Friday evening, August 15, 2014. The opening night of the Masters' shows at DJCAD. There are five shows, but I'm concentrating on the MFA Art Society and Publics which has the splendid Cooper Gallery as its venue. There are seven students emerging from that course, but I'm zeroing-in on Kate who is one of three artists in the largest, lightest space. Here she is with Deirdre who graduated from MFA Art, Society and Publics last year. And yes, the image behind them is what the Paintathon produced. It'll turn up again so don't worry about the present crop.


An ongoing project of Deirdre is to open up a historic tunnel into Dundee's Law Hill - the summit of which is the highest point in the city. Perhaps that's what the goat-in-the-box might represent in such a context: the idea of a tunnel through a grassy hillside into an earthy mountain; a link between our shared present and our mutual past. I don't mean exactly that, I'm just going with the flow of people and objects, symbols and imagery...

It's actually Monday morning, August 18, as I set about writing this piece. I've got about 100 photographs from Friday evening, so my job is to stitch together a story that makes sense, or in some other way WORKS as an illustrated text. First, let me show you, dear reader, the elements of Kate's installation. In a way, the starting point is the plinth that supports the original postcard that Kate's grandmother sent her in 1960, together with piles of the four postcards made from the painting as it stood at the end of each of the days of the Paintathon in June this summer, postcards that visitors are welcome to take away with them.

I really shouldn't have placed my drink on the plinth, that's probably what's put the scowl on Kate's face. But then I'm doing a bit of a juggling act here with camera and glass, so perhaps I'll get away with it.


Kate turns towards me: "There are three glasses on the plinth now. Could you see if you could sort that out, darling?"


I can hardly move the glass I have identified as belonging to Cath or Carmel. Cath (on the left, who got her own MFA from Bradford two years ago) has come all the way from Whitley Bay to see Kate's MFA show. While Carmel made the dress that Kate is wearing tonight. Kate had the material printed with the postcard pattern at college and took advantage of Carmel's dressmaking skills, I mean her willingness to be involved in Kate's project. Actually, there are two costumes. The one that Kate is wearing, and a jacket and trousers - a sort of judo outfit cum exotic pyjamas - that presently hangs on the wall on the far side of the grassy mound from where I stand. It's time will come.


How am I doing at putting over the elements of the show? It's a complex installation, layered, and it needs to be approached with a fresh mind and with patience. I just hope I'm starting off early enough to last the pace. I need to finish this today so as to be able to write about Saturday's happenings tomorrow.

In the foreground of the above image is Holly, who helped Kate make the mound on which nine other people are sitting as well. Holly and I carried the blocks of styrofoam - which Kate bought from Procter's in Blairgowrie - from reception at DJCAD to the large studio where each of the elements of the installation was developed. The three of us put the blocks together to make a rough approximation of what we refer to as 'the mound', but which is supposed to be a section of the hillside, echoing the section of hillside on which the figures are sitting in the giant print and
Paintathon picture. Holly (whose time was paid by the art college as Kate is soon to have a shoulder operation and there is a disability grant to cover such scenarios) spent hours using a hot wire to cut curves into the styrofoam. And she and I used sand here in the Cooper Gallery to complete the softening of the edges of the styrofoam. The element is complete? Yes, the addition of the artificial grass has pulled 'the mound' together. In my view it is both successful as sculpture and functional as a seat.

A functional seat, because, thanks to extensions on the headphones, one can sit on the mound and watch the film,
Paintathon. Below is Bridget - who along with Marilyn and Pauline drove up from Leeds/Bradford to be here - taking advantage of the facilities. Which isn't to say that the group of three that are sitting on the mound (Tara, Claire and a woman who works with Claire at the nearby Roseangle Café) are not taking advantage of what's on offer. Perhaps they are talking about the 'Picnic on the Mound' event that will be happening on Wednesday between 12 and 2pm, an event that Claire will be providing no doubt exquisite food for.


In the picture below, the credits of
Paintathon are showing. Claire may be looking up at her own name, Tara at hers. Claire and Tara brought Kate a bunch of blue lilies and a bottle of cava tonight. How considerate of them! I don't think either appears much in the final cut of the film, but I suspect they won't mind that or even notice. I'm quite sure they're into the communal aspirations of Kate's enterprise. As is Mark, who filmed and edited the piece. What a marvellous job he has done!


Below is Tracy, director of the MFA Art, Society and Publics, with her partner, Edwin, who is taking a picture of their daughter and her friend.


Not sure what the children are doing. Identifying with the children from another time, or riffing to the 'WE ARE GOING TO LIVE SUCH LIVES' text? A line of black vinyl lettering running along the top of the installation connecting giant print of postcard to final-state Paintathon.

Below is our friend Angela, who is sharing the mound with the kids. Nice to think that a space has been created that can bring together individuals from different generations. Some people have their whole lives in front of them. Lucky creatures. Others have much of their lives behind them. And that can be something to be proud of. Angela has lived a long, fulfilling life, much of it in London and Japan, and I feel she is going to go on living a full-on life for a decade or two yet.


Overview. Here we are by a ‘real’ grassy mound in front of a large-scale reproduction of the postcard and the
Paintathon painting. Visitors are sitting on a sculpture that is intended to share certain formal elements with the mound as it appears in the print and the painting, particularly the right-angle motif. It’s a small section of a hillside, the rest of which is implied. Just as the rest of the lives of the children are implied by the title of the work. Visitors are invited to sit, contemplate, and, if they like, share their thoughts and stories with Kate about ageing, loss and friendship.

Below is a picture of Kate sitting alongside Ellie, who is a member of staff at the art college, and another woman who Ellie has brought along. What is Kate saying to them? I am not close enough to overhear, so I'll hypothesise. Thanks to ‘Generation’, this summer Kate was able to see Ross Sinclair’s 1996 show: ‘Real Life Rocky Mountain’. On
his artificial grass-covered hillside, the artist sits with his back to visitors exposing the ‘REAL LIFE’ tattoo that crosses his back above his shoulder blades.

Kate and I discussed the work. At one point she said, pointing to herself: "Real Life? This is just what it’s like from a woman’s perspective - ageing body accompanied by loss of social status, unless one is careful."

I know that Sinclair makes use of text, installation, performance and film in his work. I’d suggest that ageing and loss are two of his themes too. As he got older he put on weight and lost hair, processes laid bare by a camera that ostensibly focussed on his REAL LIFE tattoo. Nevertheless, he appears mature and happy these days. Maturity and happiness! Ah, we are going to live such lives.


Below is MIchael, Cath's partner from Whitley Bay, who is in charge of the champagne tonight, and John, my friend of nearly forty years who lives in Kenilworth now. On Saturday, the night after the opening, a group of about eight of us looked through the photos I'd taken on the TV in Kate's and my front room of our house in Blairgowrie. And John told us what he and Michael had been talking about when the next couple of photos were taken. In a nutshell, a few minutes of chat had come up with something bizarre they had in common: Smokie.

Who or what is Smokie? In 1977, the rock band's most popular hit single, 'Living Next Door to Alice' peaked at number 5 in the UK Singles chart.


This is how the connection was arrived at. In reply to an enquiry of John's, Michael said he was an accordion player. John suggested, only half seriously, that this must involve playing a lot of requests such as, for instance,
Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne. Michael agreed that he had to be flexible, giving people what they wanted, but he liked playing the hits of, say, Smokie, when asked.


"Funny you should say that," said John, who went on to explain that when he was on holiday in Portugal once, he found himself in the company of someone who claimed to be the bassist from Smokie. MIchael responded that he'd known another band member of Smokie who'd told him that the bassist had indeed retired to Portugal. "Ah, the guy I met was probably telling the truth then! That's one of life's little mysteries solved!" said John, cheerfully. And so it carried on, two middle-aged men getting to know each other, as if their whole lives were in front of them and behind them, simultaneously.

(It's nice to see two men talking in an affable way. Kate has already noted that the Paintathon has ended up with a picture in which the two girls are talking to each other and the boy seems lost in space.)

I think it was the below picture of Kate and Lada that put me onto something that I felt would pull the Friday evening event together, installation and visitors. Lada is another of those graduating on the MFA Art, Society and Publics. She as well as Kate passed their MFA with a distinction and they are entitled to celebrate. 'Stinkers' they call it. I don't grudge them their self-congratulation, far from it. Angela doesn't grudge them their relative youth, she has a generous nature. And the bloke in the turquoise T-shirt who has never before come across the idea of free-champagne-on-the-mound, doesn't grudge them their time in the sun either. And what about Gerry, the man in the hat watching the film on the monitor? Well, he brought along a single, long-stemmed scented red rose for Kate, so I don't think he wishes Kate and her pal anything but the very best.


OK, here we go. The words are by Edward Lear. On the one hand, they are out of copyright; on the other, they are timeless. Equally important attributes. They were first published in 1877 and for sure they will always be made available to readers, if not in print then online, as here:

King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely buttery throats and chins!


Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Of course, I'm changing the odd word here and there, where I think that will benefit this site-specific usage of the poem:

We live on the Tay. The Tay we love.
By night we sleep in the hills above;
By day we fish, and at eve we stand
On long bare islands of emerald sand.


And when the sun sinks slowly down
And the great rock walls grow dark and brown,
Where McGonagall's river rolls fast and dim
And the Ivory Ibis starlike skim.


Wing to wing we dance around,-
Stamping our feet with a flumpy sound,-
Opening our mouths as Pelicans ought,
And this is the song we nightly snort;-


Art, Society and Publics, jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Art, Society and Publics, jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!


Above is Norma, an artist from Huntley in Aberdeenshire who Kate got to know when working with her on 'placement' last summer. A placement being an MFA module where you go out into the world and see how your practice and personality get by.

Edward Lear's poem, 'The Pelican Chorus', then goes on to talk about a daughter. No problem, because every woman or girl in the Cooper Gallery on Friday night is somebody's daughter. Moreover, Tracy has her daughter here. And Lesley, one of the essential painters in
Paintathon, has two daughters in attendance tonight. Indeed, Lada has her daughter here as well. The place is awash with daughters!

Kate feels a particular bond with those daughters - or sisters - that were active during the second wave of feminism. Their work on women's role in society and on body image improved the lot of the female gender. Something I will be coming back to as soon as I have the photo opportunity.

I hope Lesley, Tara and Fifi are OK with the next few paragraphs. I know that both Lesley and Tara's work often features birds, so that will help:

Last year came out our daughter, Dell;
And all the Birds received her well.


To do her honour, a feast we made
For every Bird that can swim or wade.
Herons and Gulls, and Cormorants black,
Cranes, and Flamingoes with scarlet back.


Plovers and Storks, and Geese in clouds,
Swans and Dilberry Ducks in crowds.
Thousands of Birds in wondrous flight!
They ate and drank and danced all night.


And echoing back from the rocks you heard
Multitude-echoes from Bird and Bird,-

Art, Society and Publics, jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Art, Society and Publics, jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

But how to cope with the next development in the poem - the introduction of a love interest? OK I think I've got it.

Yes, they came; and among the rest,
The King of the Cranes all grandly dressed.
Such a lovely tail! Its feathers float
between the ends of his blue dress-coat;


With pea-blue trousers all so neat,
And a delicate frill to hide his feet,--
(For though no one speaks of it, every one knows,
He has got no webs between his toes!)


As soon as he saw our Daughter Dell,
In violent love that Crane King fell,-
On seeing her wiggling form so fair,
With a wreath of shrimps in her short white hair.


And before the end of the next long day,
Our Dell had given her heart away;
For the King of the Cranes had won that heart,
With two Champagne sips and a large fish-tart.


She vowed to marry the King of the Cranes,
Leaving the Tay for stranger plains;
And away they flew in a gathering crowd
Of endless birds in a lengthening cloud.

Art, Society and Publics, jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Art, Society and Publics, jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

With apologies, if any are needed, to John and Angela. But let me continue:


And far away in the twilight sky,
We heard them singing a lessening cry,-
Farther and farther till out of sight,
And we stood alone in the silent night!


Often since, in the nights of June,
We sit on the grass and watch the moon;--
She has gone to the great Gromboolian plain,
And we probably never shall meet again!


Oft, in the long still nights of June,
We sit on the grass and watch the moon;-
- She dwells by the streams of the Chankly Bore,
And we probably never shall see her more.


Art, Society and Publics, jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Art, Society and Publics, jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

There's a few people who were there on Friday evening that I haven't managed to work into the text though they may appear fleetingly in an image or two. For instance, Jenny, Laura, Lucy, Pauline, Peter, Alice and Beth. Apologies if I've left anyone else out.

When the Cooper Gallery closed at nine, I ordered a taxi for seven people, Angela having already driven her car back to Blairgowrie with three more on board. En route, the taxi stopped at a general store so that Kate could buy a copy of the day's Courier. Marilyn and Michael both followed her skimming of a particular article which was illustrated by an image of Kate's work and of Dominique's.


I think I'll leave it there. I could say more about Kate's installation, but then I am going to say more. Today's piece might reflect the 'friendship' theme and the collaborative/participatory emphasis of Kate's practice, but ageing and loss are important themes too. Hopefully, I'll be able to say something about those tomorrow.

Signing off on Monday, 18 August 2014, at 8.30pm.


Lots of photos taken of people without their express permission. If anyone wants a photo taken down, cropped or replaced, then please let us know and we'll do that.

Thanks to Proctor's of Blairgowrie for supplying the Styrofoam used in the mound.

Thanks to Great Grass of Manchester for supplying the artificial grass used (Natural Spring).