It Lived in the Woods

Peace, Love and Coffee, 59 Clerk St, Newington, Edinburgh EH8 9JQ

My artistic enquiry examines ‘The Gothic’ and how it’s dark spaces, tropes and characters can reflect our current context of a ‘mid-covid’ existence. I aim to produce narrative paintings that study the concept of vampires and how their lives can parallel the experiences of a world in isolation.

The Gothic’s resurrection can be tracked across history to align with periods of social upheaval or rapid change, for example, how the industrial revolution’s scientific surge gave way to fears of blasphemy and subsequently, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I see gothic narratives as a means of processing internal fears; fantasy as a kind of therapy. This intention I hold when considering my audience. My paintings are not full of blood and gore, to further shock or incite fear. Instead I contemplate narrative through light and composition, to build curiosity and suspense that may entertain or reconcile with a viewer.

This began with the craving for company. Like a vampire that fears the burning sunlight, the outside world of socialising became dangerous in 2020, and thusly indoors we remain. This narrative I painted in oil; as a figure floats in a stairwell looking up at the sunlight they crave, but can not have. A second explored narrative was painted in ‘Vampire returning from Tesco’, a bat flies at sun set carrying a Tesco bag. This mirrors the highly anticipated weekly shop. A fleeting expedition to collect food, that now seems more like a hunt than a casual trip. By depicting a vampire, a character usually referred to as an ‘other’- I try to emulate that even though we feel alone and separate, we can all relate to these situations and emotions.

Underpinned in all my paintings is a storyline, the beauty of a story I feel, is it’s infinite potential for interpretation. Francisco Goya’s gothic paintings of witches and demons act as an insight into a fantastical world, via visualised stories. Such stories are mysterious and therefore alluring- a feat I would aim to achieve. When listening to viewers interpretations of my images it struck me how varied they could be. That with a character and a setting a tale formed. This concept motivated my practice to be less direct, to create paintings that could have a wider scope for interpretation. Narratives that come from the context they are made in, but do not require that context to be understood.

So much of gothic storytelling is embedded in literature, that can be decoded and reflected on by its readers. I determined therefore to try my hand at writing short stories, concepts or poems; that I would then paint from, as a reader may imagine images from a novel. This new way of practicing my work, and my abrupt change of location due to the second lockdown, enabled me to focus more on the external landscape rather than the indoor; investigating escapism rather than internal reflection. I used watercolour to produce more emotive miniatures, as the visual is clearly moved and shaped by hand. I wanted to provide my audience with a multitude of images that they could piece together within a gallery setting. Contrast to the setting, a subject of wild landscapes and characters, that viewers could lose themselves in- like I lose myself in gothic fiction.