Magnetic North Blog
Annie George and Flore Gardner’s collaboration, Twa, comes to the Traverse Theatre for two nights later this month, following a successful run at the Scottish Storytelling Centre during last year’s Fringe. Both artists have participated in Magnetic North’s Rough Mix and Space/Time programmes so I met with them to find out about how that might have influenced their ways of working.
The two artists have come together from quite different backgrounds to forge this compelling cross-artform collaboration. Annie is an award-winning writer, director and performer and she wrote and performs in Twa. She turned to writing after struggling to find work that she wanted to direct.
Once the pair had agreed to create a performance together, Annie sent Flore a short script she had written as a starting point. “It’s got a lot of imagery in it and Flore liked it,” Annie says, “It was quite visual so it sparked off lots of ideas.”
Flore is a visual artist. “I draw on paper, quite small formats, and my subject is the human body,” she explains, “I don’t set out to draw the human body but I end up drawing the human body all the time. I also do alternative forms of drawing. It could be, for example, wall drawing or long durational performance drawing or drawing live in theatre.”
It’s this last type of drawing that features in Twa, though figuring out how to integrate the drawing element into a live performance was not without its challenges. As an artist used to working alone, Flore was initially reluctant to appear on stage: “I had a red line, which was I refused to speak on stage!”
Annie explains a bit about their process: “We spent a lot of time trying to work out how to do the projection. We were trying to work out how to make sure it didn’t draw away from the performance. At first [Flore] was going to be sitting in the audience drawing on a tablet, then we were thinking she would be on the stage with an overhead projector at one point.”
“It’s also because I wanted those two different temporalities,” Flore continues, “I wanted to have made the projections, the animated drawings, beforehand and then draw live during the actual performances. That’s two different kinds of time and drawing. We did spend a lot of time sorting that out. And also [Annie] finishing off the text and I doing different drawings then [she’d] change the text and I’d change the drawings again and that lasted for quite a long time.”
Encouraging this type of interplay between disciplines is at the heart of Rough Mix. However, Twa didn’t come about until after the pair had participated in the programme. It was Flore and Annie’s relationship, both personal and professional, which came out of their time at Magnetic North’s two-week creative lab at Eastgate Theatre in Peebles in 2017.
“We shared a house so even though we didn’t see each other during the day we’d talk at night,” Annie tells me, “and then Flore came to see my show the following month. Then she came back in October and we went out and I said ‘Right, let’s make a show then’ because we were always moaning about our work and, I suppose, the themes that led on to Twa, about not being heard and being stretched in a lot of different directions and the importance of our art to us.”
Flore agrees that connecting on a personal level as well as a professional level was important for their working relationship. “We talked about lots of personal stuff really, but I think that my everyday life is completely intermingled with my work,” she says. “I can’t separate the two; one is so much part of the other.”
This duality is at the heart (and in the title) of Twa: it mixes the contemporary and the mythical, intertwines two different women’s stories and fuses the unique work of both of these artists.
If you missed it at the Fringe last year, you can see it at the Traverse Theatre next week, 24th-25th May.
Space/Time is a paid creative retreat for experienced artists from all disciplines that asks the question “How does an artist keep developing?”
It aims to refresh participants through a stimulating examination of creativity. During the residency, we will explore how creativity can be nourished and how artists can continue challenging themselves to develop.
In two weeks five artists will embark on our creative retreat called Space/Time at Cove Park. Two of the artists have sent us a postcard (including an audio one!) in the run up to the residency:
Sharron Devine (Theatre Maker & Director)
I am a sculptor and visual artist with a studio practice and a socially engaged, participatory practice. I am based in Sheffield with a studio at Yorkshire Artspace. I have exhibited around the UK and been commissioned for many public artworks, mostly with consultation and creative input from local communities and organisations in areas of social disadvantage.
Since 2009 I have been working mainly as an artist within art gallery learning programmes in contemporary public art galleries in Nottingham, Sheffield and Yorkshire. I have been developing and facilitating workshops, resources and long term projects and research programmes that engage diverse audiences with exhibitions and collections, and encourage discussion and creative responses in a variety of media.
Space/Time came at a perfect time for me. Between January to July 2018, I am taking an unpaid six-month sabbatical from working with the galleries where I work on a regular basis, to focus on re-connecting with my studio practice and consider new ways to disseminate my work. My studio practice had become sidelined and I was missing the process of following my own lines of enquiry and making work without the restraints of facilitating others. I was also feeling burnt out by the pressure of constantly responding creatively to other people’s briefs, timescales and agendas.
The retreat gave me the opportunity through the discussions to think through some of my sometimes conflicting positions about being an artist as producer and artist as facilitator and animateur. It was very interesting to find that the other artists attending the Space/Time retreat, although working in other creative disciplines, had worries, issues and barriers that were very similar to ones I have. We were able to share experiences, get new insights into creative approaches and give practical support to each other. The sessions were very deftly facilitated by Alice and Nick to give everyone a chance to ponder on the questions that were concerning us, deconstruct specific situations and consider how to make positive changes.
I found it particularly inspiring to share my work with the group and to get genuine feedback about my ideas and recent sculpture. From this I am now taking forward new ideas of ways to disseminate them and am hoping to collaborate with one of the participants as part of this.
I also gained some useful practical advice about how to manage my various areas of work so that I don’t get into the same situation of burnout and lack of balance again.
Space/Time was a very positive experience; although it didn’t provide concrete answers to all the issues I am facing, it gave me the opportunity to reflect in a supported environment and to feel much stronger about working towards making changes.
From 23 February five artists will embark on a creative retreat we call Space/Time in Dumfries & Galloway.
Space Time is a paid five-day creative retreat for experienced artists. It aims to refresh participants and allow them to re-boot and flourish.
The artists taking part are:
Gillian Brent (sculpture)
Gillian is a sculptor and installation artist based in Sheffield. She has worked with welded steel for all of her career.
Claire Halleran (set design)
Claire has been working as a freelance designer since 2002. She is based in Glasgow and works on projects at home and abroad.
Harry Harris (songwriter)
Harry is a songwriter based in Edinburgh. His latest release, The Andre The Giant EP, is a collaboration with producers Chemikal Recipe and designer Gavin Day.
Carol McKay (creative writing)
Carol writes fiction, life writing, and poetry, and also teaches creative writing for the Open University along with private classes. She is based in South Lanarkshire.
Ewan Robertson (sculpture)
Based at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Ewan lectures in sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art.
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