Lucy May Schofield took advantage of an interlude in her 12-month residency with Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) to host a series of workshops at the Holy Biscuit. The two-day event was part of the Newcastle Late Shows and included an advance screening of her exhibition Light Meditations, which is displaying new work the artist has produced from her rural base at Highgreen, Northumberland.
In Light Meditations, Schofield concerns herself with our spiritual connection to the landscape. It casts mythology into a new light, not only in terms of the penumbral, which is explored in pieces ‘Awake’ (2017) and ‘The Last Light’ (2016), but also in reference to the mythology of artistic creation as solitary effort. As Nicolas Bourriaud has said, “meaning is born of collaboration and negotiation between the artist and the one who comes to view the work” (2002, p.20). The structure of the workshops reflect this process by breaking down suppositions and giving way to a new form of collaboration.
The main exhibition space gives focus to ‘Awake’, a sleep performance carried out by Schofield on the moors during the vernal equinox. Out on the rural landscape, the artist used a silk cyanotype sheet as a mattress to sleep on. Because the cyanotype pigment is affected by light, it marked out the artist’s movement and traced the Earth’s daily rotation. The mattress now lies on the floor of the gallery space, whilst a time-lapse video plays out the performance.
Schofield uses another time-lapse video to show ‘The Last Light’ in situ at Highgreen. In this piece, the artist uses handmade mulberry paper, coated with UV pigment, to capture the Winter Solstice. The final formation encompasses 160 sheets, each marked by wind and dawn light, pinned up against the backdrop of a rustic wooden wall.
Prior to her residency at VARC, Schofield spent two years living in Japan studying paper-making and woodblock printing (Mokuhanga). In the second space these skills come to light with ‘Nature Caress’ (2017), which uses 26 carved woodblocks to each represent a week of the artist’s residency in Northumberland. Displayed in chronological order, the blocks depict objects that were observed by Schofield during her daily walks around Highgreen. Opposite are 26 delicate prints held in place by pins, which were each made using the same woodblocks. This preference for the tactility of traditional tools highlights the fragility and poetic nature of Schofield’s work.
The workshops make use of the woodblocks exhibited, allowing visitors to create a print that they can take home. Schofield starts with a quick introduction to Mokuhanga, explaining that though its origins lie in China it wasn’t long before it migrated to Japan. Focusing on tactility and engagement, the workshops directly correspond to the practice of Schofield.
Time has become a major preoccupation within contemporary art; it is also something that both institutions and visitors struggle to spare. The framework of the Late Shows does not lend itself well to artwork that requires a period of reflection, yet the combination of exhibition and workshop drew the audience in, with many taking the time to enjoy the process of creating a print. Giving visitors something physical to take home encourages the opportunity for reflection to happen away from the gallery space, allowing for cathartic contemplation to develop naturally.
Light Meditations, Holy Biscuit, Newcastle, 23 May – 22 June 2017 (Newcastle Late Shows workshops 19-20 May 2017).
Andrea Allan is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World, (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002).