The artwork presented here is a personal departure from traditional methods of visual art making. It is the culmination of a journey into the use of non-conventional mediums and ideologies to create visual representations of areas of inquiry.
These particular works explore ideas relating to a sense of place, time and memory. Created in a First World War context, these pieces represent a duality of place - the distant battlefields of the war and homeland.
A moving memorial service commemorating the servicemen from the Isles of Uist who died in the First World War was the catalyst for these Ice Works. There were over three hundred men, but for this visual exploration the fifteen servicemen from the tiny Island of Grimsay was the focus of inquiry. Only one man was buried in the Isles, all others remained in Belgium or France. The poignant ceremony led to the progression of previous visual inquiry into the transience of place and time. The aim of these works was to visually reunite these servicemen with their homeland.
Indigenous people of Uist were asked to choose natural materials from the environment to represent a sense of place. It was important to have the opinion of local people because as a relatively new resident my affinity to the natural environment was arguably more idealised. The materials common to most participants included loch water, sea water, peat, heather, moss, and Machair sand.
The use of ice as the predominant medium for these works pursues ideas of purity, transience, the passing of physical state to an ethereal state. It also denotes reality into memory. Monolithic in form these blocks of ice merge the past with the present through their melting transition. The cold harsh reality of one place in time is captured, suspending a frozen moment and then slowly releasing it to pass away and become a memory. As the ice melts an assemblage of natural materials from the Uist environment remains, returning the memory of brothers, sons and husbands to their home.
Presented to the viewer in time-lapse video format, the melting process reveals the nuances of activity in the shifting ice normally indiscernible to the naked eye. Sinuous channels are formed as the fragile walls of air bubbles in the ice erode and join together. In Ice Work 8 and Ice Work 10 these channels are accentuated by adding colour (peat solution and pigment) that pulses through the image. The colours seep into the purity of the ice, breaking it down and asking the question, how pure and sacred is life if it can be destroyed with such ferocity and in such quantity?
These short time-lapse videos use the potent cross motif woven from heather stems. Placed over the top of the cross in Ice Work 10 is a wreath of heather buds. Symbolic of the Uist sense of place, the heather replaces the traditional poppy associated with Western warfare. The ice is encased in a wire-mesh barrier preserving memory in place and time. But the ice melts and memory is transitory as it seeps into a bed of Machair sand.
Ice Works 2 and Ice Work 11 incorporate the names of the dead servicemen. The names have been typed on a typewriter of the era, aged and waxed to emulate a bygone time. These pieces represent some of the large memorial monuments to the fallen of war. In Ice Work 11 a cage of barbed wire surrounds the melting ice representing the barrier to reunification with their homeland. But again the ice melts gently resting their names, the confirmation of their identity and their existence, onto the Machair sand (Deluzain, 1996).
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