By Bernie Bell
In many ways, I am a simple soul. I like to eat, I like to sleep, I like to sit in the sun. I also like to think, but am easily confused by a lot of input, and a lot of input is what I encountered at the exhibition ‘Vanishing Points’ in Tankerness House Museum.
It’s an exhibition which includes………paintings by Jeanne Bouza Rose….technical things ( way beyond my ken) by Jim Bright…and Renga Poetry produced by a group input.
Fortunately, Jeanne and Jim were on hand to talk me through the spladongas in the sondage, and the virtual reality.
As you enter the exhibition room on the first floor of the museum, the assembled images hit your eye – in a good way. The strength of colour, shape and energy.
The room is full of energy – the amount of thought, impressions and expression in that room, is almost overwhelming. I felt that I had a whirlpool of ideas and images, swirling in my mind. I still do, and to draw it all together, will take some doing. Imagine what it took to put the exhibition together?
Last time I wrote about the art-work of Jeanne Bouza Rose, I wrote of the paintings she had produced, after a winter’s hibernation in Northlight – the idea was to have as little distraction as possible, and therefore, more production. And it worked…..
Now, I will write about what Jeanne produced, during a summer, out and about at the Ness of Brodgar dig, looking about her and taking in the developments at the dig site, and what’s to be seen there, if a person looks a bit more closely than usual. The archaeologists do that, and the Artists in Residence, did that too. In ‘Jeanne Taks a Peep’ , she looked through the rips in time, to what lies below what we can see, now, of ancient sites. In ‘Vanishing Points’ her focus is on what is known as a sondage – a deeper investigation of a small part of a large trench. Jeanne became enthralled by the idea of a sondage, and, in particular, by the shapes left in the sondage when sections of time, in the form of sections of soil , have been removed for analysis, and what that can reveal about what was happening on the site, through time. Jeanne christened these Spladongas, and I, for one, hope that this becomes accepted terminology!
Jeanne includes these shapes in her large painting, of the big picture, of the Ness of Brodgar dig, entitled……….’The Homage to the Sondage, in the Montage…with Some Debitage on the Side”, and also in other, let’s say – less large ones.
The sections of soil samples, which were then analysed by Jo Mc Kenzie, can, in themselves, be seen as ‘art’, as the layers of colours, within the rectangle, are very pleasing to look at, as well as taking us through time – layer upon layer of soil, ash, pollen, and if you’re lucky, bits and pieces which fell to the ground, and stayed there for 5,000 years, until Jo lifts them, and sifts them.
In ‘Jeanne Taks a Peep’, we saw that she took to painting circular canvases, and has continued to do so, in her summer work.
This group of images includes another, small, subtle water colour, along similar lines to those which Jeanne has exhibited in the Pier Arts Centre Christmas Exhibition
‘Vanishing Points’ has variety, much variety, much…muchness! In art-work, and also in technical wizardry. My Grandma would have seen the work of Jim Bright as being magic, and it is magic! Jim uses photogrammetry to produce 3-D models. To do this, he takes photos all around a structure or an object, puts them into computer software, through a workflow ( for fellow technology dinosaurs, Jim described that as – a series of processes), and voila, we have 3-D images or models. A process very similar to the work of Hugo Anderson-Whymark, including his film of the carved stone ball found at the Ness, in 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcASwfbP0lg
The original – yes – the original – of this carved stone ball, takes centre stage at the ‘Vanishing Points’’ exhibition – very fitting, as, in my view, this object combines art, maths, and technical know-how
If you’d like to read of why I say this……………..https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/12/29/mathematical-musings-of-the-neolithic-kind/
And back to the technical know-how of today. When archaeologists are digging at some sites, like it or not, they sometimes have to record and then remove significant structures or objects, to be able to excavate deeper, to find yet more significant structures/objects.
The work of Jim Bright and his fellow wizards, means that these areas and objects can be recorded in 3-D, so that even when they are no longer there, they will still…exist. There is a good example of this, in one of the display cases, where there is a small, plastic model of a section of wall. The wall had to be dismantled, but all the info. about it, is there, stored, and, though this is a small model, I presume that full-scale would be possible, too? Wizardry – conjuring things back into existence.
There are two lap-tops, showing 3-D images of the Ness, which you can play with – including a Wigglegram – which I won’t explain – go and see for yourself!
There is also a Virtual Reality headset which I must confess I didn’t try, as I have enough trouble with ‘reality’ as it is! Other folk were putting on what Jeanne calls ‘The Goggles’, and getting a lot of fun out of doing so.
I haven’t forgotten the Renga poem. Renga is ‘linked verse’ – a collaborative poetic form which originated in Japan, and is akin to the Haiku poetic form. The renga in the booklet ‘Pinholes through Time – a renga in summer’ was composed in the Art Hut at the Ness of Brodgar, by a motley crew of tour guide, HES ranger, diggers, archaeologist, artist and poet. The booklet holds the words, and also images from Jeanne’s ‘Sondage’ painting. It is available from the museum shop, with proceeds going to the Ness of Brodgar Trust http://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/trust/. For those of you who can’t get to the Museum shop – the poem will be available on-line in the near future, through www.blurb.com, and purchase through Blurb Books will also profit the Ness of Brodgar Trust.
Response to these words and images, will be very individual, so I’ll just ‘cherry pick’ some which appealed to me, for various reasons.
“Shout, scream to those unseen as universes collide.”
“A caress of hand on tool. I stroke smooth haematite gently on you arm.”
“It was all rock, earth, structure – now it’s plastic, rubber, bags of sand.”
This produced a clear memory of the Ness, when it had been ‘closed down’ for winter
“You float up through layers – dust falls from your pitted face.”
And that reminded me of something in an exhibition by Anna Charlotta Gardiner in the summer, in Northlight studio https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/07/30/playing-with-scale-shapes-and-nightswimming-in-stromness/
As we left the museum , we looked in at the shop, where you can buy all kinds of bits and pieces associated with the exhibition, which runs until the 2nd February 2018. Monday – Saturday. 10.30-12.30 am, then 1.30 – 5pm.
And what do you do after having your mind an imagination fed? You need to eat and have a cuppatea.
On this occasion , we went along the road to Judith Glue’s, where the food is always good, and, they had a free gin tasting table! I don’t drink gin, but was tempted by the smell of the Rock Rose Sloe Gin, and took a sip. It’s lovely – like liquid mince pies. You feel the warmth, flowing right through you. Orkney fish, ‘turned’ a vegetarian, and now Caithness Sloe Gin has ‘turned’ a non-gin drinker.
I realise this is nothing to do with the ’Vanishing Points’ exhibition, but there are all kinds of good things to be found in life, whether at an archaeological dig, at an art exhibition, or at a free gin-tasting table!
Having read through this again, I just remembered, that Jeanne has made some Monoprints, which are also in the exhibition. She paints an image, prints it onto paper, then onto the next piece of paper, and the next – the image becoming fainter and fainter, until it’s a ‘ghost’ print of the original.
And this is what the archaeologists find – sometimes clear imprints of past times, sometimes fainter, sometimes a mere ‘ghost’ of what was there. And the ‘ghosts’ tell of the past, of what was there in a more defined form.