Artist Spotlight #1: Tina McCallan

Tina McCallan is a Guernsey-born artist, currently based between London, Guernsey and Turkey. She has done several peices of work in Guernsey in the past – most of which are community based. Below, she tells us a little about her work.

Tina will be presenting a collaborative peice of work ‘ReCreation of Arcimboldo’, supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission, at the Battle of Flowers on Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 August. She is currently seeking Assistants to support on the day. Interested? Scroll to the bottom of the page for details on how to get involved!

Can you describe the concerns of your creative practice, including what ideas, themes and research sources influence and are present in your work?

TM: I am concerned with bringing together diverse groups of people to make copies or re-creations of well-known paintings. The idea comes from several sources. Having researched painting practices in the 15th century, to my surprise, I discovered Old Masters did not actually paint all of their pictures but instead employed anonymous assistants to paint sections for them. I wondered what would happen if I got other people to paint my pictures for me. By chance, I saw a copyist in the National Gallery painstakingly copying an Old Master, people seemed enthralled and I felt their desire to want to paint. This inspired me to turn the making of a painting into a collaborative performance where the spectators become the assistants in a temporary studio who, instead of being anonymous, are then credited for their work. This was coupled with a growing fascination in other peoples painting styles as opposed to my own and an awareness of the interconnectedness of everything bought about by learning about Buddhism and Meditation. Having done performance in the past, I also wanted to combine my first love; painting, with performance in a way that involved other people.  Finally, I was inspired by Nicholas Bourriaud’s theory of relational art in which he talks about a type of interactive art which brings people together to participate in a shared, social experience.

You are interested in collaborating with people, particularly with work that encourages the collaboration of the community. What makes collaborative art a rewarding and worthwhile experience for you?

Collaboration is exciting because of the unknown factor. You never know who will turn up to a project, what skill you will uncover. I like to think that within a certain random group of people there are some secret geniuses or unknown Leonardos. It’s amazing to me that in the morning you can start with a blank canvas and by the end of the day you have a finished painting made from the skill of the participants who perhaps didn’t even know they would be painting that day! I also like to give professional artists the difficult squares so they can show off. Conversely if someone is not so confident they can choose an easier square. At the end of the day, each contribution is as important as the last. I also like to see a particular group of people, come together and get to know each other through painting. Sometimes it can be strangers exchanging comments or complimenting each other on their squares and sometimes work colleagues getting to know each other better. I hope to trigger a spark or interest in Art by often doing the projects in public spaces. It’s rewarding when people say they have enjoyed taking part and will perhaps take up painting again.

As a person who was born in Guernsey in what ways has the Island influenced your creative practice?

I think being born in Guernsey has influenced my work a lot. Initially it gave me the ability to develop my imagination and dream because it is an island, cut off from a lot of places. The landscape, the beaches, the dolmens have all fed my work at some point. I grew up with a feeling that anything is possible as Guernsey is a microcosm; all of society is within reach compared to the UK which seems faceless and unapproachable by comparison. The friendliness of Guernsey people has affected my approach; people will just start talking to you in the street. I also like the fact that there was a certain freshness to the Guernsey audience. I remember doing a performance in the gents pools dressed up in Victorian clothing as Victor Hugo’s daughter, the performance was called, “The Ghost of Adele H” – the passersby didn’t really know what to make of it! Now I think, due to more exposure to art though the media and the Guernsey Arts Commission people have more awareness of art, which is a great thing.

Why do you use paint as a medium?

In the Re-creation projects I tend to use the medium that was used in the original painting; I like the malleability of oil paint. People also seem to be a bit in awe of oil paint, like there is a myth attached to using it and for many participants it’s the first time they have used it. There is also a strong history to it i.e. the development and use of certain pigments and methods which also appeals, plus I love the smell.

In your work you often work collaboratively to re-create masterpiece paintings by allocating small squares of the canvas to individuals. Does this provide an insight into the differences of perception that each person has? If so in what ways does this add to the work?

The squares act as a guide to my under drawing and gives each person their own mini composition to paint, these compositions go to make up the whole, a metaphor for society. I think the differences in perception are actually the crux of the work; the transition from one person’s style to another, the changes in colour, tone and texture are what make the finished piece fascinating and it still seems to work even though it is not an exact copy. I often say each piece is like looking though the eyes of a hundred different people.  As in impressionism or a pixelated image, the brain skims over the imperfections and brings the image together.

What has been your most enjoyable collaborative project/projects to work on?

I think Glastonbury was one of the most amazing projects. We were in the Lost Vagueness Fields and we were re-creating Bosch’s, “Garden of Earthly Delights”. It was a huge canvas, two metres by three metres, and I met a lot of interesting people. I also enjoyed doing the Renoir, at the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery, we stayed in Castle Cornet and the project ran for nine days. Out of my recent projects, the project at the St Martins Disability Day Centre was a joy because of the participants sheer enthusiasm, The Guernsey Police was also fun as it revealed a few hidden artists and in Turkey at the Calis Carnival, some of the village kids had never seen a canvas before so there’s a sense of bringing something new to a community.

Can you talk about your current/ most recent project?

My current project will be at the Battle of Flowers on the 22nd and 23rd August and is a Re-creation of Arcimboldo’s Flora and Primavera; two portraits, one of a man and one of a woman, made entirely from flowers. Arcimboldo painted many surreal portraits like these made of vegetables, fish and books.  I love these particular images on several levels, they are just beautiful and meticulously painted, and of course they fit the theme of the Battle really well. I love all the other stalls, the miniature gardens, the scones, the children’s art competition and of course the floats. It’s a great celebration of Guernsey Culture and I’m excited to part of it again.

Would you like to be an artist’s assistant for a couple of days? Tina McCallan will be re-creating two famous paintings with the public at the Battle of Flowers, she needs 2 or 3 assistants to help mix paint, chat to people and encourage people to paint. Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 August. Expenses paid. The timings for the project are 10.30-5.00 pm – you don’t have to come for the whole day but can just drop in for a few hours to help also.

Interested? Contact her through [email protected] or through 07812145992

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