Aug 28th 2020
We will showcase three Visual Arts Scotland members bi-monthly, spotlighting their work & practice.
These showcased members will be chosen by a guest curator. The invited curator will select makers & artists that interest them from our amazing membership. This will be based on a theme of their choice.
Stuart Bennett is a Senior Lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) University of Edinburgh currently, where he teaches Fine Art and is currently working on ECA’s Summer 2020 graduate showcase and events. He is a Trustee of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD) and recently joined the Board of Trustees for Collective, Edinburgh. Stuart has developed exhibitions and location specific projects and has written and spoken about his work nationally and internationally. His work as an artist and educator is concerned with the activity, environment and tools of making and how the experience of creating things can be demystified.
The second of Stuart's three choices is Erin McQuarry
"I decided to think about ‘touch’ as a way of determining who to highlight – it’s been on my mind quite a lot during lockdown and I wrote about it for Susannah Beaumont’s Design Exhibition Scotland website at the start of the Covid-19 restrictions. https://www.designexhibitionscotland.co.uk/dont-touch/
All three chosen artists have touch and trace at the core of their work and offer salve and respite in these difficult and unprecedented times. Erin through her selection of sites and patterns, mixing handcraft with the digital, to make imprinted textiles that compellingly oscillate between composition, place and function"
Tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education
I was born and brought up in Glasgow. I competed as an athlete and studied Physiology at Glasgow University before dropping out and taking the portfolio course at Tramway Visual Arts Studio. I suppose I took a meandering route to art school, but my experience in these different environments is something that I would not change and still impacts my work today. At The Glasgow School of Art I studied Printed Textiles and during my time there I was lucky to have the opportunity study at Tama Art University in Tokyo. Living and studying in Japan completely changed my life and practice in terms of my understanding of materials and appreciation of keeping traditional craft methods alive, whilst also striving to innovate. Currently, I am completing my MFA at The New School, Parsons School of Design in NYC on a Fulbright Scholarship. I live in Brooklyn and have been here throughout isolation. This time, working and studying from my bedroom, has consolidated my love for textiles. As a medium it almost begs for isolating yourself as processes take time. You can always rely on the meditative aspects of becoming lost in a weaving, tapestry or stitching to provide solace and a feeling of connection to a wider community. It is no wonder that more people are drawn to textiles during this time. The world feels upside down and tactile connections are a way to process the transient nature of what we are all experiencing.
Could you describe your practice?
I see there is merit and innovation in pursuing ancient methods of textile making, ensuring skillsets are not lost and continuing a dialogue with past textile artists and makers. Predominantly focusing on methods that are associated with women and domestic spaces, I contemplate the themes of women’s work, archival research, sports culture, urban spaces, and the physical body. I am asking myself, whilst acknowledging these historical social environments and techniques, how I can create textiles which reflect the freedom that I have to portray contemporary issues, new materials, function, and scale. The loom is one of the earliest forms of technology and weaving, the communication, is a language of slow and fast; warp – the constant, weft – the motion. To play with this binary exploring ways to disrupt the grid and create new spaces is exciting.
What are your art influences? Which contemporary artists/makers do you admire and why?
Discovering the work and writing of Josef and Anni Albers has been one of the most pivotal influences on my work along with the work of many of their students; Sheila Hicks, Ruth Asawa, Trude Guermonprez and Lenore Tawney to name a few. Of artists working today, I love the work of El Anatsui and Cornelia Parker for their sheer ability to hone base materials, storytelling, and sculptural nature of their works.
What makes a good day in the studio for you?
Finding a smooth flow. Textile processes are rhythmic and when you hit a point when everything feels in harmony; body, thought and materials there is nothing better. A perfect day in the studio is finished with time at night to go and play basketball, especially while I am here in New York where the sport is so intrinsically embedded in the culture, it’s something I feel I cannot miss out on. For me, I need a balance of inside and outside. When I am on the streets, I am still collecting bits of information, fragments of colour, light, and texture. I think these momentary glimpses are so important and somehow, they come out through whatever I make – the beauty of woven cloth is that it can be a carrier for all this information no matter how fleeting.
In the studio – music, audiobook, podcast, Radio or silence?
Recently I have been listening to Kamasi Washington, Bill Evans, Aretha Franklin and old Outkast albums. Equally though, sometimes you just want peace and quiet.
What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of you work?