Monday, 20 February 2017

Spectra Festival 2017!

Well February doesn't disappoint that's for sure. The annual Spectra Festival rolled out the neon carpets, ignited the fires and switched on the fluorescent bulbs but there was one huge problem. Rain, sleet and snow all fell over the course of the Spectra weekend, not unusual weather for the time of year but certainly a huge factor for an almost entirely outdoor based festival. And yet 63,000 people braved the elements over the course of the weekend to witness the weird and the wonderful light installations which went from Marischal College to the rooftop garden above the St Nicholas centre, into the St Nicholas kirk yard, Seventeen on Belmont street and culminating in a series of works in Union Terrace gardens.

The aim of the festival is to provide some relief from the winter blues by showcasing a selection of light based art works and events which take the viewer on a short journey across the city centre. Incredibly with a very short window the organisers managed to bring together a great blend of creative and artistic works with more publicly engaging pieces like the face mapping stand where you could have your face mapped onto the screens and watch as it recounted tales of old. The fire pit heads made for a photographers dream while the illuminated spiders in St Nicks churchyard were the perfect blend of creepy and cool! The 'Cloud' proved popular with everyone, I was barely able to get close to enough for a snap but there was something serenely beautiful about it and the engagement it created with the audience.

Marischal College was the final destination of the night and provided 3 different attractions. Firstly viewers could take control of special Laser Light Synths which allowed you to control lights on the façade of the building with giant touch pad controllers. We watched on as kids and adults battled it out to be the next synthwave superstar. Inside the quad you could find screens showcasing the Secret Cities Aberdeen photo project. Incredible snaps of various Aberdeen landmarks were displayed showing unique vantage points like the roof of Kings College in Old Aberdeen to the bell tower at the Court House. We had fun trying to figure out where each snap was taken and picked up one of the free newspapers showcasing all the snaps and locations, a nice keepsake for the evening.

A personal favourite for myself was the projection mapping on the quad tower at Marischal College. Watching the tower morph into a medieval story book where strange creatures from the Bestiary come alive and traverse the building before being engulfed in flames and revealing ye olde scholars and wise men was fantastic. The gothic imagery perfectly suited the location and I think provided a real highlight and nice way to finish the tour off.

Due to having a limited amount of time and the fact it was freezing we didn't make it around all of the displays but thanks to the power of instagram we were able to see all the great work being created by Stack Collective on the roof top garden. The group is made up from art school graduates and current students and have put together a series of workshops, not just for Spectra Festival but also for the Inspiration Point events which have been happening across the city (more on that later). Illuminated laser etched panels popped up each day as children were invited to draw out their own designs and characters which were then turned into light artworks, a pretty cool idea which I'm sure led to lots of happy faces.

One of the key aspects of Spectra is the audience taking the time to engage with the works and the best evidence of this can found on instagram. I've used a few of them to showcase a flavour of what we saw and despite sub zero temperatures and sleet people seemed to be happy going around each site, ticking off the attractions as they go. There's a lot that can be said for these kind of events and not all good but for me they serve a vital purpose of bringing people together in our cities spaces and getting them engaged with creativity. It might not be the most challenging of work to appreciate but that doesn't mean its any less valuable, if anything it might inspire someone to make that first trip to an art gallery and that's always a good thing. Well done team Spectra and all involved!

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

'Art Birthday Party' at The Anatomy Rooms!

"Art's Birthday" is an annual event first proposed in 1963 by French artist Robert Filliou. The concept is pretty simple, this is the official birthday of Art, so why not celebrate it in all its different forms. And thats what happened at The Anatomy Rooms on the 17th January. Partnering with The Space of Pomodoro Bolzano in Regensburg, Germany, both organisations hosted small parties in their respective spaces with a special spinning chair zone that allowed attendees to skype and spin with a stranger in Regensburg. 

As with any birthday party decorations were hung, music was pumped and games were played. Kirsty Russel also made some special cakes for the occasion which somehow ended up on a small trolley being pushed back and forth along the corridor. It was by no means a wild event but it was really fun to have a spin in the chair and share a moment with one of the participants at the other end, pulling faces and trying not to fall off! The Anatomy Rooms offers a studio space that can be more than just studios but offer a social experience too and can be a good place for making connections so even if you're not sure about attending future events you should really just do it, come down and say hi and have a conversation. If we can do it with strangers on Skype then we can do it anywhere!

There's should be a lot more events and talks happening at the space soon and with NUART Aberdeen and Look Again taking place in April its shaping up to be a busy place so keep an eye on their Facebook page for events and opportunities to get involved!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Beyond The Square - Instagrams of the Week!

It's been a while since I shared some instagram posts so here's a selection of cool peeps I've been following from German blogger Solaris100 to graff vandals across the globe, visual stimulation away from the brain mutating media frenzy that has been 2017 thus far! Its cool picking up on themes and ideas that I'm hoping to develop in my own work and seeing where it fits in with the wider community that I'm following and also engaging with people I follow like Mikey Freedom in Oz and Solaris in Hamburg. I guess at a time when American politics seem to be closing off doors we have a vast range of tools at our disposal to share information, ideas and art! 

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A Flying Visit To Perth & Glasgow!

So despite dying with the cold again I managed to get on a megabus to check out some art down in Perth & Glasgow. First stop was in Perth to catch up with Katie Guthrie along with some of her painted doors, created with textile & design wiz Fun Makes Good. Their doors can be found at The Perth Museum and the Public Library, adding some much needed colour to the town amenities. We didn't see Katie as she had to prepare for a magical birthday trip but she did recommended a great little cafe on the main street which seemed to be full of dogs and their owners. Their hot chocolate and brownies were delicious and restored me to a semi normal state despite being in full lurgy mode.

Next stop was Glasgow where I'd hoped to catch a few shows and some friends. First port of call was Many Studio's in the Barras to see my old school friend Katie Eyre (prints and centre piece). Titled 'Woolgathering' the show also featured work by Susanne Lund Pangrazio (Braids & portraits) and Nicole Bennet (night time paths). For a small space the show really made it feel bigger without over filling the walls, each piece complementing the next with colour, form and texture all playing a part. I really loved the braided pieces while Katie's new print pieces had a really sense of pace to them despite their 2 dimensional appearance, almost like you could step into them and Nicole's work threw up the question "where does this lead to?". It was really great to catch up with Katie and to find out about her studio work and I'm looking forward to catching up again soon!

Next up it was back into Glasgow centre where we stopped past Glasgow Print Studio for a look at Joy Bain's 'The Year of the Rooster' show. Showcasing a selection of animal woodblock prints, joy proved that sometimes simple is best. Employing woodblock printing with a distinctive red ink helped give the show a uniformity, a repetition which works perfectly. Simple indeed but no less brilliant for it. 

Our final stop took us to The Lighthouse to see the Alan Kitching 'A Life In Letterpress' show. Sadly we arrived a bit on the late side and only had 5 minutes to look at the vast collection of work on display, tracing the career of a true master craftsman. I was able to get a few snaps before having to vacate the building but even in that short time it was easy to see why Alan is held in such high esteem. It was interesting to see how some pieces really played with the blank space on a page as much as the information they were tasked with sharing, while others seem to be pure play with the use of incredible letter press fonts and bright colours. Thankfully there's a few more weeks to catch the show so I might have to pop down again for another look. If you can't make it then I highly recommend checking out this short video about Alan and his work

It was back onto the megabus and home in no time but least we managed to squeeze in some great shows and had a real blast catching up with friends. Still need to pop down to Dundee to see the DC Thomson show at the DCA so that's next on the hit list and also Ade Adesina's 'Secret's of the Sand' up at GHAT!