Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Artist Residency in Lapland, Sweden

I am currently at Ricklundgarden, an artist residency in Southern Lapland, Sweden where I am co-teaching a painting workshop with Rebecca Crowell. This is the view out my studio window: Kultsjon Lake with snow-covered mountains behind it.  It was a journey to get here--a long flight from Toronto, a layover in Munich, overnight in Stockholm, a 90 min flight up to Vilhelmina and an hour long bus ride to the tiny village of Saxnas. We are only one hour south of the Arctic Circle here, so the days right now are about 18 hours long.  But it is twilight until long past midnight.

There are five artists in the workshop, three from Canada and two from Sweden who are working together in the bright studio of the main building. I'm ensconced in the cozy Annex next door to the main building where I have a beautiful studio overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond. Paradise. 

There is much more snow here than we expected to find. There was at least a metre of snow outside my door when we arrived. But the weather has been between 7 and 12 degrees C, so the lake is opening up each day and the snowbanks are gradually shrinking and receding. I expect by the end of our stay on June 7th that the lake will be fully open but I don't imagine I'll be swimming in it.

I have written before about the author Robert Macfarlane because I love his idea of thoughts being specific to a landscape. In his book, A Journey on Foot, he philosophized about the land as he walked ancient pathways through Scotland. In the forward to the anthology, A Wilder Vein, Macfarlane wrote, "perhaps cognition is site-specific, or motion-sensitive; that we think differently in different landscapes. And therefore, more radically, that certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places..."

To carry that thought with us into Lapland, I will ask questions of the artists in the workshop in regards to what this landscape is teaching them about themselves. And I ask that of myself as well. I don't yet have the answer. I find it takes me a while to settle in to a new landscape, to explore it with my feet, with paint and with words. These small works below are how I have begun to explore it, with the colours that I see in the lake and the sky and the snow at different times of day and the strong shapes of the land.

"What do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else?"
 Robert Macfarlane