These works relate to living organisms, resilient through the process of biological evolution, fragile yet capable of adaptability and survival.
In my work either abstract or figurative, I juxtapose the concepts of durability and fragility, vulnerability and strength, and man-made and nature.
Frozen in a moment of time these human scale forms seem to be lightweight appearance, but this is refuted by the hard, resilient and strong physical reality of a viewers touch. Having grown up immersed in the world of the Scottish military I am drawn to the symbolism of the elaborate and colorful uniforms, offering little protection and yet projecting the idea of strength.
In recent art work I have used the inner bark of the mulberry tree harvested in rural Laos to convey my concepts. (Link to map). It was traditionally used by the Yao tribe for religious rituals, making rope and the wrapping of opium. Post the Vietnam War it has become part of an initiative to raise the standard of living of these mountain people in the making of paper products. It is an important cash crop and plays a central role in the livelihood of these small tribal groups. (Link to website) The concern for the region is that the increased industrialization and in particular the building of multiple bridges across the Mekong River, are opening up these rural area and disrupting the villages way of life.
The wild mulberry regrows annually in fallow areas. Seasonally harvested it is stripped, boiled and pounded and in some cases bleached, then dried. It is at this point, from these small family collectives that I am able to get the bark before it is shipped to Thailand for paper production.
My process in using the bark is to first immersed it in a hardening agent I have developed, then it is stretched, formed around templates, dried and removed and continue working on it occasionally adding natural elements such as branches, lichen etc. In some work I have used natural plant dyes of pomegranate, madder root, adding another dimension to a piece. As I begin to stretch and manipulate the material the veins of the bark open revealing a porous network, a magnified look at the organic cellular structure surfaces. As these processes have not been used before there is a great deal experimentation and risk through which the work evolves.