“Beauty is in those fleeting moments the magic of the everyday, experienced within the shadows and light.” Louise Barrington, artist and islander.
Louise Barrington, artist and islander, draws her inspiration from the light and darkness in Orkney. She’s in partnership with the light because the shadows cast by her creations appear to complete her work. Here, she gives us a glimpse of the forces and influences that have created her.
To begin at the beginning. Was there a damascene moment when you decided – or knew you had to be an artist?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative, which lead me to London and The London College of Fashion. I found myself more drawn to the process of textiles and moved to Central Saint Martins to study Textile Design. Although I loved the course and my time at CSM, I wanted a more fine art approach to my work, which lead me The Slade School of Fine Art where I studied in the Sculpture department. More recently having returned to Orkney, I have just finished a PgDip at the Institute for Northern Studies in Island Studies, which has given me the opportunity to think more about the ideas and concepts of my artistic practice.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making your work, we love process.
I’m always reading, and use the local archives in the library, along with the library at the University of the Highlands and Islands (where I teach part-time) there is also the reference room at the Pier Arts Centre, which has a wonderful collection of books. My research is my starting point to works I will go on to make.
All my work begins with a series of automatic drawings, allowing the unconscious to illustrate an experience, or observation of subtle features within an environment, communicated through a poetic language, a sensation through colour, shapes and patterns creating textural organic forms.
The work itself take time, I always get this acknowledgement from viewers. It’s the presence of time is important part of the work, reflecting the time I spend observing the landscape, and I like to have a few rotating as physically my body needs to get into different alignment, when sewing.
Is there a piece you’ve created that you’d like to be remembered for, for all time, or even longer?
Key pieces for me would be from shaping the void solo show which I had last year at the Pier Arts Centre, messages change day by day and space in between. Although from making these works I can see other connections I wish to explore. I have just received funding from Creative Scotland, my proposal is to research and develop a new body of work over the summer. I am very exciting about this having been researching natural dyeing techniques and just finished a welding course, there are new possibilities are on the horizon.
If you could work within one past art movement, which would it be. And why?
It would be the St Ives group, with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. I identify with Hepworth with her love for the environment she experienced. I have never been to St Ives but it looks beautiful and I think there is many similarities between Orkney and the Cornish coast. I guess the biggest would be the irregularity of the weather, with four season in one day. Although I imagine they have slightly warmer summer than Orkney.
How would you define beauty in 280 characters or less. N.B. There is no correct answer.
For me beauty is in those fleeting moments the magic of the everyday, experienced within the shadows and light, that illustrates the gentle ebb and flow of how we are in transience within the fabric of the environment.
Do you have a favourite photograph or painting which has been your inspiration?
Years ago I went to see an exhibition called Textural Space in Brighton, of Japanese textiles artists, it was so beautiful it truly had an impact on my artistic practice. If was was going to say an artist, in a heartbeat I would say Cy Twombly’s work.
How does the culture of where you live or work impact on your work?
Orkney has a rich heritage, and within the landscape there are signs and symbols of other who have past through these islands.
“My identity is rooted in a strong connection to the landscape, observing the weather and space around me.”
As the rain clouds drift over Scapa flow, light and shadows are casted across the land and water. The presence of those who have walked or sailed within these islands, vibrate within the empty spaces I experience within the present.
Orkney has an egalitarian culture that supports individuals and groups. I am one of the founding member of Móti collective which initially started to support recent art graduate returning to Orkney, or who had just finished at the local Uni.
Historically for Orkney many of the amazing festivals throughout the year, are a result of islanders coming together through shared interests and a drive to create something just as diverse as you would find on a mainland city. Móti have pushed one another creatively where members have exhibition within numerous show within Orkney. There is a strong drive to be part of an creative community, having an exciting dialogue between individuals and groups.
Tell us about your colour palette.
The landscape of Orkney has had a significant impact on me, the open spaces are full of energy and the quality of light, especially at ‘in between’ times, twilight and dusk, has greatly influenced my restrained colour palette. I have been researching and experimenting with natural dyeing processes to produce a subtle palette that more effectively reflects the sensitive light observed within the Orkney landscape. This is to produce a ‘seasonal’ palette from gathered and locally sourced natural materials that aligns the colours more closely with the landscape as I am experiencing it.
Which artist or artists would you most like to meet? And do you think you’d get on?
I meet a few years ago Machiko Agano at Kyoto Seika University, which for me was very exciting, she was very hospitable and generous with her time.
Do you interact with technology in your work?
At the Slade I dabbled in moving image, which is something I would definitely like to come back to sometime in the future.
What do you wish every child was taught in school, at home, in life?
Work hard at what you do, and keep a sense of humour as it’s not always easy.
Have you ever held your head in your hands and questioned your career entirely?
No never, I believe you recreate your own destiny, everything is in flux nothing will stay the same. Even if things feel that there not moving, we have the choose within our attitude how we approach ups and downs. It’s not always easy, but when you have worked hard for something whatever the outcome knowing you did all you could brings its rewards.
Do you love what you do? And does it love you?
I feel really lucky to have my studio, being island based your choices are limited. There wasn’t really any spaces in Orkney when I first came back, so I am delighted to have the space in WASPS Studio.
My studio is in an old fishing town called Stromness, this is its modern name. Originally, the Vikings had named it Hamnavoe, because the harbour where Stromness now stands was peaceful and safe for boats to land. Stromness itself is a very pretty town with its cobble streets, The building where my studio is used to be the Library, and I love hearing people recall their memories of the place. My space used to be the reference room, in the silence there is a quiet knowing.
I live in the main town on Orkney, Kirkwall and really enjoy my commute to Stromness, as I drive to my studio I pass Maeshowe, The Standing Stones of Stenness and The Ring of Brodgar. I think about the landscape and who was there before. The things we know of this island, and then there is the unknown. The Orcadian writer Edwin Muir said of Orkney:
“there was no great distinction between the ordinary and the fabulous.”
I truly love these islands.