University of the Highlands and Islands
Amanda Thomson is a practicing artist with a 1st class BA (hons) from the Glasgow School of Art. She completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, and in 2013 completed an arts-practice led, interdisciplinary PhD about some of the forests of the Highlands of Scotland entitled ‘in the forest, field and studio: art/ making/methodology and the more-than-written in the rendering of place’. Trained primarily as a printmaker, her creative practice is ideas and research-led and fuses traditional and digital printmaking techniques, photography, bookmaking, video, installation and increasingly creative non-fiction.
making a place: art and a multi-modal, multi-disciplinary approach
In this paper, I will explore the nature of how place has been conceptualised by subjects such as geography and anthropology, where ‘place’ has been described as being unfinished, ongoing and ‘made’. Such accounts also engage with the significance of atmosphere, the felt, more intangible aspects of place and our ‘affective responses’. To address these complexities, a number of academics have argued for approaches that incorporate new styles of writing and go beyond the written. My contention is that a contemporary arts practice is well placed to contribute to such discussions and debates.
I will draw on my work on the forests of Morayshire and the native pinewoods of Abernethy in Scotland, which relates to a recently completed arts practice-led PhD. My research involved repeated visits to these places and incorporated ethnographic fieldwork, walking with foresters and ecologists, and working as a volunteer on a nature reserve. By incorporating these methods of gathering information, elements of these places hitherto unknown to me were revealed. Repeated visits meant that different aspects of place were revealed at different times, and using ethnographic methods allowed other people’s expert knowledge of these places to influence and impact on my work.
My paper will discuss some of the ongoing debates in geography and anthropology, before relating these to the artwork made in the course of my research. I will talk about the tasks and movements behind some of these prints, books and other work, contextualising them within this multi-disciplinary, multi-modal way of working, and arguing for the value of a contemporary arts practice in its ability to provide alternative ways of encountering, experiencing and responding to these complexities.