"I began to explore notions of wearing out and holding together", says Gillian Adair McFarland. "I feel we treasure things most at the point we are about to lose them in pushing grounds to their limits, ideas about conservation and preservation emerge."
Gillian Adair McFarland in her studio
Gillian Adair McFarland is an arts practitioner with a studio in Makers Yard. Originating from Scotland, she studied Fine Art Painting a St Martins School of Art in London. She took a postgraduate degree in Art Therapy in Edinburgh, then worked for 14 years in the NHS (Mental Health) Scotland as an art therapist. She moved to Bath, where over the next 4 years she worked freelance as an arts practitioner for Holbourne Museum & Art Gallery, Creativity Works and the Museums of Bath, where she was also a Trustee of the Bath Artists Studios. In 2013 she moved to Leicester and has continued her own arts practice and is currently engaged in a six-month artist residency with De Montfort University. She has work out in exhibition at Converge, Visual Arts Scotland, the Cupola Gallery, Sheffield, and coming soon to a mini show to link with this blog at Cank Street Gallery, Leicester
A day in your life
How you describe yourself as an artist?
Arts practitioner is probably the best description – that allows for a bit of everything!
What does a typical day as an artist look like for you?
Once family life is sorted I catch up on emails and work admin then I go to my studio (either at home or Makers yard) or currently head to DMU. I will spend a lot of time putting things together in my head and looking at life around me. I like the reflective quality of being an artist and really enjoy working with other people on projects.
Gillian Adair McFarland, More or Less, punctured paper & inks
Tell us about what you do.
Lots of mundane things punctuated by thinking and making.
What media do you usually work in?
Paper and inks, but not always…
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Getting into the making of things and the element of surprise.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Making it financially viable and ensuring the meeting of expectations when running workshops.
Gillian Adair McFarland, Indent, punctured paper and inks
What skills are essential to you?
Really looking - that is a skill! Adaptability, humour, honesty, resilience…..Oh and a huge pinch of optimisim and self-belief….Actually are any of these skills?!
How did you choose your current theme, if you have one?
A combination of things came together. When my blind mother died we were told her heart had worn out. On clearing the family home of 50 years we became very aware of the tracery of touch marks on the walls where my mother had felt her way from room to room over the years. It was a line that delineated her world.
At around the same time a patient in the acute ward where I was working came into the art room to touch and stroke the paper that was lying on the table. She expressed a need to touch it to know it was real and to know that she was too.
Gillian Adair McFarland, punctured paper
I was struck by these things and began to explore notions of wearing out and holding together. In puncturing the paper (which gave a Braille like quality) the image becomes more and more fragile and invitingly tactile.
I feel we treasure things most at the point we are about to lose them and in pushing grounds to their holding limits ideas about conservation and preservation emerge.
How did you get to where you are now?
One foot in front of the other.
What were your best subjects at school? What and where did you study?
Art English and History were my best subjects. I went to school in Dundee before going on to study Fine Art at St Martins.
Gillian Adair McFarland, Making the Best of It, punctured paper & ink
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Being a woman and having a family present problems in career progression in any walk of life.
How did you overcome them?
It’s a question of balance but I am not sure I really ever have overcome the challenges this presents.
What’s the proudest moment of your artistic career so far?
My very first award, as a recent graduate, at the RSA, and getting an Arts Council grant to pursue my Arts research
Do you have any regrets? Hundreds!
What advice would give your 22-year-old-self?
Believe in yourself more and expect more.
Either/Or . . .
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning , tea afternoon just because!
Michelangelo or Picasso?
I don’t like the way Picasso treated the women in his life so it will have to be the lovely Michelangelo.
Gillian Adair McFarland, Re vision, punctured paper & ink
Mac or PC?
Mac no question! My first computer was an Apple and I’ve never shifted…
Morning or night
Both are always welcome when they come.
Favourites . . .
Caroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans ….reminds me of my father
Perfect day by Lou Reed…reminds me of lovely days!
The God of small things by Arundhati Roy - A beautiful book full of the most fabulous visual descriptions. It explores how small things can affect people’s behaviour and their lives. I read it through the sleepless nights of a pregnancy and the quietness of the house combined with the pages to evoke the strongest of images.
Well, being very biased, one will have to be my daughter Collette Rayner.
Gillian Adair McFarland, Re view, punctured paper & ink
Things to do on a Friday night.
In Winter – cuddle up by the fire with the family, including the cat and dog. In Summer - go for a bike ride by the canal and see the water sparkling (coast substitute!).
Holiday spot : Uist in the Outer Hebrides. My family has been going there every year since I was a child and it is like no other place in Britain. Desolate, windswept, isolated but with the most glorious deserted white beaches and blue ocean. The first land mass the wind hits coming off the Atlantic – blows your cobwebs away.
Piece of advice you’ve been given
Forget what you know, look and then really look.
Gillian Adair McFarland, Moonlight, punctured paper & ink
Gillian Adair McFarland: LSA Featured Artist Exhibition (12 February - 18 March 2016) at Cank Street Gallery
See more about Gillian Adair McFarland on this website here
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