This post is about a collection of work I have made and is currently being exhibited at a local bar: Boda, in Leith, Edinburgh.
In my illustration work, I try to make images that symbolise but that do not represent specific people or places. Though they are based on real observations and experiences. In this case, the narrative is based on a story/anecdote my Grandma told me about someone who rowed out to see if the ‘land’ on the horizon was really there… never to return!
The reason I have remembered this story for so long, is that it is full of mystery and individual adventure: no two people can view the world in exactly the same way and sometimes, against advice, you just have to find things out for yourself.
My version of the story is about a character (gender neutral) who thinks they see land on the horizon where the sea meets the sky, but is told it is an optical illusion. The character likes rowing and one day decides to find out if there is land there or not. The hero has a dæmon in the form of a salmon (after the Philip Pullman novels His Dark Materials in which the inhabitants of an alternate universe have dæmons – an animal form of the ‘inner-self’). I chose the salmon for the character’s guide as in Irish folklore, the salmon represents knowledge. The salmon could be interpreted as an imaginary friend or a real entity – there is a lot of ambiguity!
In my work I try to capture the ability of tales to travel across cultural borders. To do this I started to look at folk art. It has similar qualities in its use of symbolism and often has a handmade aesthetic which makes folk art tactile and familiar. For this reason, I am trying to formulate ways of reproducing the picture books by hand which is not too time consuming but will still provide a coloured, aesthetic and legible set of images. The works on display in the exhibition at Boda bar are made using cardboard stencils, watercolour, sponges and toothbrushes to make small textured images.
Pullman, Philip (1995 – 2000) His Dark Materials Trilogy Scholastic
Grandma (1919 -) Catherine Neary (nee. O’Connor)