Found skulls. Gannet – Rathlin Island 2009?, Puffin – Tory Island 2010.
These skulls have been scanned and combined with fragments of a book which I found in a great junk shop in Enniskillen. It is the school book of William Cathcart from 1902. There are lots of writing exercises, practicing of the latin origins of words etc. Some great stories about dogs ‘The quarrelling Dogs’, ‘The Dog and the Crows’… The use of language, the content, the script, the physical surface of the pages have all provided a great platform for artwork for me. I have enjoyed isolating words and phrases which, taken out of their original context, leave space for us to make our own references. I hope that by drawing attention to fragments, the adolescent charm of the writing is exposed and celebrated.
The use of an existing visual surface is something which I have always been drawn to, mostly due to my own fear of the unknown blankness of a canvas/page. Obviously a found and recycled surface offers much to inspire, reference and assist in mark-making decisions, but it also links to the idea of controlling the unknown – our human desire to control, understand and map the wild and natural.
I was trying to explain to my parents that a recent drawing that I did of a crow felt like a cheat as it was done from a photograph. I can only get close enough to study the structure of a bird’s wing or the bone structure of a puffin’s tiny skull when they are dead. The closest many of us can get to a wild bird while being unobtrusive is, for example, through the telescopes at the lighthouse on Rathlin or on the ferry on the way to the island as the boat’s route briefly intersects with a bird’s flight path. We are predators, after all, whom the animals instinctively avoid if possible. So anyway, I feel a much more secure ownership over the subject when it is in my hand, dead, rather than in a photo, alive.