Morag Colquhoun

Morag Colquhoun is a fine artist based in Brecon? I’m sure she said she was anyway! Well, she came in to give us a talk, well a presentation and a drawing class on Tuesday. The presentation in itself wasn’t something I was really expecting to be honest. I thought she was going to guide us on what to do in textile drawing and creating it into art, but it was mainly just about Fine Art (which I don’t necessarily like )and her artwork. Her work was great and everything, just not something I follow.

Her work had interest in it, the way she tried to incorporate Wales into it, a part of her nationality, which I liked the thought of. She has a huge love for Horses and the environment, which I though was admirable, because not many people these days actually like the environment, only caring about themselves and so on, but she actually devoted her work and her life to something that is dying out.

One of her pieces ‘Solarisation’ that she made in 2009, which I think was part of her degree in Howard Gardens, I actually quite liked that one, she used it for a solar powered dark room. The fact that she had used it previously for another one of her pieces, made it more special. I got this article about the piece from here!

Morag Colquhoun’s shed has been around. She built it in the wood across the road from where she lives, a wood which she learned was about to be violated by that great tearer and tamper of landscapes, the National Grid gas pipeline. As the diggers approached, the shed sat in the dingle, not making a fuss, just lightly making its attention felt; a reminder of a different kind of relationship with the world’s surface than one based on the abstraction of mere utility. An abode, perhaps, a benevolent sentry-box. Colquhoun lined it with sheep’s wool and invited people in to have conversations, which she recorded.

Gradually, the shed seemed to grow into the wood. When the time came to shift it, every part of it seemed to have sunk immovably into the intimate sockets of the place, so completely had it identified itself with its location. Despair loomed, but Colquhoun called on her friends. It required persuasion and muscle to ease the shed out of its fanatical devotion to that oblong of earth and bark, but finally it relaxed its grip and entered into the spirit of its new incarnation.

A spot had been cleared of Rosebay willowherbs and the shed was re-erected in the walled garden at Penpont. A solar panel was set up, connected to the shed by means of a single electric rubberized domestic flex. This electrical input was intended to run a small dark room, in which Colquhoun would develop, in the old-fashioned way, photographs documenting the history of the shed. Just enough electricity to run an enlarger and a lightbulb – not much to ask of a massively seething and spitting ball of energy 90 odd million miles away in outer space.

First, though, the shed must be insulated and rendered light-proof: this wooden box leaked light and draughts like a colander. Every gap must be carefully plugged; every crack, warp, flaw, nail, screw and knot-hole had to be covered up to ensure total darkness within. The temperature had to be kept high enough for the chemicals to do their mysterious work: any less than 21 or 22 degrees and the elemental fluids are lacking in alchemical gusto.

Warmth then, and the critical darkness that keeps the whole thing fecund. This delicious, worrying, implosive darkness. The shed, in fact, had to become a container of darkness, a darkness so complete that to enter it and to close the door, would be to step into an entirely different mode of being, the space of the undeveloped, the hypothetical, the intimately remote. In darkness you’re already moving through your own dream, the reality of things is moot, your uncertain body has to learn all over again how to find its way, to fit itself into the niches prepared for it. Mainly it’s down to the hands: now it seems that everything your fingers took for granted has become a task, just to find their way through the ratchets and spools of a common or garden camera suddenly becomes a matter for the utmost attention and application.

The shed has become a factory, driven like everything else, by the fundamental forces of the universe; like nature, like everything else, but in a particularly naked, endearingly humble and forthright way. The little shed with its puny electric cable sticking out gives itself, like a plant, to the sun, gorges deep on the sustenance of its fiery elixirs. To produce what? The delicate records of a human action, that’s all, the ordinary unfolding of a human presence, of an ordinary human engagement with the real. From darkness to light into darkness into light; invisibility to appearance, instantaneity to duration, the process ritualized by a series of baptismal immersions in the ordinary chemicals of transformation.

A factory, then, but also a place of mystery, a place for the production of mysteries, a secular home-made temple. Maybe, maybe that – it depends on how you see it. A ritual-site, an alembic, or just a workshop: it depends on how you take it, the shed does not insist. And neither does the artist, Morag Colquhoun, who built the shed. There is no insistence here, just a calm but minutely structured attentiveness to moments of existence, which, might, in other circumstances barely have impinged on the radar.

That final photograph – just a blank with a scratch on it, a failure, but still a record of something having happened, of something having come and passed beyond the bounds of seeing. Proof, and in a small way, consecration of just another unimportant and utterly vital human occurrence.’

How interesting is that? So much thought has gone in to just a little shed, amazing! This is the only photo I can actually find for the shed, But it still shows you what it looks like etc..

She also showed us some other pieces that she had created. This one is called the ‘Loom House’. Or ‘ Ty Gwydd’. It was basically a shed woven with sheep’s wool and wood. I think she was trying to reminisce to the Welsh woven days in Newtown, where it used to very popular.

This piece was called ‘Renewable’. I quite liked the idea of this one. Morag had two hundred fake sheep, made out of a model of hazel and willow, then she had the actual sheep’s wool covered over them to make them look lifelike. She layed them out to spell the word renewable. She put them on that mountain, as it was there as you entered Wales on the main A44 road. I think she wanted us to make us think about it, how the sheep are always there, maintaining the hillside and renewing it?



‘Forty nine coracles with messages’ These were basically like mini boats, that she let off into the river, she wanted people to find them and then contact her to tell them where they found it, but she said that no on ever did! She said that they werent very sustaiable on the waterfalls and probably all fell apart.



But anyway that’s enough about her work. Morag then said we had a drawing class with her, I was expecting it to be hands on, especially with the kind of things that she does within her work. But it wasn’t. I really didn’t expect the class to be like it was. I didn’t enjoy it in all honesty, wasn’t what I usually would do! She basically was on about the alexander’s technique?

‘The Alexander Technique educates the sense of kinesthesia or proprioception. This sense is used to internally calibrate bodily location, and to judge the effort necessary for moving. Alexander Technique teachers believe that humans have a built-in proprioceptive blind spot. People design habitual responses of movement and learning when faced with repetitive or important circumstances. Adapting is mostly a learning advantage, because new habits can be added onto previously trained skills. The serious drawback to adapting is that most habitual remedies are purposefully designed to disappear and run automatically in the background. Even if those habits were intended to be temporary compensations, usually no provision was made for stopping them. Over time, the sensitivity used to judge effort becomes flooded from accommodating too many opposing purposes. People forget which movement habits they have taught themselves to do, often only continuing to add more. These frustrating mysteries encourage resignation, along with loss of balance, stiffness, old injuries, social ostracizing or even a verdict of a lack of talent. According to Alexander teachers, giving up troublesome activities are not required if a learner is willing to change their old ways of doing them. By preventing these sorts of small cumulative stresses, many painful health concerns related to limited movement ability can be mitigated, improved or completely outgrown.’ Taken from here!

She made us get a string and a little circle thing (I can’t remember what it was called, and she tried to make us move it without mind? As crazy as it sounds, I think it actually works and you can do it without knowing your hand is moving. As I’ve done it before when out a level lecturer asked us too. It was quite interesting to do. But anyway then it came to the drawing part. She wants us to concentrate on something and then draw what was around it, not concentrating on the page. Mine looked okay actually! I may have had a cheeky peek at the page a few times, but that’s about it!

Hope you enjoyed reading, Cerys xo

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About cerysjames

A 19 year old Textile Design student studying in Cardiff! I decided to start up a blog as a diary for all things textile! Mostly inspiration and exhibitions I've been too. My favourite things are printing and having a big imagination!

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