I’m an Edinburgh-based artist, born Ellon, Scotland 1962.
For the last decade and more, I’ve been exploring traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques. This inherently beautiful and simple process has allowed my work to develop in a contemplative and semi-abstract way.
I began watercolour woodblock printing (mokuhanga) on a scholarship to Tama Art University in Tokyo. I was motivated by a group of Japanese printmakers who I met at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen where I was making large woodblocks in the early 1990s.
I didn’t make it to Tama until 1996. Events took me to Mexico where I painted angels, demons and masks in rich colours. It was an exhilarating if freaky time, ending in 46 of my paintings disappearing with an American art dealer.
I spent four years in Japan, studying Japanese and traditional woodblock techniques, finding a new way of expressing myself. I was, and still am, fascinated by the limitations of the process.
Very briefly, the technique involves printing watercolour onto handmade Japanese paper, using a hand-held disc called a baren. If you’re curious, there are notes about my approach and the process here.
A couple of years after I returned from Japan, my studio, equipment and over a decade’s work were destroyed in Edinburgh’s Cowgate fire. I was absolutely shattered, depressed, and unable to work for a while. My daughter, Silvie, was a year old at the time, and I spent a lot of time with her in the Botanic Gardens.
I began to work again, and in 2003 took up a short residency at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut, USA. There I started printing works based on gardens – both Japanese sand-raked and stone gardens, and floral gardens in Edinburgh.
I hesitate to say that there are underlying themes to my work. However, my concern for the ever-changing landscape and global warming is often there, if not always obvious. Rain started to appear in my work as an environmental response and continues to inhabit my thoughts.
The Fjord series, coming out of a visit to Norway in 2007, shows another simple but decisive shift in my work. Finding new forms to wrap my woodblock prints around has opened up a whole new conceptual area for me.
More recently, this new period of work has seen me travel back to Japan three times to attend both the International symposiums at Kyoto/Awaji and again in Tokyo. Also I was invited to exhibit one of my 3D mokuhanga pieces at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum -prints 21 exhibition. I was also invited to a residency on the edge of Mount Fuji with five other international artists to go deeper into the medium and learn some new techniques but also old important ones like spending a whole day sharpening one tool! Great I loved it. Also recently invited to show a selection of pieces along side ten other Scots and 11 Slovakian artists opening in Nitra State Museum and traveling to several further venues. Wining awards, invitations to exhibit internationally, to attend residencies and demonstrate and lead workshops, inclusion in important publications about this medium.
What does all this mean: growing confidence and consolidating where I am at and where the work is moving. A greater confidence with the material which helps to approach it with a balance between a deeper understanding and knowledge of the material but holding on to playful intuitive approach.
This period has seen me move to a bigger studio allowing me more easily to work on larger scale prints at times and inadvertently to work on wider surfaces when approaching the 3D wall sculptural pieces.