A lovely piece by my friend and colleague Karen Strang in the local paper this week...
Dancing with a brush.
I'm fortunate not only in having a studio at Marcelle House, Alloa, but that I share this hub of creativity with so many artists, all of whom have a unique style of expression. Every studio reveals a different imaginative space. For my first arts feature I'll focus on the work of fellow resident Tamsin Haggis. Tamsin grew up in Scotland and studied art at St Martins School of Art in London. A few days ago she was host to an inspiring talk by Karen Haggis on Nepalese textiles, and her room was adorned with a colourful display of woven nettle, embroidered cotton and silk. Not every painting studio could happily accommodate these beautiful exotic fabrics without them detracting from the wall works yet in this instance they complemented the original artworks. Anyone stepping into Tamsin's studio is immediately struck by the large colourful free form drawings that hang all around. Add to that a mix of eclectic surround sound and a floor area which entices dance and movement practice and you get the picture... or rather an all round myriad of material connected to all the senses which celebrate being alive.
It is a dynamic environment, which reflects the Indian philosophy of life energy which Tamsin has studied, both in her degree in Indian Art and Philosophy, and as an Artist living and working in North India. Her recent return to South India to study temple sculptures reaffirmed for her the connection between dance and life energy, not only in her personal practice, but also in her subject matter. We see exuberant figures in her paintings, which represent symbolically the movement of energy within ourselves and in the wider sphere of the earth. In keeping with ancient traditions of Indian painting, Tamsin's dancers are deliberately not anatomically correct: arms and legs stretch beyond what is physically possible in order to express the inner sense of unbounded movement that dancing provides and which uplifts our spirits. In other words they are a joy just to look at. In order to produce these energetic characters Tamsin has to dance them onto the paper with her brush or charcoal. Creating art this very physical way means that her work extends into other connecting areas of expression.
Music is an important factor in enriching the visual work. As part of her practice she improvises on violin, viola, mandolin and piano, and she also works in collaboration with others. The airy Georgian drawing room at Marcelle House has been completely transformed into an exotic multi sensory space where anything might happen... The bright earthy warm hues that fill her studio contrast with the cool muted urban tones outside and from her window you can see the edge of the industrialized Forth and the glass works - a neat coincidence then that some of Tamsin’s work also utilises that fundamental material, sand.
Many of the abstract images on display in her studio evoke the patterns found in nature. Her sand paintings are actual records of the physical qualities of sand. You might just remember these patterns from your school days as Fibonacci's sequence. In my time the engineers to be, some of whom went on to work at United Glass, would have understood the applied mathematics behind these patterns, but for me, this is way more inspiring than my maths lesson ever was. In Tamsin's work the creative element adds to the natural mathematical principles, providing even more evolving patterns. The process of producing her sand paintings is fascinating to watch. Tamsin takes a large sheet of paper and scatters and runs sand onto the paper using various instruments. After creating an image, she then suddenly agitates the paper, in an instant destroying the beauty of the forms she has created. As she shakes the paper the sand shifts and creates various moving patterns, some of which she captures on camera. Finally she sweeps up the sand and everything is gone. This process neatly illustrates the idea that everything in nature has an energy, even unliving objects such as paper and silica. We can all agree in that looking at a painting, which is an inanimate object, we can 'see' the movement the artist used in making the mark. Only in this case it is the process that Tamsin values at least as much as the finished product. She is making a philosophical point with this work about dynamic process of change, destruction and renewal. It is impossible not to experience a sense of vitality in Tamsin's studio and to take in the whole atmosphere. It is a unique creative space where East and West meet for a metaphorical cup of tea and it's here in Alloa!
Marcelle House artists can be visited by appointment, or on one of the regular open days and every first Sunday of the month 12-4 pm.
Alloa Advertiser, November, 2014