I am an artist and author based in Orkney, a small archipelago of islands located off the North coast of Scotland. Here, where the wild North Atlantic meets the cold North Sea, I write and make art that invites your calm, focussed attention.
I see creative work as a form of contemplative practice.
Why do I think this? When I was growing up my mother was often sick, and as a lonely child I would often spend hours drawing. Then I mostly just threw the results away. Because what I loved about drawing, more than the finished ‘thing’, was the space it opened up for me. Drawing was a place to come home to myself and be still. As I grew older writing came along and I began keeping a diary, figuring life out by writing it down.
Again and again, if I was troubled, lonely or bored, I’d come back to that space of the waiting page. I was finding something valuable there, something that was beyond the outcome of the process, something restorative, rebalancing, integrative.
I still do. And I think it’s available to everyone.
My recent work is a response to the dynamic natural environment of Orkney, where I am surrounded by water in constant movement through its many forms: sea, loch, streams, clouds, mists, rain, powerful winter storms and soft summer sea fogs.
In counterpoint to this quick mutability of water, my drawing process is slow and meditative. It is a patient accretion of simple marks that results in intricate forms resembling sea foam, cloud formations, rock sediments or mollusc shells.
Drawing takes fleeting time, the brief moment of the hand’s movement, and holds it still. The slow, repetitive method I employ makes each drawing a receptacle of time that gathers up these moments so they are visible in a single instant, and yet shows the timespan of the drawing’s own making.
I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews in 2017, a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2018 and a Cove Park Scottish Emerging Writer Residency in 2019. I received a Society of Authors Award in 2020 and a commission from the National Library of Scotland in 2021.
I originally trained at Edinburgh College of Art, Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, and the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. In 2010 I gained an MA in Values in Environment from the Philosophy Department at the University of Central Lancashire.
I have taught at Edinburgh College of Art, the University of the West of Scotland, as well as guest lecturing at the Tasmanian School of Art, Central St Martins and Gray’s School of Art. I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and I now provide online tutoring for the University of Hertfordshire and teach occasionally at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
I have carried out residencies at the British School at Rome, The University of Oxford, Grizedale Forest, Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Stills Gallery, IAAB International Residency Programme in Basel, Wysing Arts Centre, and Timespan Arts and Heritage in Helmsdale.
I have been commissioned to make major public art works for The Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Auchterarder Community School.
Awards for my art work include the Royal Scottish Academy William Littlejohn Award, Scottish Arts Council Artist’s Award, a Carnegie Research Award, an RSA Art for Architecture Award and a British Council Scholarship.
Writing for publication is a more recent development, although it has always been part of my creative process.
My first book, “The Clearing” was published by Little, Brown in Spring 2020.
Like art, writing is a way of coming to a place of stillness in which I can pay more careful attention to the natural world, to the fleeting present moment and how rich and complex our experience of it is.
At the heart of my most recent writing is a meditation on water and time. Water’s quick flow and changeability seem an apt metaphor for time’s passage, and yet its ancientness and ubiquity also seem eternal. Similarly, time is also a paradoxical phenomenon: our day to day conception of it bears little resemblance to the insights offered by modern physics.