Friday, June 18, 2010

To Russia with Love

for those of you who haven't heard, I'm going to Russia, to the International Arts symposium of Elabuga.
information HERE this should get translated for you by google.
This incredible & exciting opportunity is all thanks to Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie an artist who paints gorgeous dream-like work & lives up the coast. Lynn was invited by the symposium organisers and was good enough to share the contact & information. I leapt at the chance as I have always had a thing about Russia. This 'thing' became focuses into a particular obsession in 1997. I was at the time, running my small pottery from home, a cold wee cottage in a remote glen, a single mum with 3 children & beyond the dogs, cats, hens, ducks & a succession of eccentric pottery customers- I had little human company, no money & life was hard. This Christmas a shy but kind local crofter left a gift for us in by the front door. Some meat from his own sheep and the years National geographic magazines. I have been a vegetarian since I was 18 & had raised the children without meat. However in the spirit of this gift, I roast & ate the mutton and read those magazines. One had an article about a tattooed mummy recently excavated from the Pazyryk region, the Altai mountains of Siberia. This woman who had lived 2000 years before me & carried such incredible artwork on her skin became a revelation & inspiration. I can still remember the feeling that rose as I looked at that artwork, the alien meat in my system, the woman's tomb with the horses, her goblet, the carvings, her last meal. It still blows me away. why ? who knows. I'm not the only one, there's been a few strange articles & books often with a 'new age' twist. whatever, it just hit me and that's enough. To go there and see her, see the artifacts, travel the steppes became my dream. A dream that sustained me through many more difficult years. No matter how bad things got, I could retreat to the back of a horse in my head and gallop across the grasslands, into the Taiga forests, peace was to be had there, and hope of better days.

What was the connection between the pictish animal art and the Scythian/ pazyryk art ? how did the migration of peoples happen, how do the time lines connect ? why had it hit me so ? Why did it just feel so right to take these animal designs, re-work them with a pictish/ Celtic twist and take them as my own tattoos?

In 2000 a Czech professor who had traveled the region, and kindly sent me photocopies of images from the tomb, before all this was available on the Internet- he invited me to join an expedition to Altai, 6 weeks on horse back. Of course at that time, there was no way I could leave my children. family first. But I figured where one opportunity existed, others would follow in the future.

This year my last child left home, of course I miss them all badly. However this means that theres nothing to stop me travelling, except money, work commitments. scary !  I thought that it would take a while to save, to plan, to start dipping my toe into the whole new world of the empty nest. Maybe I would do a VSO ? maybe I wouldn't need to travel, maybe contentment could be found at home? Siberia had already served its purpose by inspiring me so long, there was no point rushing impatiently into a new independent of dependants world...however not a couple of months into the empty nest, up to my eyes in art projects, and this opportunity has come up.

Its not Altai, but it is over half way there. The symposium will have a diverse range of international artists, we will be creating a body of work on the subject of "breath of the Epos"  fairy tales, hero myths, and folk lore. Its all mind goggling !  I shall blog the process, the journey, the art the adventure as it happens. cultures, personal identity, gender roles, language, societies attitude to the arts, theres already a lot of stuff kicking in just through speaking to the organisers & other participants. So exciting !

more soon.

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