Artist Residence – Aloha Glasgow

I am almost at the end of my current three week residency with Team Effort! in Glasgow’s southside. A residency is an exciting thing. It is business as usual really, but with a hard focus, and a hard deadline. Two things I sorely crave when I can focus on personal work. I have taken these 3 weeks to break from my commercial diary to focus on, and actually begin from scratch, a project I have wanted to try for a long time. I don’t say “try” lightly. The project itself ticks all boxes of Team Effort’s “ethos of exploration, risk-taking and collaboration” and I cannot put enough stress on the risk-taking.
Since this project is in two parts I wanted to explain a bit more about it and its background. I have split it into two parts, I am just finishing the R&D phase. The notion of a breezy holiday tripping through Glasgow’s galleries have been quickly dismissed! Instead, my research here has been hard currency. It has been pavement pounding, door knocking, emails and phone calls. The life of a producer, and not much a photographer (bit of a running joke here.) But for what I want to achieve, it is the approach.
The working name of my project is PARADISE and its aim is to explore notions of identity, of veracity and, most urgently of all, of Glasgow. Its practical aims though are to visit everyday scenes of city life and dress everyone within in a Hawaiian shirt. Anyone familiar with my other personal work won’t even bat an eye. Part of my learnings these last few weeks have been deeply personal, and it would appear that the only projects worth my salt are those that are only as preposterous as they are ambitious.
For this work, I am drawing on the early colour photography and practice of John Hinde. Photographer/ ringmaster/ visual embellisher extraordinaire, Hinde is widely known for his saccharine and idealistic scenic representations of Ireland and the UK. He was commissioned by Butlins Holiday Camps during the1960’s to impart his signature saturation to a series of postcards depicting the ceaseless delight of the resorts. He worked as a director, with a team that would pose holidaymakers and add lighting and props where necessary to crystallise his great modernised Arcadia. Injecting maximum colour into the frame, Hinde’s team would saturate a scene however they could, including carrying a bag of bright shirts to dress anyone too pastel. In its excess and artifice, colour forms an inadvertent caricature of the setting of the images.
Fast forward to Glasgow. Here is a city that seems a living caricature. A historical and modern city, it wears itself openly. It visually balances its past with its future in an immediate, hacksaw affect; splicing old merchant sectors with motorways and modern housing. A city infinitely grey, commercial, derelict and rain-soaked, but electric with personality, character, creativity, myth and legend. That humour in Glasgow even is antipodean, renowned as dark and deadpan, wit becomes an intrinsic part of its ambiguous character. These romantic contradictions were my first impressions of Glasgow when I started to visit for work years ago. And it is these naive and flawed assumptions that I wish to nourish for this project.
Drawing on, and frankly inverting, Hinde’s approach have begun creating caricature scenes of Glasgow’s sub-urban life. I want to inject disproportionate colour into packed, mundane scenes in pubs, bus stops, pool halls, care centres, chippies, the park, tea rooms, art classes and the streets of the city, by dint of a wardrobe of colourful shirts. Faithful to Hinde, I am shooting everything on large format colour film. I wanted to draw individuals, communities and organisations in to an art project that presents a humorous, relevant image of the city. Where Hinde set out to use colour to create a hyper-reality, I am creating a sur-reality.
The good news is, the hardest part is almost done. After an electric three weeks, I have bounded forward. Over the next few weeks when everything returns to chaos, I will have results to show that take me to the next chapter. This is a collaborative project, and in the not too distant future, I will be calling for helpers, assistants, collaborators and conspirators who like the feel of a Hawaiian shirt and know where to find Glasgow’s intangible colour.

Artist Residence – Before Colour

Time flies when you’re having fun. Before I know it it is Tuesday again. A dusty carbon sky hangs over Glasgow.
So where has this week seen me? Detailing my project with Team Effort! and opening my eyes to Glasgow. I have spent the last 5 days engaged in my favourite activity. I have walked the streets of the city and watched, as if in slow-motion, the grey throb and heavy unfurling of urban life day to day. Since my very first vista of the city, I have always maintained a naive perspective on what makes it so rare a place. On its exterior it is a portrait of bleakness. Modernity and urban sprawl at its most literal,  it is like an unfinished masterpiece. Great angular citadels tower above the rain gloss asphalt, while below a tumult of limbs and commerce drown the great unrequited cry of crumbling heritage. A city infinitely grey, commercial, derelict and rain-soaked, yet, within the structure, it is electric with personality, character, creativity and myth. That humour too is renowned as dark and deadpan in Glasgow, wit becomes an intrinsic part of its colourful and ambiguous character. These romantic contradictions were my first impressions of Glasgow six years ago and it is these naive assumptions that hold me to my current project.
What I am working on is an exploration of colour. I am working to a slower and more traditional pace on large format film. January is both the most and least ideal time for this project to develop. I have spent the last week walking through the city at its most grey, searching for locations and framing up a shotlist, all the while remembering its hidden colour. The picture above sits over my desk as a reminder. My project here is to find a way under the surface, to find Glasgow in bloom with its own native colour. A colour that I hope to show everyone in the next two weeks if we can see past the fog.

Artist in Residence – Raw Materials

Aloha from Glasgow! I have just settled down for my first of three weeks as an Artist in Residence in Southside Studios with the eponymous Team Effort! I was accepted for the position before Christmas and am delighted to say I am the first of their eight resident-ees for the year 2014.
As an opportunity it is brilliant, but it is fully loaded! I have given this blog a colourful touch-up for the duration of my project here and I expect to be dusting off my lack-of-posting-finger and using this as a place to update on my projects development, my research and the general Bon Temps! of working life in the studios. I very much expect this to be an open and honest forum for me. This is the first Residency I have ever participated in, I am in unfamiliar territory and I have a lot to achieve during my short stay. On top of that, the dates for the project were decided just before Christmas, so my head is still spinning that I am here so soon.
For now, it is me, an empty space and a bag of Hawaiian shirts as the raw materials to develop this project from nothing. These three weeks are the first leg of a two stage collaborative project. Collaboration and conversation go hand in hand for me so can I extend an invite to anyone local who wants to call in for a cuppa and a tour. I’m here all week *boom boom*