Monday, 31 December 2012

Flying high

World apart at Union Gallery
2012 will be finished in a little over three hours, as I start writing this. It's been quite a year. I began it by painting a new series of paintings, Worlds apart, to show in April at Union Gallery. That series worked out better than I could have hoped for and they looked great in the gallery, face to face with Kevin Low's imaginary world.

One wall of A place called home
While I was working on my series, Megan Chapman and I had a show of our joint work in Bentonville, Arkansas, which was followed a few months later by another joint show a few miles south in Springdale. We were not able to attend the first show, as we were both in Scotland at the time, however we were in Arkansas for the second show, A place called home, which we were very happy with.

Following my trip to Arkansas, I immersed myself in the politics of Scotland's quest for independence and began a long body of work, Elegy for the End of an Empire. Taking cues from the work preceding it, my paintings began to get darker and more dynamic. The series is ongoing and I hope to pick up were I left it later in the year, as the independence debate hots up.

'When we float' at the RSA
The end of the year saw a furry of exhibitions. Firstly I had a painting accepted for the Royal Scottish Academy 2012 Open! At the same time, I have to paintings showing in Philadelphia! And when the new year comes around, some of the Elegy paintings will be featured in Union Gallery's new year exhibition. All three of the exhibitions will run to the end of January.

This is just a snippet of my year in art. Over it, there have been many ups and many downs and a lot of hard work. In a week's time, I'll be heading back to Arkansas. After all of the hard work, I think it might be time to take a little break!

Thank you everyone who has supported me over the year. I would not have reached this stage without you!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

I feel fine

Mirk ceety sax, originally uploaded by stewartbremner
I've not done too well at keeping my blog regular this month. The winter is closing down now and daylight is in short supply. It has been a dark time and there has not been a great deal of action around my studio.

However, rather than dwell on what has not happened, instead here is what has being going on in the time when I've not been in the studio. Firstly, I've been getting reacquainted with analogue photography, shooting rolls of film and developing them in my kitchen sink. You can see the results in the video below. After that is a little something I wrote this morning.

I feel fine 

He is lying, half asleep in bed, when the sound wakes him. It is sudden and large and unexpected and shocks him into full wakefulness. His heart races. The window of his bedroom was rattled and there was a pulse through the the whole flat. The sound was as if a skip was dropped, breaking its chains and falling to the ground a few streets away, a full, metallic-edged 'tum'.

With open eyes he looks about his dimly-lit winter bedroom, while his heart slows down again. He is warm in his bed, several blankets and a few jumpers giving more insulation that his duvet alone. Did he imagine that sound, he wonders, was it some kind of hang over from a night of fitful sleep, of strange awakenings and twisted bed clothes? Pondering this, he gradually becomes aware of the slow decrease in the sounds of the city that his flat swims within.

The traffic sounds like it has ceased, its constant white noise gone as if it were the middle of the night. So too he can hear less sounds from his building. This further oddness gives him pause to wonder and he decides to risk a venture through the cold air to the window, to look out into the morning.

Outside, everything looks normal except the sky. The sky is gone. He has seen something a little like this before, often times when clouds blanket his city for days on end, reducing the sky to a monotone. This is something else again and a real shock. The sky is white, with not any tone at all, not even the slightest shadow. It is simply empty, a softly-glowing white void, neither warm nor cold, just white.

It is like a door opens in his mind. A dim and overlooked portal that seemingly has been within him always and yet until this moment had been overlooked, as if to focus on it were the equivalent of trying to grasp the last sliver of soap in a long and hot bath. And now it opens and knowledge slowly pours out.

He opens the curtains fully, crosses the room and gets back into his still-warm bed. So this is it, he realises, and he feels an acceptance that borders on joy. The REM song he had listened to the day before with something akin to irony comes back to him and repeats and repeats in his inner ear.

And I feel fine, he thinks.

From where he lies, he can see a few other tenements, dark and damp stone, that is oddly shadowless under the all-encompassing soft white glow. He catches in his peripheral vision a bright flash of pure light from one window and he knows, knowledge no doubt from that same unexpected stream, that someone has moved on and that he has only to wait for his turn and he will too.

It is comforting knowledge. There is nothing to fear here, he realises. This is the end and he has accepted it more easily than seems likely. In many ways, it is a relief – his fight is over and now he is simply waiting his turn, waiting for his flash of light.

The universal consciousness and 'we are all one', those appealing ideas that might be grasped intellectually yet as an island were always instinctually difficult, have come to pass. It all seems so obvious now. His loved ones, family and friends, all the people he has ever known, quite literally everyone, is returning to whence they came, to that single all-encompassing origin.

Further knowledge comes to him now. "Ye canny take it wi' ye," that phrase so often spoken about the dead. Here now is the point when everyone comes to understand that idea, to realise the utter finality of that statement. All the worldly possessions, all the accumulations of power no longer matter. If there is a judgement here, and while he knows there is not, at the same time he doubts all will share that belief, if there is a judgement here, it is that everyone is, unequivocally, equal.

For so many, the realisation dawns about the utter futility of years spent accumulating wealth and power and in those minds, acceptance and joy gain no foothold against hatred, terror, disbelief. So many people out there must be questioning their lives at this very moment, he thinks. At the same time, he thinks, the majority might be feeling that this is their reward for enduring and that the religious will perhaps be savouring their judgement days, valhallas, armageddons and raptures.

Back in his room, he is on his own and in the silent morning feels only a long-sought peace. He thinks back to his childhood, to the dark spectre of nuclear holocaust that haunted it, to the months, if not years, of nightmares and interrupted sleep and to that desperate desire to be near his mum and his sister at the end, when the bomb dropped, to not be separated and alone. A fear that when all the way back to his youngest days, when he first learned of death and dreamed of his mum, dad and sister all dying at once and drifting away into the sky on a big bed.

That desire not to be alone at a time of crisis, that quintessentially human need for companionship, has been washed away on this final morning, cleansed from his mind. He realises, in fact, that he is not alone and that where he is going, everyone will be together, every spark of life that has driven humanity will be reunited. While there is a diminishment in that final embrace of those things that make him specifically him, at the same time he knows that 'he' will not be lost, not entirely, that those identifiers that form part of who he is are eternal.

He closes his eyes for a moment, to breath. When he opens them the flash of light whites out the entire world.

And when he opens his eyes again, the morning is dim, barely passing enough light around his curtains to let him see the room. It sounds like it is raining outside. His stomach is empty and rumbling and there is a burning tension across his shoulders and up into his neck, which feels chilly outside the heap of blankets on his bed. He wonders again what that strange noise was and it if truly happened and then, with a sigh that feels like it came from decades hence, he swings his legs from out of the covers and reaches for some clothes. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Philadelphia, Fayetteville, Edinburgh

This week, I was invited to show at an exhibition in Philadelphia, PA! I submitted two of my Post Process paper paintings and they will soon be winging their way there, across the United States from Fayetteville, AR, where they were last seen in public. This will make for the third state of that union where I will have shown work, not to mention that it is the first major city!

You know your problems ain't exactly new
Mixed media on paper, 16x24cm
If you're in the area (and who knows, there might be someone who reads this that might be!), the exhibition is the Snowflake Salon: biennial invitation 2012 at the Art Bridge Club of Center City, 1616 Walnut Street, Fourteenth Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103. It runs from December 14th to February 8th 2013.

Next week sees both the second East Prospect exhibition in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the Out of the Blue Art Market in Edinburgh, Scotland. The East Prospect show looks like it is going to be very exciting indeed and I truly wish that I could be there. Sadly, that won't be possible. I will, however, be at the Art Market and am very much looking forward to that. It is going to be a very busy week of planning for these two shows!

Lastly, those of you lucky enough to make it along to this year's wonderfully diverse RSA Open Exhibition 2012 will see my painting 'When We Float' in the first room, where it is a-glowing in the corner opposite the entrance. The exhibition fills the lower galleries and I hope that once you have had a look around the whole show, you will vote for my painting to win the Visitor's Award. You know you want to! The exhibition runs until January 31st, so there is still plenty of time to have a look (and vote!).