I’ve not written a blog post in a while…. Over a year and two months… so maybe that’s a bit longer than a while.
The last year and a bit, while the world has been controlled by the coronavirus, has been difficult for everyone, and I, like I’m sure everyone else, breathed a sigh of relief when restrictions started easing.
Surgeon’s Hall Museum.
When restrictions eased for the first time here in Scotland, I was able to gain access to the Surgeon’s Hall Museum to work. Which was… amazing.
My space was this little corner of one of the galleries, hidden away beneath the stairs, my wee cubby hole. But it was like having a whole new world to explore.
I began to cherish my walks to the museum, to somewhere that was somewhere other than my flat that had become my home, studio, gym, cinema, restaurant… prison?
I spent nearly every-day at the museum from September-November working on the Surgeon-Person and Robot as Extension paintings. But sadly the panorama painting was just too big to work on in the space. So…. Back to the home studio! But by this point things had eased far more and being home didn’t feel quite so much of a cage anymore.
I did however begin to miss the team that worked there, as it was a fabulous experience and a brilliant opportunity to speak to the museum-goers and get feedback on my work.
I finished the paintings for the museum just before Christmas, so decided it would be a good opportunity to leave them to dry over that break. I was fortunate enough to make it down to Oxford before the new restrictions hit. This was both a win, as I got to have Christmas with my family, something which so many people were not able to do, but also a bit of a nightmare as technically I can work from anywhere so was in a very grey area with travelling back up north, as it was not necessarily essential.
Not wanting to risk it, I stayed down in Oxford.
Wheeeerreee…. I spent the time “stuck” converting a van.
If you want to see more of the van, then click on the images above or visit @vincentvangothere on Instagram.
When the museum contacted me to deliver the panorama painting, I finally had proof of the essentiality of my journey, so I came back up to Edinburgh in March, to hand over the remaining painting.
The whole thing felt very anti-climactic. A year’s work was just handed over, socially distanced, at the back door of the museum. But I was thankful to have had purpose over this bizarre year and still feel a huge sense of achievement.
A fresh perspective.
While down in Oxford I had started exploring an old hobby, mosses and lichens. And I began to notice similarities of depth, tone, and textures between them and the snapshots of flesh through the Da Vinci robot.
The disembodied, decontextualised, images I’d taken of the body and of the mosses looked abstract, yet both were fundamentally real. It got me thinking…
Both flesh and moss facilitate life. They both protect what lies beneath, regulate moisture and temperature, prevent toxins from entering the body or the new growing plants below. Mosses and lichens are vital for creating and maintaining ecosystems and bio-diversity but climate change puts them under threat. We are often faced with this dichotomy of nature and humanity, but we depend upon the natural world. If we started thinking about mosses like the flesh on our backs, would we make more of an effort to protect it?
Like with the flesh works, by taking it away from all contexts, from time, reference and distorting it through changing scale, it becomes something entirely different.
I wanted to start producing realist paintings that might at first appear abstract. But are also hard to ignore, forcing a viewer to engage with something they’d usually ignore.
I’m going to continue working with a Dual-Focus. I had a bit of a stigma against it before. Feeling like my work had to be one straight line, but after doing research into other artists, I feel more confident about splitting my time between both surgery and my project on Scotland’s mosses. Hopefully some exciting works to come.
The Surgeon's Hall Museum's exhibit Body Voyager opens this Friday (10th September), which I am extremely excited about. Wish me luck!