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North East Open Studios 2017!

September has been a month of work and more work, not the fun kind either. But it did provide a few opportunities to get out and see some great art especially during the 9 days of NEOS (North East Open Studios), an annual event where artists from all over the region open their studios to the public. You'd be amazed by the amount of places dotted about out there, 269 at this years count! So we packed the car, looked out the map and hit the road!

First stop was to the Eat Your Biscuit studio out in Kintore. Despite arriving during the lads lunch break we managed to get a peek into the art shed, home and work space to Andy Walker who paintings and drawings adorned the walls along with some work in progress pieces and invited friends like Jetpack Dinosaur. Jetpack aka Chris had a selection of digital prints, many from his sketch a day series (check his insta for more) which he was selling far too cheaply along with specially commissioned bonsai sketches. I picked up a print of his painted door design, the whale

After flicking through the NEOS booklet I decided to let my eye decide and it brought us to the studio of Roderick Scott. A quick read peaked my interest along with the small image provided. And Roderick didn't disappoint! Tucked away in Kemnay, Rodericks studio is full of incredible lino prints, some depicting current US tyrant Trump, craftily printed on airline sick bags and arranged to form an upside down US flag, an official distress call and a rather witty comment on the local business owner come US President. Delving further into Rodericks work he presented more politically charged pieces and some fish and chips. Other works explored the brain and how we visualise memory, its worth noting that in a previous life Roderick worked as a scientist which perhaps informs his creative work. Whatever the case Roderick is a perfect example of the talents we have, moving to the beat of his own drum but his work is channeling big world issues and was a real eye opener. Roderick was so welcoming and was very generous with his time, showing us his work and explaining his processes, I hope to cross paths with him again soon!

With daylight fading we made a last dash to catch the Oor Monsters and Small Stories pop up at Oriel Studio in Westhill. While Gabi presented her beautiful brooches and designs along side a host of other makers and artists it was the Oor Monsters forrest trail created by her and husband, Philip Thompson which stole the show. In an area of low lying tree branches we discovered a host of characters from woodland twig men to Ghbliesque robot wardens, quietly sitting on the tree, waiting for the wind to tickle them into life. The hanging masks also provided perfect selfie opportunities to which Gabi kindly obliged although the sinister dunces hat did draw my eye, revealing its dark meaning through the clever use of shape and colour. Over the last few months its been impossible to ignore the current state of world affairs with the racial divide in America appearing to be a strong as ever despite some of the huge gains over the last 50 years. I guess for many they may feel a little lost or helpless when trying to find a meaningful way to address these kind of issues but its heartening to find artists on my own doorstep willing to take up the baton and challenge these ideas. 

Certainly through leading the Nuart Aberdeen street art tours I've found myself becoming increasingly heated when I come to the murals which directly address Trump and his views and lack of understanding. In the age of keyboard warriors and sofa political experts its nice to chat with people who know that compassion, listening and understanding are more powerful and are willing to take action, make work and put apposing views into the world via their creative endevours. 

I was a little sad that we'd only made it to 3 stops out of the potential 269 although I don't think anyone could visit that many places in 9 days. But what NEOS does is so important in highlighting what all these artists are up to, often behind closed doors and often right under our noses! I'd love to spend a day on a bus with strangers stopping off at these places, I'm sure not everything would be to my taste but when you find a few gems like we did this year it makes it all worthwhile. Its also got me thinking about next years event and having just taken on a new studio space with Mary we might even have something to say for ourselves by then. Watch this space!

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