Artist’s Research – Archives – Sian Macfarlane

Sian Macfarlane is an artist who is concerned with archives and creating a fantasy from the pasts that they portray.

We Will Meet Sooner Than Two Mountains

When we had a talk from Sian a few months ago this was the main project that Macfarlane spoke of and it is something that is basically a culmination of all of her years of research and previous projects. The work is based on the natural landscape that she found when looking through the archive of landscape painter Henry Clarence Whaite and his daughter Lily. The archive consisted of letters between the artist and his daughter who was also an artist in the 1800s along with mementos like locks of Lily’s hair and pressed flowers which spoke of the landscapes that they lived in.


Macfarlane told us that she identified with the young artist, not only because of the fact that both of their fathers were english and their mothers welsh, but also because of how Lily wrote of the places she spent her time and the personality that she understood the Victorian woman to portray through the letters. This made her want to follow in Lily Whaite’s footsteps and almost live how she lived through immersing herself in the spaces that she had spent her life. Knowing this helped me to understand the piece slightly more and why she was so fascinated with it as before I knew this I wasn’t sure how much weight the artist’s interest in it had behind it. This idea of being able to relate to the pieces from the archive is something that I think is important within my work because it needs to be at least partially relatable to make it more interesting for the viewer.

The final piece is a mixture of still and moving image along with recorded speech and sound. Macfarlane used different voices reading different pieces including the letters from the archive along with her own observations from when she revisited the places the two artists spoke of. The use of multiple voices, including child’s voices, creates an almost eery effect which emulates the bleak imagery’s style. We are given different dates along with images and video of the places mentioned in modern day. I felt that this not only gives you a timeframe of the archives but also shows us that nature is timeless; it doesn’t age like humans do – it is immortal. There are some pieces from the actual archive shown within the video along with people interacting with these pieces and the natural landscape which gives us a sort of human context and allows the viewer to immerse themselves into the piece fully compared to if there was no sign of man. The fact that there is always two images/videos of the screen along with the use of multiple voices playing at the same time creates an almost overwhelming effect which can confuse the viewer while creating a sense of both the artist and his daughter being involved with the modern work even though they aren’t around anymore. This means that we still get their influence from the piece which is the whole idea of using their archived letters and mementos. This idea of using moving and still image along with audio is something that I would like to try to incorporate in my final piece to again make my work more interesting for the viewer and this will allow me to show the conversations about the images which is what my whole concept it based upon.


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