I had a really helpful meeting with Ainslie Roddick from Atlas Arts a couple of weeks ago and she had given me some contacts to follow up. It was in this context that I conducted some research on Skye-based artist Julie Brook and found a fascinating conversation on YouTube between Brook and the writer, Robert Macfarlane about her work Firestacks: Tide, Time and Gravity in the Kings Place Nature Unwrapped series in January (2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f3DIzTjOq4&t=488s).
Brook tells the story of her life seeking out wild and remote places such as the time she spent on the Island of Jura in the early 1990s living in a stone arch cave on the uninhabited part of the Island. During her time on Jura, she built up an observed knowledge of tides, weather and the rhythms of nature which can be seen in her creation of fire stacks as the tides recedes, lighting them as beacons as the tide returns to interact with and ultimately destroy her work. She shares a basic film of her firestacks in 1991-92 and then offers a glimpse of her forthcoming film where she returns twenty years later to build, record and collaborate with a film team, sound artists and ‘fire-stokers’ to produce compelling films featuring a stormy sea and a tranquil summer firing. The films and conversation with Macfarlane are interspersed with readings from her journals where she records her experience in the wild and documents her practice. Her words from the time record a move from canvas-based art to using parts of the landscape in her art and the intimate knowledge she gains about nature through doing so.
The resultant films are mesmerising and provide an embodying experience by recording a choreographed period of time. The soundtrack, if I can call it that, is stunning providing a cacophony of sounds from underwater as well as the sounds of the spitting firestack, the birds and the relentless movement of the water. It truly captures space and time.
Brook speaks about how she finds inspiration through living and breathing the landscape and that her best ideas are revealed through immersion, engagement and over a period of time. So, in my terms this might be considered to be a process of coming to know. A lesson for me in spending time, being patient and waiting for the revelation and recognising it as such. Also, I need to allow myself time to develop my practice and experiment. Brooke developed her practice by learning a new skill of building firestacks but this came over time in tandem with an intimate knowledge of place and the natural environment. I must be patient . . .
(2020). Julie Brook & Robert Macfarlane Firestacks. Kings Place Nature Unwrapped. London