection belonging to an incredible person. But when we live in an era of a six month lease, disposable contact lenses, replacing your computer every five years, divorce and multiple remarriages, can anything be permanent?

There's no time to be precious, we're in a constant state of flux - if it doesn't fit in yer rucksack then you cannae bring it with you.

Monday, 8 February 2010

I heart FLUXUS

"Long long ago, back when the world was young - that is sometime around 1958 - a lot of artists and composers and other people who wanted to do beautiful things began to look at the world around them in a new way (for them). They said: "Hey! - coffee cups can be more beautiful than fancy sculptures. A kiss in the morning can be more dramatic than a drama by Mr. Fancypants. The sloshing of my foot in my wet boot sounds more beautiful than fancy organ music." And when they saw that, it turned their minds on. And they began to ask questions. One question was : "Why does everything I see that's beautiful like cups and kisses and sloshing feet have to be made into just a part of something bigger? Why can't I just use it for its own sake?
When they asked questions like that, they were inventing Fluxus."

For some years now, I have been a performance artist without realising it.

Saturday, 6 February 2010 Dundee PopUp at GENERATORprojects

Dundee PopUp / GENERATORprojectsDundee PopUp / GENERATORprojectsDundee PopUp / GENERATORprojectsDundee PopUp / GENERATORprojects

I've just been to GENERATORprojects, the artist led space in Dundee. We met the current committee Lauren Gault, Rachel Walker, Lucy Alexander, Emma McIntyre, Fraser MacDonald and Jessica Carden for a cup of coffee before a tour of the gallery space.

GENERATORprojects has recently undergone renovations and reopens on Friday 19th February for the opening of DROMOS, an exhibition of works by James Alexander Craig, Derek Sutherland and Bedwyr Williams. Buses are running from Edinburgh for the opening night - book your ticket now!

GENERATORprojects exhibits the work of emerging and established artists, there are residencies working with Scottish Sculpture Workshop and Field Projects, London, Offsite projects including Your words and Mouth at Hospital Field (2007) and the upcoming event Kill Your Timid Notion at DCA is linked with GENERATORprojects next exhibition DROMOS.

The committee invites all artists and art students in for a cup of tea and a chat, if you are looking for proposal writing advice, developing your professional practice, or getting involved doing some voluntary work.

The annual members show is accepting all submissions during the month of March, membership is only £10 per year (£5 student/concession) check the recently re-launched website for further details, membership, archive and much more

Friday, 5 February 2010


The MFA studio is rapidly filling up with painting, sculputre, printmaking drawing and photography. Due to the scale of the swatter, there is little space for reflection. This morning, I took the swatter to the back of the Cooper Gallery in DJCAD, where there is a staircase with high ceilings and crisp white walls.

Photography by Elspeth Nicholson.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


For a wee while now I have been quite concerned that I don't know what my next sculpture is going to be. Thoughts similar to this have bothered me on and off for years. This is probably quite common for artists, I would imagine. Its not that I am short of inspiration, my work is autobiographical and is very much a direct translation from daily life. I am certainly not short of material to consider - as I write this I am suffering a compression fracture in my spine. I have unfinished sculptures in the studio and in my bedroom awaiting work, so it's not that I am not occupied, I have been incredibly busy, especially this week, but there is still this uncomfortable relationship between my studio work and myself.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

feedback reflection

In my feedback session it was observed that I did not demonstrate how my work was conceptual. I gave a great deal of thought to this yesterday, coming to the conclusion that during the assessment I was too caught up in communicating my research interests to present my concept.

During yesterdays reflection I have been able to really define some of the thinking behind my practice.

My work is very autobiographical. I work directly from life experience and reflect on what it is like to be an artist in this day and age, with social, political and ultimately personal influences. This manifests as a direct relationship between emotions and objects, a connection which i am beginning to explore through research into performative objects and the absence of the performer.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Semester 2, spinal injuries and sculptures.

It is the first week of Semester 2, the first teaching week and the first full week back in the studio (almost full week that is, as I spent Wednesday at the LTA module and Thursday in bed with the cold). This semester I will mainly be working in the studio, writing a dissertation and studying to gain an additional qualification (the LTA module) that will enable me to teach in higher education. I will also be in recovery. I suffered a vertebral compression fracture, which means a broken vertebrae, the force of the accident resulted in my spine jarring and consequently crushing one of the vertebrae resulting in fractures. Needless to say it is very very painful.

Broken spine aside, the MFA continues. I have been back in the studio working on some new sculpture - Cleanse, Tone and Moisturise. This work consists of three sculptures, oversize pots of cleanser, toner and moisturiser. I have been making them in clay, originally with the plan to fire them in the kiln before glazing, but I am considering the option of leaving them unfired. I am utterly seduced by the work of Anna Orton, who in the past has worked with clay, leaving it unfired but painting it with enamel instead, to great success. The other factor in my decision making process, is the scale of the work - I'm not convinced that it will fit in the kiln.

I have another decision to make. I am trying to weigh up the pros and cons of painting/ not painting Swatter. Painting the sculpture would hide the materials - cardboard and resin, and I fear that covering them would remove the honesty of the construction. But, while I was making the work I always intended to paint it and this makes the decision uncomfortable. I'm caught somewhere between Telling The Truth and the desire for glossy plastic Readymade goodness. Sounds like the classic struggle between what you should do and what you want to do...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Meet Roisin

We have recently started a collective to work collaboratively, we share the same interests and work in the same mediums: drawing, printmaking, sculpture and installation. We are combining our individual practices to create an exciting new body of work, which will comprise of video work inspired by Talking Heads, a collection of merkins inspired by celebrity icons, collages of online dating failures and drawing, always drawing to discover our hybrid alter ego - Roisin.

We are Janey Muir and Michelle Souter. We are Roisin.

In a world full of baddies and heartbreakers, we fear for our confidence, we seek to find humour where we can: we hide behind our masks, our wigs, our merkins.

Our first series of work is a collection of merkins that pay tribute to popular icons. Each merkin will be an individual piece of couture, lovingly created for a high profile person in the public eye. The merkins will be diverse, ranging from, the highly practical and discrete merkin for the self-conscious wearer, to the outlandish and extravagant. It is intended that, after the collection has been exhibited each merkin is to be posted to the icon that inspired it – Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, Amy Winehouse, Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, Lady Gaga, Chelsey (Lately) Handler, The Queen, Vivienne Westwood, Perez Hilton and Louise Bourgious. Like a fan club for lusty teenage girls, we will send our hopes, dreams and our hand crafted goods to the celebrity apples of our eye.