Member Showcase September 2019 - Ellen McCann

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Sep 10th 2019

Every Month we will showcase three Visual Arts Scotland members, spotlighting their work & practice.

These showcased members will be chosen by a monthly 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. 


September 2019

Curator: Hugo Burge

Theme: Sculpture

Hugo Burge's life long love of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Sculpture has lead him to dedicate much of his energy to nurturing artists and makers.

Having restored Marchmont House in the Borders, Hugo activley supports sustainable arts and crafts and Scotland's creative community. Most recently Visual Arts Scotland and Marchmont House worked together with Craft Scotland and The Scottish Gallery to create the wonderful Conversations in Wood event. 

The forthcoming Sculpture event at Marchmont House will bring together a world class group of speakers, an interesting mix of artists, curators, auctioneers, dealers, to explore Sculpture.

"We have an upcoming event in Sculpture on the 21st September, so perhaps I am now descending into a blinkered world of looking, seeking and trying to understand sculpture, but it is an excuse for selecting 3 sculptors. 

Selecting sculpture is a very personal and visceral instinct, perhaps unfair without having met the artist and heard about their story first hand, but that is the terms upon which I select 2 out of 3 of these artists work. I naturally feel myself drawn to things that I feel have a sense of permanence, typically relate to nature and are pleasing to my eye. 
I was drawn to Ellen McCann’s work, especially the ceramics because they are simply beautiful forms, engagingly organic and have that magic of standing distinct from other works - they make you want to reach out and touch, to run your hand along them - often the ultimate test of a great piece of sculpture."

Ellen McCann

I was born and brought up in rural Aberdeenshire. This has provided me with strong interest and belonging to the countryside. I studied sculpture at Gray’s School of Art and have continued my practice as a visual artist throughout a teaching career.

I have a studio in Elsrickle near Biggar with a rural outlook and inspiration comes from the garden and landscape.

My current  focus is on points of change - for example: plants at various stages of their life cycle, landscape being shaped by the elements and fragile forms in nature. Natural growth and decay provide inspiration for my work.

I work mainly with ceramics and metal and enjoy the direct approach these materials provide.


Tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education

I was born and brought up in the North East of Scotland and studied sculpture and ceramics to postgraduate level at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. 

I can’t remember not wanting to make art and, while a youngster, I took full advantage of opportunities for additional art classes and visits to galleries.  Making art is something I have to do and I have developed and sustained my practice along with the demands of family life and a teaching career.


Could you describe your practice?

I usually visual my sculpture after experimenting with drawings.

Although I worked on metal sculpture for many years, in recent times I have enjoyed experimenting with large scale ceramic pieces.  I am combining both materials at present and taking on the challenge of working with contrasting forms and materials.

I particularly like the final stages of carving into my ceramic pieces to create delicate forms.


What are your art influences? Which contemporary artists/makers do you admire and why?

I’ve always been influenced by the Art Nouveau movement and it’s nature inspired themes. Currently, the surrounding landscape provide inspiration for my sculptures.  Strong influences come from plants at significant stages of their life cycle and from fragile forms shaped by natural elements. 

Recently, I’ve been admiring several botanical artists like Marianne Hazlewood and Victoria Braithwaite for their delicate observational skills and ability to abstract the structure of a plant.  In the past, I have been particularly influenced by the delicate structures of Keith Rand’s sculptures and learned much by sharing an artist’s residency with him.


What makes a good day in the studio for you?

Getting my vision for a piece realised.  When working on a sculpture I need to be very patient and work through a problem until I’m satisfied it works.  If I’m in the zone and there are no interruptions I get fully absorbed with what I’m doing.  I always try to finish the day with a problem solved.


In the studio – music, audiobook, podcast, Radio 4 or silence?

I like to listen to the variety of programmes on Radio 4 or a good book on Audible if I’m doing a repetitive activity ie coil work or slab building. If I’m welding I like silence so I can concentrate.


What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of you work?

I’ve had a very busy year with different exhibitions and I am working on several private commissions at the moment.  

One commission will be working alongside the community at the new local school in Elsrickle. I will be working on a ceramic panel with the children then members of the community to create a ceramic panel for the outside wall of the Black Mount School.

I will submitting further work for exhibitions  soon and will contribute to the Edinburgh Art Fair through my connections with the White Fox Gallery.

I will also be taking a little time for some reflection, to recharge my batteries and develop my practice further.

Read more on Ellen's VAS profile page