painting

May: Artist in Residence with Leveld Art Centre, Norway & New Work

So for the month of May I was Artist in Residence at Leveld in Norway, a small village in the Ål municipality, Hallingdal home to 300 inhabitants about 700 m above sea level. Another remote mountainous location: perfect once again for me. I feel like I’ve done just about every remote artist in residence programme that there ever has been!

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I spent the 4 weeks mainly based at the Leveld Art Centre, it’s very much a residency for creatives to go to and be immersed in the village and location without any distractions. There’s not even a shop in the village so it really is about going there to get headspace, think about your ideas and work to develop on a project that needs time and space.

I’ve realised through close inspection and really challenging how I think about my work and how I intend for it to develop that there is very much a clear style within my practise and how I respond to the landscape in which I immerse myself in. A major part of me making the art work is being surrounded in an environment that not only invigorates me in terms of remote and harsh elements, it also provides me with the right visual inspiration for me to go forward with new work. The harsh strong black lines I use convey the significant unique texture, shape and linear quality of the landscape whilst the energetic mixed medium marks are responding to the temporary elements that surround the land. It is about connecting people to this energy that exists in nature. I hope my photos of my work below show this kind of idea and give the work clarity.

And so I won’t go into detail about every piece of art work I made, instead here is some photographs that show the location of the place and some of the new works I produced within my time there! At the moment I’ve just left my post as artist in residence in Leveld and currently in Bergen where I will then depart for Shetland then back to the Scottish Mainland so that’s what to expect from my next posts!

Thanks again as always for reading and if you would like to purchase my work head on over to my online shop for small original works at online shop or you can browse my full portfolio at website.

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The year so far/Cill Rialaig Artist in Residence

It has been a very long time since I have blogged and I really cannot believe that it is nearly May! One of the last blogs I made about my work was after my residency in Sumburgh Head Lighthouse back in November! Apologies for the lack of blogging going on but since the beginning of this year, well just my life in general, I’ve literally went from one place to the next, one project after another barely giving myself a day to rest in between. The beginning of this year started off with me living in Venice for 6 weeks. I received a full fellowship to teach printmaking at the International School of Printmaking in Venice, (Scuola De Grafica) to be precise. It was here where I got to work on my practise, teach my specialisation of lithographic printmaking and explore the bizarrely beautiful man made Island of Venice. I’ve decided not to write a separate post about my time here as already the months have flown in but if you would like to see some of my work made in Venice I have some listed on my page: art site. It was a productive intense 6 weeks of making a new series of monoprints, collographs, playing around with painting and layering on top of the work whilst going to as many classes that were available to me at the School.

Since returning from there I had a few days to catch up with things in Scotland, I missed it so much when I was away. Don’t get me wrong Venice is an extremely beautiful place but it is not natural. I’ve never been immersed in a place that is not surrounded by mountains or nature, I’ve always chosen to go directly north, to places of sparse population and remoteness so it was a challenge for me and sometimes the hectic hordes of tourists and level of mass crowds would really stress me out! However, the history, art and culture of the place was truly amazing and the fact that it has barely been touched for as long as it has been built is astounding. A city degrading in such a beautiful way.

After Venice I then went back to my favourite place; The Isle of Eigg to spend a week’s residency with the Bothy Project. You can read about my time here where I’ve wrote a big article for the Bothy’s Website: Thoughts from an Island.

After the Isle of Eigg I then caught the ferry back to the mainland and flew to Ireland the following day. I told you I don’t give myself much time in between! I spent the beginning of my time in Ireland catching up with all of my wonderful family and travelling around part of the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ring of Kerry gathering inspiration as I went. It was then a 2 week period from the 29th of March to the 12th of April as Artist in Residence at Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat, known as one of the most remote artist residencies in the world; seemed pretty fitting for me then!

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Cill Rialaig Village which was built in 1790 sits high on a cliff at the very edge of Ireland, County Kerry looking right out onto the Atlantic and feeling the full force of the storms and wind that come off the ocean. This area was phase one of a self-help three part economic and social plan for the much neglected Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry. This involved the rescue and redevelopment of the pre-famine village of Cill Rialaig as a retreat for artists, poets, writers, film makers and composers of national and international repute.

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The aim of the village is to have a retreat and creative space for creatives to come to and make work without distractions in a very inspiring location. The residency was one I had known about for quite a while so I was eager to work there. Also Ireland is absolutely incredible, the history, the culture, the folklore, the magnificent landscapes which are so reminiscent of the Scottish ones; plenty to explore and mounds of inspiration for me. I’ve spent a lot of summers in Ireland growing up spending time with my family mainly in the County Clare area where the majority of them live and travelling further afield yet County Kerry was an area of Ireland I couldn’t remember much of and hadn’t got round to exploring as much.

Anyway, it turns out Kerry is incredible! I hired a car for my two week residency as I knew in myself that I would be eager to get out and about and travel around the coastline especially as the iconic Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way route was so nearby! As much as I loved spending time in the quiet solitude of Cill Rialaig Artist Village, I also wanted to venture further and hike, go and see the unique ruins in the area whilst drawing on site as some of the locations around the coast that I had selected specifically were geologically speaking absolutely fascinating.

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My two week period flew by, time stretched out in front of me at the beginning, a feeling of bounds of time, no distractions, me and the immersive cottage/ studio all ready to get set and make work whilst watching the sea right at my doorstep, yet after a few days I realised it was going in so quick (as these things always do) and I wanted to see more and more of the area.

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I had no set project for my time at Cill Rialaig. As a bit of a Residency fanatic I have decided to slow down a bit and realise I can’t do residencies constantly back to back, I enjoy them and have done many since graduating from Art School 2 years ago yet I’ve collated so much information, documentation and work from each one without giving myself time to process them in between so for this one I knew that my intentions were to hike around the wonderful coastline, make work when I felt like it, give myself headspace and make the most of my two weeks of quiet solitude right at the very edge of the Atlantic.

Anyway, here are some images of the work I made on residency. After accumulating a lot of varied drawings and paintings in the past year from residencies in Iceland, Shetland, Norway, Svalbard, Venice, and now Ireland I have certainly amassed a lot that I would like to sit back and look at all together and see how my work has changed and developed from spending time in each place.

Thanks for reading as always!

My summer on the Isle of Eigg

I have now left the wonderful Island of Eigg, one of Scotland’s Small Isles after living and working here as a volunteer for just over two months. I’ve not updated on here for a while as since my last blog I was in this one place, this tiny unique and absolutely incredible Island. I have been truly immersed in the place, getting to know the locals a lot more, being outside as much as humanely possible and working with the Eigg Heritage Trust doing anything from cutting bracken to helping on crofts to clearing forestry paths.

To be honest coming out here and being a volunteer for the Summer was nothing to do with my art work, it’s been a long time since I have done something that has not been for the sole productive purpose of making new work and being in an art environment. I desperately wanted to take some time out and just be outside, working with the land, not for any goal at all but just to be here and immerse myself in a self sustainable Island that is full of some of the most genuine purposeful people I have ever had the pleasure to get to know. I’ve been to Eigg a few times before having fallen in love with the place a couple of winter’s ago and I knew that my first time working as a volunteer had to be out here, not only in my home country of Scotland but specifically Eigg, a place that has been drawing me back time and time again.

I travelled out to Eigg on the 18th of July and have spent the past two months as a volunteer for the Eigg Heritage Trust and spending the rest of my long days meandering all over the place, walking most of the Island, hiking when the weather allowed it, going over to the neighbouring Island of Rum for a few days working with the Ranger there, taking part in my first Small Isles Games and most social occasions including many a spontaneous Ceilidh, completely and utterly getting to know Eigg and everyone here as much possible.

I can honestly say that Eigg is the only place that I’ve ever been that I’ve had such a strong connection to. Even when the weather was completely chucking it down around me, even when the midges were out in force and even if I was completely knackered from walking here there and everywhere, it didn’t matter one bit as I was on the Island and there is a magic to the place that I can’t quite put my finger on. Yet I notice it in the people who have moved here or who keep coming back time and time again, they too I’m sure have experienced the exact same feeling. That overwhelming sense that you are meant to be right there, immersed and surrounded by the inspiring landscape and sheltered from the outside world that seems to be going a bit manic right now. In amongst all of the craziness is Eigg, an Island of purposeful living and a strong sense of community whose strong minded, determined and forward thinking locals seem to be going full steam ahead with their perspective on the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a place that chooses you, a lot of people come to the Scottish Islands and find them ‘idyllic’ ‘beautiful’ and ‘quaint’ tending to only skim the surface of a place and see them in the rare occasion when the sun does make an appearance. However my draw is a lot deeper than that, one being it is one of the last places where I got to spend a significant period of time with my late Dad who passed away very suddenly last year. We spent a week together in Sweeney’s Bothy in January 2016, a hilarious time where we were cut off from doing most things due to the prevailing 90 mph winds, yet we had the best time, just us, off grid sharing our common bond, being in the Islands and getting away from the city. I come back to Eigg and I see my Dad everywhere in this place, it’s funny how an Island that I’ve  never lived on for a long period of time has more of a strong connection to me than a place where I’ve grown up my entire life. We spent only a week here yet I’m closer to him here than anywhere because I know how much this place had an impact on him and the real memories we made here without any distractions whatsoever.

This is a reason among many that there is a strong pull for me, the lifestyle, the overpowering elements of the landscape where in our society nowadays seems worlds apart from being in the outdoors and surrounded by nature. Many people have no connection whatsoever to the earth anymore, how much we need this I’ve realised, to get our hands in the soil, feel the earth beneath our feet, we are natural beings shaped by the landscape and it is in our instinctual needs to be outside surrounded by nature. Overall, the place had everything that I ever did need, I really didn’t think I would have such a strong bond to it when I came back at the start of the Summer but I realised more and more how much more at ease I was within the environment and how I truly felt like I was surrounded by people who shared the same ethics as me, how refreshing.

Even though I didn’t set out with the intention of making new work whilst on Eigg, the inspiration prevailed and was in high abundance around me so I found that with my time on the Island came fresh new ideas, a new way of looking at the landscape and spending hours drawing outside in many of my favourite locations.

Instead of going into detail about every single thing that I took part in and every hike that I ventured on, I’m just going to share my visual diary of photographs that I took throughout the summer. I also didn’t set out for this post to become so deep and personal about how I’ve changed here and why there is such a strong connection for me but I’d rather share how personal the place is to me and how meaningful this Summer has been in general. I found that being on Eigg made me realise a lot about myself and look at the kind of society I want to live in.

 

Here I am now having just left the Island this morning and looking back at the distinctive shape of the Sgurr, shaped by the sea and now heading off to the Isle of Skye to do a big project and onto the next huge upcoming expedition of Svalbard. From now until next year I have full on exhibitions, residencies and don’t have much longer than a week at a time in my home country, however I will always remember my purposeful summer on Eigg and just being outside working with the land, getting my hands dirty and walking everywhere. No purpose but to just be. A slight adjustment now that I’m going back to my other life of full on work but it’s time to move on, get back to my projects as a freelance artist but will still hold the sense of peace within me that I felt so strongly on the Island.

And so to summarise my time I would say get to know a place, spend longer than a week there if you can but most of all take the time to get to know the people, you will not be disappointed, especially with the wonderful characters you will encounter on Eigg.

I’d like to personally thank each and every Islander who I met and got to know and for making me feel like part of your small community, I’ll try and remember every chat we had, maybe not the ones after a few cans but just the general banter that is so rife here on this wee Island. I hope I’ve contributed to your Island in a purposeful way!

Till next time Eigg, I have a strong feeling that it won’t be the last you’ll be seeing of me, after all I do want to live there, I’ll just leave it at that. I’ve realised that if a place fits you, it pulls you in and you can’t do anything about it but make the decision to go and do whatever it takes to make it happen. And that is exactly what I’m going to do…

Enjoy my visual diary of this meaningful Summer!

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Shifting Land – New works made on Eigg.

As part of my two month long spell on the Island of Eigg, I have produced a new series of paintings and drawings, all 30 x 42cm. All work is made in response to the ever shifting colour, geology and landscape found on the unique Island.

These new works form a new way of looking at the landscape, built up of washes, textures and varied colours, I aim to convey the overwhelming presence of the land, the powerful elements that constantly shift over the horizon and the way in which the landscape is in constant motion.

You can also find more of the detailed images of the individual work over here on my website. If you have enquiries about the work or would like to purchase any of the individual pieces, please email me at ellisoconnor@hotmail.co.uk. All work is original and has been made directly on site here on the stunning western Isle.

Lastly, as it’s my last week here on Eigg, I’ll be publishing a huge blog post in a few days talking about my experience on the Island, my upcoming projects and in general just checking in as it’s been over 2 months since my last post!

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