My last Conversation was with an old friend, painter Joe Smernicki, who, like me, attended the **th Reunion late last year. During the meal at the Reunion I found myself sitting beside someone I’d never met before and so my Conversation today started there, over a meal and glass of wine – not a bad way to start any conversation. Lynda Wilson trained as an architect at Edinburgh College of Art and as a student won a travel scholarship to travel in Italy before working in various public and private architects’ practices including her own. Alongside her professional practice she taught architecture at Edinburgh College of Art until 2008 when she left to pursue her interest in art. She lives and practices in Edinburgh and has exhibited widely as a book artist and painter, with some of her artist books in the collections of Edinburgh City Libraries (Fine Art); Edinburgh College of Art – University of Edinburgh; and the Scottish Poetry Library, and private collections. As I learned more about her work I was interested to understand how her background in architecture informed her current work so I started this Conversation by asking Lynda more about this:
Lynda, you studied architecture at ECA and later taught there. How much do you think the study and practice of architecture, that awareness of the 3D form, informs your current work?
- It informs all of my work, from the subject matter to how I interpret a place. I’m interested in habitations at the edges of Britain especially the two extremes of Stromness in Orkney and Dungeness in Kent, both of which I visit regularly. I explore the way in which dwellings and other buildings respond to the particular climate of the sea’s edge, in how they are formed and grouped. For example, in Stromness, they are tall and huddled together, end on to the sea; but in Dungeness they are low, hugging the shingle, and in small scattered groups. My interpretation of these places is often (unconsciously) through plan and elevation, or some other orthogonal representation. I’m also interested in industrial structures and landscapes, an interest shared with the early modernists.
Has teaching been an important part of your practice?
- It was half of my professional life as an architect and I loved it. I think it has helped me ask the right questions of myself and to be self-critical. I occasionally run small workshops as an artist but it’s a small part of my practice now.
You are a member of several groups including Edinburgh Printmakers, do you think membership of groups can be a real contributor to the creative process?
- Yes. At Printmakers, the camaraderie in the print studio and the members’ kitchen is exciting. Hearing about others practice and ideas and just getting practical tips from each other. I’ve made friends through being there and am really excited about the new premises that have just opened. I’m not a member of VAS or SSA – I’ve never had a piece of work accepted from either organisation and have given up submitting now. I always get work accepted into the RSW but am not a member.
Another group of which you are a member is bound: unbound, an artist book group. Do you find the collaborations and range of disciplines within the group inspiring?
- Bound:unbound is the group I value the most. The five of us have been together for a while now and have participated in so many events and exhibitions together. We are supportive of each other’s work but able to be critical too. We exhibit and collaborate in break out groups with other members of bound:unbound too. Practical help is valued as well as moral support. I’m the least known and ‘successful’ of the five so value the opportunities the others have given me and the high profile they have allowed the group to have. There will be a two page article about the group in the summer issue of Art North. We’ve each written a piece and the editor is using these to make a coherent article.
One of the fascinating things about these Conversations is learning about the working space of the artist. Can you tell me about your studio? Do you like to listen to music, audiobooks or radio, or do you prefer working in silence?
- My studio is an upstairs room in our Georgian house so not too small, with a high ceiling and it faces south to the garden. I like to work in silence and when I’m doing physical work e.g. painting, making books, I prefer to stand up. We are about to sell our house and hope to buy one where we can build two studios in the garden rather than having them in the house. (My husband has his own studio in the house, directly below mine.)
The main sources of inspiration for your work are the landscape and the sea. In one of my Conversations the artist I was talking with said that they weren’t inspired by landscape unless they ‘felt’ the place. Do you have favourite places that always inspire you?
- As I said earlier about the places that inspire me. In fact, anywhere at the water’s edge inspires me. I do have to be there and sketch and photograph it before I can work back in the studio. I sometimes paint en plein air too.
You have exhibited regularly over the last few years, do you enjoy the process of exhibiting?
- I do enjoy the process to a certain extent. A surprise has been the amount of admin is involved. For example, I spent all day recently just making a spreadsheet of all the information about my work for a bound:unbound exhibition. Exhibiting gives you a buzz and I think spurs you on in your work.
What plans do you have the next few months?
- It’s been a busy year both for me and for bound:unbound and it’s about to get busier. B:b have quite a large exhibition called print fold stitch at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire from 20 May – 30 June and another called Precipitous City at the Upright Gallery in Edinburgh during the Festival 16 August – 6 September where we will focus on Edinburgh – it will be interesting to see how we each interpret our own city. Both these exhibitions will have wall pieces as well as artist books. We’re also hoping to take part in an artist book market as part of Art Walk Porty in Portobello in September. (That will be our third market this year.) On my own, I’m taking part in art markets at Art Walk Porty and Colony of Artists, both in September. I also now and then do makers markets at Out of the Blue Drill Hall – an art venue in Edinburgh. They are fun to do and people seem to appreciate my small monoprints, screenprints, artist books and artist cards.
A busy few months ahead then Lynda, so thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Like you, I love the sea; the colours and shapes of the boats, the skies, that line, often very bright, right on the horizon as you look out to sea, and of course the houses often built very close together to give the inhabitants some shelter from the extremes that weather can throw at them. I could always well imagine how inspirational Ben Nicholson found the paintings of Alfred Wallis when he went to Cornwall. If you want to see more of Lynda’s work you can find them on her website here but also on the bound:unbound website. Lynda can also be found on Instagram @lyndawilson17 and is available for commissions.