MORVERN ODLING

PROPOSAL

Textile sculptures for installation, performance and photography – this has been at the heart of my practice since I graduated from Heriot Watt University in 2012. However since graduating the realities of working as a professional artist has broadened my work to span over a wide range of mediums and applications. The work which I would like to spend the majority of my time on, the work which I hold closest to my heart, often gets sidelined for the more commercial work which involves in some way working with or for others.

I see this residency as an opportunity to advance my personal work and take it to the new places I have in drawings in sketchbooks – to develop it from the page and out into reality. The dedicated time to further explore the sculptural forms which I have so far only made in simple machete form would mean the realisation of a lot of my hopes for this work.

Over the period of a few days I would like to focus on the form of these textile works, the patterns of folds and cuts which make them tumble and furl in different ways. With dedicated time I would be able to not simply translate the design to the 3D form but allow for development of the structure, reacting to new discoveries and how the fabric moves when it is sewn together.

The countryside surrounding Blairgowrie would serve for a beautiful backdrop to trial these works in situ against the landscape. Capturing the sight of suspended formed textile sculptures floating above the turf has become an obsession and so far I feel that I have just scratched the surface of this idea and what it can become. Being so close to this rural landscape I would easily be able to walk out each day and photograph the works, in this way the photograph and the sculpture develop alongside each other as a constant conversation.

In preparation for this period of time I will prepare some fabric with images printed upon them, so the sculptures can be sewn from images as well as colour. I have hoarded a large stock of different fabrics, some with my printed work on them and some which I have dyed.

I am also attracted to this residency because I love being an artist and meeting others who share this same passion for making work. With this work I’d love to introduce my practice to the community to find out how textiles resonate with other artists and practitioners of any kind. Often we overlook the importance of this medium as it is so inherent to our every day, one of my aims in my work is to show the possibilities of fabric as a fine art medium. In addition to this when I photograph the work I am always out in the open, somewhere where people can meet and speak to me about what I am doing and why.

Finally I would bring all of my materials and tools with me, it’s not too much; just fabric, a sewing machine and threads, an iron and my photography kit. I have everything I need to realise this work, just time and space is the last missing element to realise at least the beginnings of the next stage in my development.


COMMUNICATION

Hi Morvern,

I wonder if you know about the Cleaven Dyke, a kilometre-long earth working at Meikleour, three miles south of the BCCA.

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In the 1940s it was thought to be Roman, but in the 1990s radio carbon dating suggested it was Neolithic, blasting apart the old theories of what the construction's function might have been. It's a metre-and-a-half high mound with two parallel ditches running alongside it but twenty metres on either side of the mound. We just mention this in passing as the photos from your
Shadows of the Land project remind us of the atmosphere and aspects of the landscape at Meikleour.

See you soon,
Duncan and Kate



DAY TWO

Mo spent the first day of her residency in the summerhouse sewing and cutting. Not that she shut herself away; she was also up in the house cooking, talking, eating, drinking, and the rest. Indeed, she probably felt the working part of the day passed all too quickly. But she was confident she'd have something ready to try out in the landscape this morning. And I think this is it.

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At least that's the paper pattern lying on top of the rug in the summerhouse. It's been cut in the shape of a humanoid figure, though one arm has been lopped off and is lying to one side. Why so? Because Mo doesn't want the figure to appear too Gormley-esque. He's got so much to answer for, that man. Forcing other artists to cut off their right arms in order to distance themselves from his Cyberman aesthetic.

How does the paper pattern work? Mo has used it to cut into black ripstock nylon. She did that twice, then sewed the two pieces of fabric together. She was doing this together with other time-consuming tasks until late last night, apparently. But she has got used to jobs taking a long time now that she no longer has access to an art college. Heriot Watt and ECA have provided state of the art facilities for her in the past. Now she must make things happen with simple tools, craftsmanship and guile.

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At the Cleaven Dyke, Mo unwinds some fishing line from a great reel of the stuff which was a gift from an art teacher who told her that there was more than enough line to see her through her art days and that she would end up gifting the reel to someone else. She attaches line to the head of the figure, which she sometimes refers to as a windsock. Actually, it's got a fairly large hole at each end and has been designed along the lines of a Japanese carp, those streamers that decorate the landscape of Japan in April/May in honour of Children's Day.

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Mo has borrowed the pole that we use to prop up our washing line. But she must attach the free end of the length of the fishing line to the pole without making use of the plastic hook, which seems to have become detached from the pole. Not sure Kate will be too pleased about that. After all, it's mostly her who uses the pole. But she's in Glasgow today, attending a Sexology festival, so I'll worry about her response to the lost hook later.

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The black figure bursts into wind-given life. It's shaking and shivering like a fish passing through a river of water. It twists and buckles most energetically. Evidently a young, flexible life-form this. Vigorous life-force; flexible life-form.

From the side it appears that Mo is landing a large fish (to continue that simile). Perhaps one of the salmon that annually makes it way up the River Isla, half a mile to the east, or the River Tay, half a mile to the south. Indeed, a few days ago I was wondering if the dyke, which has roughly the same dimensions as the flood banks that were built adjacent to the Tay and the Isla in the mid-NIneteenth Century, might have originally had that function. But that really wouldn't make sense, to have a flood bank in the middle of a plain, allowing so much of the land to be flooded! But then again, nothing about the Cleaven Dyke seems to make sense to a 21st Century mind.

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As the wind takes the black cloth here and there, it's appearance morphs between man and mannequin...

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...Between man, fish, dolphin, seal and whale...

Watching it is like a biology lesson. Are dolphins, whales, fish and men not descended from the same common ancestor? Right now that would appear obvious.

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Why did our human ancestors make the Cleaven Dyke? Relatively tool-less, why did they invest thousands of man-hours making this mile-long mound of earth? Well, it could have been a place of worship; it could have been a place of awe. Five thousand years ago, our ancestors might have taken skins that had been sewn together and tied them to posts and let their own symbols of their ancestors fly free.

Why not? What do we know that they didn't? Nothing worth knowing.

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What do we share with them? Everything worth sharing.


DAY THREE

An invite went out from the BCCA to half a dozen people who we thought might enjoy engaging with Mo's residency. She set out a few things in the summerhouse, disported Cleaven Dyke under the pear tree and prepared to say a few words about herself and her practice.

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How many people have come along? Aileen, Kay, Claire, Angela, Ackii, Kate and I are the ones that have corporeal presence in the garden and conservatory.

But what about the shadows of our forgotten ancestors? Don't they count? Go forward a hundred years and I think you'll find that they count just as much as we do.

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Kate has been making scones. Sexology festivals one day, scone-making the next, is there no rest for the pinafored goddess half of the BCCA? And Claire, back at the BCCA just four days after her own residency finished, has provided a cabbageless fruit salad for our mutual sustenance. Plus there is tea, butter, jam and lemon drizzle log.

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As we're eating and drinking this and that, Mo talks about her practise. She's relaxed and engaging so that goes well. We all find a way to chip in. Ackii, being Japanese, is able to tell us a little more about the carp streamers or 'koinobori' from first-hand knowledge.

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True, the light in the conservatory means it's difficult to make out what's on the screen of Mo's laptop, but she had the foresight to send the BCCA some of the photograph sequences she took at the Cleaven Dyke, and the BCCA's A3 printer has done the rest.

Over to Mo: "A further exploration of the human form in the landscape, is the larger than life figure inflated and coiled with the wind which rushed down the Cleaven Dyke. This ancient human-made land form is a cursus monument and one of numerous Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in the surrounding area. We know very little of these places and the people who made them but they are pieces of us, land people whose touches on the earth still show us where we came from."

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"We exist in more than just our physical forms and long after we are blown away from memory the imprint we leave can be traced by others – we are more than just the bodies we inhabit, more than just the time that we spend. In this way the creation of artwork around, in and of these places can underline their continuing importance in our lives and here we can be as one with the peoples of both the past and the future."

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At some stage Mo says that we breathe the same air. She means us, our human ancestors of five thousand years ago, our non-human ancestors of millions of years ago, and koinobori from the Cleaven Dyke to Japan.