Shedding Skins 2011

This page accompanies my exhibition ‘Shedding Skins’

at School of Art, Aberystwyth University

17 October – 18 November 2011

This work is my PhD research into drawing with ink and light.

Generations ago, travellers from the Arctic Circle made kayaks and wetsuits from sealskin. They sewed themselves into their vessels and travelled as far as the Orkney Islands, where the Selkie myths originate. Selkies are shape shifters who transform themselves from seals into humans by coming out of their skins. Living in and out of their skins makes journeying between the two worlds possible.  ‘Shedding Skins’ performs such a move.  It is a passage between the analogue and digital worlds of mark making.

I first shed my Luddite skin in 2007 when I used a video mixer and a projector to assist my drawing in a performance.  I wanted to draw movement, something I had begun puzzling about back in the pre-digital age. ‘How can we know the dancer from the dance?’ W.B.Yeats famously asked.  Even motion pictures (video or film) only replicate what we have seen. They do not distinguish between mover and movement.  The dance leaves no apparent trace unless you draw it.

From ochre on rock to paint on canvas, the hand has traditionally been in contact with the ground a mark is made on. The video mixer allows the hand to be viewed on the subject being drawn. Visually as well as virtually, this connects eye and hand, sight and touch. Now my hand makes a trace on a graphics tablet. Nothing is seen until a screen magically reveals a digital line.  It is this line that enables me to know the dancer through the dance.

Constant change is the only constant.  To create a dynamic contemporary culture we need to move between tradition and innovation. It is important to dance in time with our times and, like Selkies, both to shed and to safeguard our skins.  With a video mixer and projector I can work on paper and screen, project in pixels and draw simultaneously with ink and with light. The technologies become my kayak and sealskin as I traverse digital and analogue landscapes.

I invite you to make this journey with me – to look at movement and draw with light.

Shedding Skins poster

Sea 2011
08m 12s
One of four videos – part of a ‘Selkie’ installation piece. All four videos are projected simultaneously onto suspended vellum, or skins. Drawing into video of the sea using the video projection technique. I draw only the movement. I use the paper as screen, work at the easel, then on a light box with layout paper and acetate. Finally I use a graphics tablet.

Dance 2011
17m 00s
One of four videos – part of a ‘Selkie’ installation piece. All four videos are projected simultaneously onto suspended vellum, or skins. A duet inspired by a Selkie story and song. I draw into the movement using a variety of analogue and digital means.

Song and narration by June Tabor.

Seal 2011
11m 21s
One of four videos – part of a ‘Selkie’ installation piece. All four videos are projected simultaneously onto suspended vellum, or skins.
Drawing into the video I made at the seal colony on Ynys Enlli. When I videoed I had to hide and be very still. Back in the studio when I draw into the video, even though it is virtual, it feels strange to be touching the seals – almost intrusive.

Rock 2011
14m 15s
One of four videos – part of a ‘Selkie’ installation piece. All four videos are projected simultaneously onto suspended vellum, or skins. I video myself as I draw a Selkie onto a rock on Ynys Enlli in the seal colony territory. Back at the studio I draw the movements I make as I draw the Selkie.

Dancing in Time 1 2011
15m 43s
Simon Harmer performing Southern Step Dancing as I draw his movements using my video projection technique.

Dancing in Time 2 – Waltz study 2011
37m 00s
Simon Harmer performs the Waltz in Southern Step Dancing while I draw him using the video projection technique. I draw him live, then from a video so I can draw first one foot, rewind the tape and draw the other.

Dancing In Time 3 – on Vellum 2011
12m 36s
I projected the video of Simon dancing a Waltz onto a suspended vellum. I draw first one foot, then the other.