Convocation Exhibition Post 2: Thomas Joshua Cooper

Works:

Remembering the Celtic Peregrinati – Saint Patrick, Brendan and Columba

North – Looking towards Scotland. The North Channel, Benbane Head, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, 2013. The North-west Point of Northern Ireland.

East most – Looking towards Scotland. The North Channel and The Irish Sea. Burr Point, The Ards Peninsula, County Down, Northern Ireland, 2013. The East-most point of all Ireland.

Looking towards Ireland – St Patrick’s birthplace. The River Mite, Ravenglass, Cumbria (2013)

Evening – The Reputed Burial Place of the Irish Saints –Patrick, Brigid and Columba. The River Quoile, Downpatrick, County Down, Ireland (2013)

Evening – St Columba’s Birthplace. Gartan Lough, County Donegal, Ireland (2013)

Last light – Looking West – the Birthplace of St Brendan the Navigator, the Wanderer. The North Atlantic Ocean and Brendon Bay, Brandon Point, The Dingle Peninsula, County Derry, Ireland, (2002-13)

Last Light – High wind – A Crossing Point. The River Foyle – Lowther Peace Bridge, Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland (2013)

Over an eleven day period, Thomas Joshua Cooper, travelled to Skye, Raasay, Cumbria and Northern Ireland, covering a total of 3135 miles.

He worked on two photographic bodies of work. For one series, he went to the very edges of land, visiting the cardinal points of Northern Ireland including Benbane Head, County Antrim, the north-west point and then onto the east-most point at Burr Point on the Ards Peninsula.  In particular, with the latter location, he focused on the view from Ireland across the water to Scotland, aiming to echo St Columba’s last view from Ireland, before his exile to Scotland.

For the second series, he travelled to photograph the birthplaces of Saint Patrick, St Brendan and St Columba. The way he described Lough Gartan, St Columba’s birthplace as having, “Three silver birches, leaning towards the Lough, […]

Convocation, Glasgow, Exhibition Post 1: Edwin Pickstone

Convocation: Colm Cille’s Spiral exhibition ran 12 Oct – 1 Nov 2013 at Mackintosh Museum, The Glasgow School of Art. Participating artists were Emma Balkind, Susan Brind, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Caroline Dear, Michail Mersinis, Hardeep Pandhal, Francis McKee, Edwin Pickstone, Jessica Ramm, Johnny Rodger, Augustus Veinoglou. All were invited to write about their work, and this information was available during the exhibition. The following posts will include each artist an image of their work.

 Edwin Pickstone: Illuminator

Map of a Convocation: Raasay, Letterpress print on Ordanance Survey map, gold bronzing powder (2013)

Using the landscape to structure content, the print is a map of Raasay and of the residency; It both records our experience and offers a guide to the processes behind the artworks. Influences in editing, composition and typography were drawn from illuminated manuscripts, early medieval maps and 18th century design practices (the latter made relevant through Samuel Johnson’s 1773 account of the island).

Edwin Pickstone is Typography Technician at The Glasgow School of Art, where he cares for the school’s collection of letterpress printing equipment.

Convocation CCA Glasgow event 11.10.13

The first part of Convocation occurred at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow on 11 October 2013. The event ‘Convocation: A contemporary response to the extreme past’ combined historical information with contemporary responses. University of Glasgow’s Gilbert Markus (lecturer, Celtic and Gaelic Dept) looked at Colm Cille, in his presentation ‘Who’s / Whose Colum Cille’, whilst his colleague Dr Katherine Forsyth (Reader, Celtic and Gaelic Dept) presented on ‘Columba’s Spirals’. Our illuminator Emma Balkind provided the contemporary response, with her recording from the Raasay residency entitled ‘Raasay ASMR’, of which a rough cut is available for listening to on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/emmabalkind/raasay-asmr-rough-cut .

Gilbert Markus’s presentation looked closely at the question of ‘Who is Colum Cille?’ remarking that St Columba’s identity shifted depending on “who you ask and what sources you use”. Markus stated that Columba had fallen out of favour in Scotland, and that there was evidence that he been erased in a number of instances. The first, was from a thirteenth-century Psalter, now in Oxford, but apparently possessed and used in Argyll.  There were a number of saints in its calendar, including Colum Cille, but his name had been removed from it. A similar ‘erasure’ took place in the landscape.  A chapel of Colum Cille existed at Skipness Castle in 1261.  Shortly afterwards it was taken over by the Stewarts, and the dedication disappeared. The chapel there is called Kilbrannan (church of St Brendan) now.

In Dr Forsyth’s presentation, she spoke about how words connect us to the extreme past, through the illuminations, and also material objects. Dr Forsyth went on to describe the symbol of the spiral as “a sending out and a gathering in”, which aptly describes the thought processes and movement of the […]

Documentation from ‘Convocation’, Mackintosh Museum, The Glasgow School of Art

Documentation from ‘Convocation’ exhibition at The Glasgow School of Art, which ran 12 Oct – 1 Nov 2013, can be viewed on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasgowschoolart/sets/72157637048601635/with/10536932373/

With work by Emma Balkind, Susan Brind, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Caroline Dear, Francis McKee, Michail Mersinis, Hardeep Pandhal, Edwin Pickstone, Jessica Ramm, Johnny Rodger and Augustus Veinoglou.

Peregrinatio: Thomas Joshua Cooper

Over an eleven day period, GSA’s Head of Fine Art Photography Thomas Joshua Cooper travelled to Skye, Raasay, Cumbria and Northern Ireland, covering a total of 3135 miles.

He worked on two photographic bodies of work. For the first, he travelled to photograph the birthplaces of Saint Patrick, St Brendan and St Columba. His description of Lough Gartan, St Columba’s birthplace, echoes the mention of birches of Sorley MacLean’s poem ‘Hallaig’. MacLean imagines the cleared village’s absent women as, “ … a wood of birch trees / Standing tall, with their heads bowed.” Cooper speaks of, “Three silver birches, leaning towards the Lough, a trinity picture”.

For his second series, he went to the very edges of land, visiting the cardinal points of Northern Ireland including Benbane Head, County Antrim, the north-west point and then onto the east-most point at Burr Point on the Ards Peninsula.  In particular, with the latter location, he focused on the view from Ireland across the water to Scotland, aiming to echo St Columba’s last view from Ireland, before his exile to Scotland.

A quote from a book brought in during our residency by local Raasay resident Jennifer Burnet describes who Columba was in terms of the cardinal points.
 ‘In the West he was called upon as a bard, a guardian of the magical powers inherent in the literary traditions of the Celtic languages; in the North, he was a prince, a member of a prestigious lineage with a responsibility for the defence of his people; in the East he was a father, an abbot who was a just and tender provider of the many monks under his care and in the South he was a priest who dealt directly with […]

Di Domhnaich

We left the island today.

Over the course of the week, we have oscillated between the rational and aspects of faith or mystery. The artists in the group are comfortable about using the latter terminology in talking about their practice, with Michail Mersinis talking about “photography as an act of faith”. The group are split however between the two entities when thinking about ‘The Life of St Columba’. “Maybe the book doesn’t want you to know”, Clare Lees said earlier in the week. “The book is its own I”.

As we sat in the waiting room yesterday evening for our last discussion, looking out to the ferry making its way in between Raasay and Skye, it was a good location to highlight that the group are at the start of seeing how the information from the week will filter down into their practice. Distance and the return home seemed to be the next stage that will help us see what we have learnt.

Jennifer Burnet, the woman who helped Jessica Ramm cut peat, has been visiting Raasay House with a wealth of information in forms of books, photocopies and photographs relating to our area of enquiry. A quote from one of the books she brought, sums up our first phase of the Spiral.

“The Celtic mind was never drawn to the single line; it avoided ways of seeing and being which seek satisfaction in certainty. The Celtic mind had a wonderful respect for the mystery of the circle and spiral”1

1 ‘Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’, John O’Donahue

Thisssssss: Sound and Silence

Yesterday was bookended with both a real and a transmitted experience of the same place, Hallaig. In the morning, Emma Nicolson led the group on a walk to this cleared village situated in the south-east of Raasay. In the evening we watched we watched Francis Mckee’s copy of ”Hallaig: The Poetry and the Landscape of Sorley MacLean’ 1

‘Back through the gloaming to Hallaig,
Through the vivid and speechless air,
Pouring down the steep slopes,
Their laughter misting my ear.’ 2

Emma Balkind, one of our illuminators, has been recording the sound of our field trips and conversations. When we interviewed her for the short film we are making about the residency, she said, “I felt I was switched on all the time”. She and her microphone have captured the layers of words and movement of the group, alongside the land and the sea around us. I asked her if she has managed to record silence at Hallaig and she said no. Even when Johnny Rodger, one of the most ebullient in our group, asks for silence on the hill, the put-put-put of a boat out on the Sound can be heard, followed by the musical tone of a button on a digital camera.

In the evening, the cadence of Sorley MacLean’s voice and his delivery of the word ‘Thisssssss….’ sticks in my mind. The letter ‘s’, a spiral in form, fizzes in his mouth, shaping the word into a new sound and entity.

How can something, as Sorley MacLean has it, be ‘vivid and speechless’ at the same time? What is Much of our discussions have circled around pairs of words that come from different realms but are interwoven in order to exist: Faith and Doubt. Rational and Spiritual. Discipline […]

Vision on Raasay

“It’ll be like an Autobahn” 1

Emma Nicolson, Director of ATLAS Arts, joined the Spiral. Her input on the shaping of the project, her choice of Raasay as location and suggestion of Skye artists Caroline Dear and Jessica Ramm, has proved invaluable. Emma invited local author Roger Hutchinson to meet the group and talk about ‘Calum’s Road’, which tells the true story of a road built over ten years by one man on his time off, Calum MacLeod, to link up to his declining community of Airnish at the north of Raasay.

MacLeod wanted a ‘motor road’, using a 1901 book about building roads for motor vehicles to act has his guide. Using a pick, wheelbarrow, spade and hammer to make the road from stones, his friends also got him dynamite, which he used to blow up a local landmark, a stack that was in the way of the road. He completed the road in 1979, at a point when it was only he and his wife remained in Airnish.

Roger Hutchinson covered the ‘practical sphere and metaphorical sphere’ of this true story. He said that MacLeod was aware he was ‘building a metaphor’ as he fully realised that the migration from his home community was terminal. As the local council, Inverness County Council, had always refused to build the road, latterly citing their decision in view of unsustainable costs for such an enterprise, for such a low population, MacLeod also knew he was building something subversive. Hutchinson said that the Raasay islanders he interviewed said, “Just how he did it was beyond belief to all of us”.

Hutchinson proved to be a great storyteller. He concluded that Calum Macleod died in 1988, found by his wife in […]

Disperse and Distill

The rhythm of the residency has changed.

After saying goodbye to the Medievalists, the day became one of ‘Disperse and Distill’ for the group, allowing time for ideas to form and information to settle. Artists set out both individually and in small groups, to swim, walk, and cycle across the island. Some sat with Skye artist Caroline Dear to learn how to make ropes from the reeds near the beach. Jessica Ramm went in search of a local resident who still cut peat, meeting Jennifer, who showed her a Viking burial mound and discussed the Celtic spirit along the way to the peat bank. Hardeep Pandhal found two containers of Camp Coffee in Raasay House’s library, and thought one of us had placed them there on purpose. He is currently making work back in Glasgow about this coffee originating from the same city, bearing its picture label of a Sikh servant serving a British soldier with a cup.

Augustus Veinoglou summed up the type of endeavour many have at this point, by saying “I want to extract wisdom from this space”. What is this space formed from? We have the book, our conversations with each other and the Medievalists, our past work, this location, experiments, serendipity and the unknown we are yet to encounter.

A number of artists have previously explored aspects of extraction, dispersal or distillation in their work. Edwin Pickstone, one of our illuminators, runs the Letterpress at The Glasgow School of Art. He gave us a summary of the Letterpress at the artists’ presentations, focusing on what this form of production had historically meant, speeding up the hand printing process by ‘the equivalent of 300 years’. Edwin said that learning about the placement of […]

Convocation group photograph, Raasay

Convocation group residency, (l to r): Francis McKee, Ceara Conway, Hardeep Pandhal, Sue Brind, Michail Mersinis,  Jessica Ramm, Johnny Rodger, Caroline Dear, Augustus Veinoglou, Edwin Pickstone, Kathryn Maude, Emma Balkind, Cora and Clare Lees