First Making Progress makers’ films visit: Patricia Niemann in Caithness

20 Mar 2011 in Crafts Blog, Visual Arts & Crafts

This month,  having recently been taken on board by Screen HI to make films about the artists showcased in the HI-Arts Making Progress mentoring scheme, I’ve been really keen to get stuck into the project and am very enthusiastic about learning all about the process involved (and, of course, meeting lots of new people along the way). After my initial meeting with Pamela and Amanda in the HI Arts office in Inverness a couple of weeks ago, this Monday I embarked upon my first visit to one of the artists being showcased in the scheme: Patricia Niemann. From reading up on her work and blog and our brief to and fro of preparatory emails, I was really looking forward to meeting her in person.

We’d planned that I would arrive at lunchtime on the Monday but the forecast over the weekend looked bleak to say the least so I was a bit worried that I might not be able to make the journey up to Caithness. But, as it turned out, rather than impede the already fairly long and somewhat arduous four hour drive, the weekend’s snowy weather just helped to make it an even more beautiful and scenic run than it might otherwise have been. (If anything, the distractingly beautiful landscapes I was continually confronted with on the way up probably posed more of a hazard to my driving than any slippy road surfaces ever could have…). It also helped to get an understanding of Patricia’s work before I arrived, although I didn’t know this at the time. As I gradually made my way physically through rural Caithness I was very gradually being immersed into the world that so strongly influences and gives home to Patricia’s creative practise…

Upon arriving at Patricia’s studio we pretty much immediately (over lovely home made soup, my lunchtime arrival was no happy coincidence…) launched into a discussion about her creative practice, her influences, her experience of being involved in the Making Progress scheme over the past year and what she and I both hoped to achieve from collaborating over this video together. As I had previously suspected, she is a very energetic and inspiring person and, as such, had a very infectiously energetic and inspiring effect on our discussion. And happily for both of us she introduced an idea for a film that she has had “brewing for some time” so from the word go we had a starting point from which to develop (hatch?) a plan. So with a vague and exciting discussion of this plan under our belts and the aforementioned lovely soup resting nicely in our bellies, we hopped in the car and set about our world tour of the local area.

We visited three sites in total, each one as stunning and dramatic as the last. From the landscape and natural environment itself I got a real sense of how and why it is that Patricia makes the work that she does and how it will inevitably need to be the integral cornerstone of the film we’re going to make if we are properly going to reflect her practise as an artist. Although in my mind her relationship with this environment is possibly a bit like the one with the chicken and the egg: did she have a way of working and then stumbled upon Caithness and everything made sense or was she working a particular way and then, upon moving to Caithness, did her work evolve in synch with her surroundings? Either way it doesn’t really matter, I just enjoyed mulling that over as we drove through the beautiful countryside listening to 1970s psychadelica remixes. (Patricia later informed me that had I not been there she would’ve been singing along out loud. I think I would’ve enjoyed that too and I told her this but she assured me that I certainly would not have.)

We continued exploring the local area by car and by foot until dwindling daylight hours and a slow rumbling hunger dictated that we should probably stop. At this point we retreated to Patricia’s cosy wee house on the top of a not so wee hill and further discussed our plans and compiled some to-do lists over an amazing dinner of Jerk style ham and leeks and mashed tatties. And then before we knew it the day was over and it was time to bed and I went to sleep exhausted and weatherbeaten and excited about working with Patricia and developing our plans further over the coming weeks…

In the morning I enjoyed more of the Niemann hospitality I had been exposed to so far (home made spelt waffles and lemon curd) before jumping in the car and making my way back to Fort William.  Needless to say I am very excited about this project and making something that both Patricia and I can be proud of and now (even more so than before) very much looking forward to meeting the rest of the makers and seeing what we can come up with together.