Studio: The Isolation Project

I have been organizing for the last three months. Getting things together you know? The blog certainly hasn’t focused on my ceramic doings out here when compared to the weekly updates that are the norm when I am back being a workaholic in my dear windowless basement studio- I know that sounds like a bad thing but I assure you it isn’t. Daylight is over rated and I love my wee space. I have none the less been working on pots out here. I have been experimenting with line and overglazes. The result is a collaboration between fellow NSCAD grad and tower person Alana Wilson and myself: The Isolation Project. We will be putting the finishing touches on things when back in the city, me in Nelson, her in Australia, and have started sending our exhibition proposal out. Speaking of Oz, I have been slowly making a blurb book for NSCAD and ANU as a final essay about my experience abroad. It has turned into an account of my ceramic practices in the last two years. Therefor the Isolation Project gets a spread (seen below). Also take a gander at our proposal and please give us your comments. Do you know of a small gallery that would be appropriate for the show?

Exhibition Proposal
The Isolation Project

    Working together in a communal space is both challenging and inspiring but what  happens when you collaborate yet are each in isolation? In the winter of 2009, Alana Wilson and Bridget Fairbank met whilst whittling away at plaster in the cold ceramic studio of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Since then they have shared similar experiences as fire tower observers in Alberta, a seasonal job which holds them in solitude and isolates them in the wild.

Solitude- a state or situation of being alone
Isolate- to be or remain apart from others

Solitude and isolation both occur either physically or cognitively. In both cases it is our sentiments and psyche that are affected. Solitude tends to amplify our thoughts and can foster great growth. In this time of narrowing frontiers and ever-expanding modes of transport and communication, physical isolation is rare but an isolation constructed by society is becoming more and more common. Now the anonymity of the city dweller is more prevalent than ever.  Often, we isolate ourselves by way of routine or cultural faux-pas. Bridget and Alana tell a story of a physical isolation akin to that of the pioneers before us, and the emotional isolation felt by most in modernity. Their isolation has resulted in the contemplation of self, of society, of what solitude means, of how it functions and of how it affects us all. By being physically isolated, the two grapple with cultural solitude through individual artistic explorations. The Isolation Project exhibits each artist’s manifestation of solitude and in turn invites the viewer to acknowledge their personal story of solitude and isolation.

Alana Wilson’s inspiration for this work began with the work of artists such as Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, the availability of materials in a remote situation, and the idea of capturing her scattered thoughts in an esthetically pleasing way. For her, the fire tower season is always a time of deep personal contemplation and questioning. Her contribution to The Isolation Project is a look at some of the ideas and pressures she ruminates on and feels as an isolated female in her early thirties. Even in this post-feminist era where establishing a career for herself is important, she still feels a societal and parental pressure to settle down and have babies. She often questions her desire to do, or not do, so. This has become a seemingly more common place perspective  in a time when more women are remaining independent for a longer period of time and attempting to find strength and fulfillment in themselves.

A constant struggle has presented itself in Alana’s choices. Dualities such as Career vs. Family and  Love vs. Ambition are manifested through her work in words and phrases like Independence, Follow your heart, Freedom, and Selfish. These examples and many others have been embroidered and presented in frames, clustered together on the wall in no particular order;  a visual representation of the way thoughts and ideas can come and go during time spent thinking alone in the forest or walking the streets of a city. Fifteen plus embroideries will be completed when the project comes to an end. Embroidery was chosen due to its portable  nature and lightweight materials. This medium, traditionally practiced by school age girls and unmarried women, is something that Alana identifies with. The act of embroidering in itself   provides time for contemplation of the story she is creating. She often feels that although solitude is necessary for growth and should be taken seriously and cherished, perhaps the most human desire is to have someone bear witness to our lives and tell our story. The Isolation Project is an illustration of this concept.

Bridget Fairbank’s inspiration for the Isolation Project came as she traveled across Canada collecting plates and contemplating time. She regarded the extensive highway lines, thinking of the solitary summer regimented by routine that lay ahead as a fire tower observer. What would happen if the rhythm in which the day occurred was represented by space and line?

Time never passes at a uniform pace. Each interval of action is different. When a collection of lines is made, the thickness, uniformity and space between each line all speak to us visually as a concept of speed and pace. By making lines in overglaze pigments fired onto those found side plates from her journey, a plate for each day of isolation at tower, the juice and anxiety, the calm and serenity, the busyness and revelry of daily time is thus visually communicated. Why make lines on plates? The varied forms and surfaces of pre-owned dishes as an ensemble create a complex narrative. Through the recording of Bridget’s daily routines the existing imagery is slashed and distorted, eluding to the forgotten story of the day, the week, the decade and the place in which the plates were once culturally relevant and cared for dishes. By altering each dish, Bridget’s personal tale of daily isolation by way of routine is imposed upon each plate: a metaphor for every individual’s daily chaotic and isolated contribution to our multifaceted culture. Her project is a celebration of everyday solitary experience in a Canadian context. When presented on the wall in calendar format the 126 small plates are Bridget’s rhetoric of 126 days alone in the forest with her thoughts indicated by space and line. The collection evokes emotion and sparks contemplation of one’s own individual life in relation to daily routine, time and culture.

The Isolation Project is a recording of two lives spent in the isolation of the Canadian wilderness and the urban environment. Whether experienced physically or emotionally, isolation is felt by everyone at one time or another during this busy modern existence. The Isolation Project exemplifies that though solitude and isolation can be a reprieve from ordinary life, it is seldom a reprieve from oneself.


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